Monday, November 12, 2007

Who is Shamed when Arrogant Rulers demean Ordinary Citizens?

Who is Shamed when Arrogant Rulers demean Ordinary Citizens?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
November 12, 2007

For members of the public to complain about government right to the president and vice president's faces has virtually become a fashion. "Charlie" is a small businessman whose company recently went under. "Pearl" is a struggling meat vendor at a traditional farmer's market. The two have been in the public eye recently for daring to complain openly about the economy in front of the president and vice president. The real eye-opener however was President Chen and Vice President Lu's reaction. Chen and Lu referred to them as "members of the Red Shirt Army." They said they were "being used," that their remarks were scripted, and that they were part of a "conspiracy." Chen Shui-bian added that "The Pacific Ocean doesn't have a lid on it. Anyone who thinks China is so wonderful can swim over there." Ruling DPP presidential candidate Frank Hsieh said "Red Shirt Army and Deep Blue supporters shouldn't disguise themselves as ordinary citizens." Government Information Office spokesmen referred to citizens who dared to raise a voice against the government as "phony" and "affected."

What is going on here? Democratic Progressive Party leaders have long prided themselves on being close to the people, as those political leaders who were most in touch with the mood of the public. So why are they having fits of apoplexy when members of the public summon up the courage to criticize them to their faces? Why are they going so far as to reflexively label anyone who voices a complaint "members of the Red Shirt Army" and dismissing their impromptu protests as "staged?" Will demonizing everyone who complains really expunge the DPP's embarrassing political record?

In order to consolidate her credentials as a leader who "loves the people" our vice president filled her daily schedule with photo ops, during which she would be close to the people. But do you really wish to be close to the people? Do your really wish to take the public pulse? Are you really willing to listen to the people's feelings? Or do you merely wish to bask in public adulation? Unfortunately upon hearing these expressions of discontent, Frank Hsieh's "I feel your pain" posture completely vanished, and he openly challenged the identity of the protesters, saying that many of them didn't look like "ordinary members of the public." Suppose for the sake for argument that some of the protestors have "Red Shirt Army" or "Deep Blue supporter" backgrounds? Does that mean they are no longer members of the public? Aren't they tax-paying citizens? Don't they have the right to "The Pursuit of Happyness?" Do they somehow deserve to be harangued by the president? To have suspicion cast upon their character by the DPP presidential candidate? To be insulted by the Chief of the Government Information Office?

Think about it. If ordinary citizens' were content in their lives, why would they criticize the national leader to his face, at the risk of being forcibly removed by secret service agents? If every one of these critics of the government were "shills planted by conspirators" why do their vocal protests receive such a sympathetic response among the public? Is the ruling regime truly unaware that the people feel they can no longer survive? Or is it merely pretending to be unaware that this is the way most people feel today?

Face up to reality. You can talk up a storm. You can fabricate statistics. But objective reality cannot be covered up indefinitely. Hasn't the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics insisted that consumer prices have remained constant? Yet even legislators belonging to your own party can no longer remain silent. Haven't you been compelled to sharply revise consumer price statistics upward? Hasn't President Chen said that Taiwan's competitiveness exceeds South Korea's? Yet the latest international competitiveness reports clearly indicate that South Korea's competitiveness has surpassed Taiwan's. Past DPP misrule was blamed on "the mess left behind by the Kuomintang," on older generation Kuomintang civil service officials. You have now been in power for nearly eight years. You have all new DPP civil service officials. Do you intend to continue blaming your poor performance on others?

Besides, no matter how rosy your numbers, no matter how clever your sophistry, you cannot obliterate the public's direct experience. Do high-ranking officials living "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" have the faintest idea what ordinary citizens must do to get by? They must stretch their paychecks, only to find they are fighting a losing battle against rising prices. Shop owners must reduce their overhead, only to find that the rent they must pay increases month by month. Taxi drivers must economize, only to find that they cannot catch up with rising fuel costs. Do these officials know how many members of the public dare not complain about earning too little, for fear that what little they have may be lost? Tens of thousands of universities graduates must fight tooth and nail over some low paying entry level job. Not to mention countless citizens so desitute they are considering committing suicide by means of carbon monoxide. They ask only to get by on three meals a day. Are they all shills planted by the opposition? Are they all part of some vast conspiracy? Are their heart-rending lamentations all "phony" and "affected?"

One can only shake one's head and sigh at these exchanges of verbal fire between the head of state and ordinary citizens. High-ranking Green camp officials wielding the machinery of the leviathan state, using political rhetoric normally reserved for ideological battles with Blue camp spokespersons, against ordinary citizens, questioning their motives, accusing them of being shills, engaging them in verbal duels. For a national leader to take advantage of his bully pulpit to shout down an ordinary citizen who voices the simplest of complaints is hardly something to be proud of.

Neither "Charlie" nor "Pearl" are politicians. Like you and me, they are ordinary citizens, laboring away each day at their posts, whose lives are increasingly difficult day by day. They care nothing about the election prospects of the Blue or Green camps. They merely want to survive. They merely conveyed the public's sentiments to the nation's leaders. Their reward was vicious character attacks. These images, these words, will forever be carved in the consciousness of the Taiwan public.

中國時報  2007.11.12
領導人傲慢對應民情 到底羞辱了誰









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