Refusal to Apologize is Heartless, Shameless, and Inept
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 1, 2011
Summary: Voter amnesia in a democratic society is a dangerous phenomenon. But collective amnesia in a political party is even more dangerous. The DPP is currently in a bind. It has forgotten that only three years ago it reached rock bottom, that it was mired in corruption and impotence. It has forgotten that it must regain the voters trust through appeals to reason. It has forgotten how to admit wrongdoing. It has even forgotten how to apologize.
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Voter amnesia in a democratic society is a dangerous phenomenon. But collective amnesia in a political party is even more dangerous. The DPP is currently in a bind. It has forgotten that only three years ago it reached rock bottom, that it was mired in corruption and impotence. It has forgotten that it must regain the voters trust through appeals to reason. It has forgotten how to admit wrongdoing. It has even forgotten how to apologize.
An old addage says that knowing shame is the beginning of courage. A political party or political leader may blunder. But a refusal to admit wrongdoing and apologize merely digs one in deeper. It merely encourages one to repeat the same mistake, over and over again. Refusal to admit wrongdoing and apologize is not merely shameless. It is also evidence of ineptitude.
The "little pigs" fever may have left the DPP feeling a bit too smug. The DPP was encouraged to make false allegations against Ma Ying-jeou, to claim that he secretly met with a triad boss. The allegations made the headlines, and led to the miraculous transformation of a black gold politician into a moral paragon. It led to an even more intense persimmons controversy. The DPP's malicious propaganda campaign undermined the fruit market. It seriously hurt fruit growers, both economically and emotionally. Yet the DPP refuses to admit wrongdoing. It persists in making excuses. It makes excuses about the photographs, the varieties of fruit, and even about the initital point of sale. It is digging in its heels and refusing to admit wrongdoing. If the goal is to champion justice, isn't this plain shamelessness? If the goal is to crisis management, isn't this plain incompetence?
The DPP has long adopted a "take no prisoners" stance. When it is in the right, it does not forgive. But suppose it is in the wrong, yet adopts an air of self-righteousness? Suppose it knows its arguments do not hold water, yet persists in pretending it is in the right? Does such a political party have any maturity or dignity to speak of? A political party that behaves this way cares only about selfish advantage. How can a party devoid of moral scruples advance democracy on Taiwan?
The DPP leveled wild allegations about a secret meeting with a triad boss. It attempted to whitewash Chen Ying-chu, then scurry for cover. It correctly predicted that the KMT would not pursue the matter, and that the Green Camp could avoid making an apology. But the persimmons controvery and the triad boss allegations took them by surprise. The direct victims of the triad boss allegations were Ma Ying-jeou and the Blue Camp. But the persimmons controversy widened, and impacted fruit growers. False allegations destroyed the market for persimmons. It hurt fruit growers, financially and emotionally. Yet the DPP feels no responsibility whatsoever. Perhaps it is unwilling to show weakness in front of the KMT. But does it have the courage to apologize to the farmers it purports to champion?
Admitting one's mistakes and offering apologies is hardly heroism. It is the least any citizen should do, let alone an elected official. If elected officials are not even willing to do this, how can they assume responsibility for their actions in office? Once such a political party is in office, can it be trusted to honor the public's wishes? Will such a party have the courage to assume political responsibility? Will such a party be willing to clean up its own mess? The DPP has long counted on the farm vote in its war against Chinese reunification. Now however, farmers find themselves in a life or death struggle. Yet all the DPP does is turn a deaf ear to their cries of outrage. Such heartlessness. Such shamelessness. Such ineptitude.
The DPP obstinately refuses to admit wrongdoing. It inverts right and wrong. But this is its basic nature. This is the result of complicity by voters who tolerate its behavior. This is why the Chen family got away with rampant corruption for eight years. This is the result of complicity in the abuse of state power by the DPP and its supporters. Three years have elapsed. But the DPP has yet to engage in self-introspection. It has yet to express the slightest regret over its eight years of misrule. All it did was install a new party chairman. Yet that enabled it to make a comeback. If the voters' moral standards for political parties are this lax, no wonder the DPP can get away with smears, fabrications, and refusal to admit guilt. No wonder it feels no shame.
Take the recent uproar over the Su Jia-chyuan "farmhouse" scandal. The Su family built a string of illegal luxury mansion cum "farmhouses." It operated illegal night markets. It exploited agricultural land under the pretense of being farmers. It knowingly violated the law, abused public authority, and allowed family members to enrich themselves at public expense. The DPP turned a blind eye to its crimes, and pretended not to see. It has neither searched its soul, nor acknowledged guilt. When a political party with such irresponsible attitudes rises to power, how can its conduct not become the norm in the presidential palace? How can its conduct not become the norm for the entire government?
In recent years, the DPP has advanced a perverse argument. It argues that only the ruling party requires oversight. It argues that an opposition party has no power, therefore requires no oversight. Using this as an excuse, it has exempted itself from scrutiny for the sins it committed during its eight years in office. Using this as an excuse, it has obstructed, attacked, and smeared others while evading responsibility for its behavior. But the DPP is a major player in Taiwan's political arena. Can it really engage in empty sophistry yet assume no responsibility? Take the persimmons controversy. The answer is no. If the DPP refuses to apologize to farmers, if it refuses to convey the correct market information to the public, it probably will not squeak by. Just wait till fruit growers begin camping out in front of Tsai Ying-wen's campaign headquarters.
The DPP must consult its own dictionary. Is the word "mistake" still there? How about the word "apology?" If not, it is time to restore them. Look upon the faces of those angry peasants. The damage has been done. It is too late for an apology. You want to once again become the ruling party. But if you are unwilling or are afraid to offer an apology, your heartlessness, shamelessness, and ineptitude will only drive voters away.