18 Nov 2008

[Taipei Times] Bridging a generation gap through new protest

By Wu Yi-cheng 吳易澄

Tuesday, Nov 18, 2008, Page 8

More than 20 years after the lifting of martial law, we find ourselves in an era exploding with information and ruled by the logic of business.

The younger generation has never experienced a war, but may have experienced the tail end of authoritarian rule. When they were little, they might have heard their parents say: “If you don’t behave, I’ll call the police and have you arrested.”

They now chat on the Internet, absorb knowledge from online forums and flirt with the opposite sex using text messages. The younger generation has also been given a nasty label by arrogant adults — the “strawberry generation” — because of their alleged inability to deal with pressure.

Perhaps no one has considered that behind the “geek” label and the indifference lies a silent protest against a society with too many opinions; the unwillingness to endure hardship could also be a rebellion against the paternal attitudes of society as a whole.

Nobody expected that during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) the government would resort to heavy-handed police tactics to disperse demonstrators and then refuse to take responsibility for police excesses. This vindicates our concern: The specter of authoritarian rule has come back to life.

On Nov. 9, student demonstrators at the gate to Liberty Square in front of the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall initiated the “Wild Strawberries Movement,” a name that was arrived at through a democratic voting process on the medium they know best: the Internet.

As the movement formed, CTI-TV broadcast exclusive footage of families of police officers writing a letter to Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), calling on her to ask the students to go home.

I don’t know if CTI was playing dumb, if it had failed to investigate the matter or if it was a simple case of audience manipulation, but the station viewed the students as a motley group of rebels that would dance to the tune of a particular political party. Even now they think the strawberry generation is so vulnerable that it is easily divided. (Full Text)

A respond to Michael Wu’s Comment

How do you know that your opinions represent the public opinions of Taiwan's residents? I think most people in Taiwan feel that we are a free and democratic country. Can anyone offer scientifically reliable and valid figures to prove that most people in Taiwan would like to revise the Parade and Assembly Law? Do not tell me that your voice can represent most people in Taiwan. I don't think so.

I am not here to represent as I do not represent and as I do not want to represent!

The beginning of every democratic process is discussion.
Some people misunderstand that politics need a leader to follow (or lets him call Führer or Duce) and democracy is if you choose your leader. That is not democracy. That is dictatorship.
I want to discuss as I think discussion is necessary and I want to help people with this, contributing ideas to this process.

So I will not speak for Taiwan as I can not speak for Taiwan, but I will explain you why I consider Taiwan not to be a full democracy.

First of all I want to define what I understand under a Democracy.

Democracy in a literal translation from ancient Greek means power of the people (δήμος [démos], people and κρατία [kratía], power).
Democracy is a form of government in which the supreme power is held completely by the people under a free electoral system.

I don’t want to talk about all the junior high school knowledge about election systems in ancient Greek cities, but go on to a modern interpretation of democracy.

My definition of democracy is a constitutional state based on Montesquieus ideas of separation of power.

In the interpretation of Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès which is the basis of modern theory of constitution, we have to distinguish between pouvoir constituant and pouvoir constitué, the sovereignty in a power separated constitutional state and the souverenity to of the people to give themselves a constitution. All state authority is derived from the people. The people are the sovereign of a democracy.

The basic principle of separation of power was de jure installed by Sun Yes-men in form of a Yuan system in the Republic of China (so we can not blame him for its fail).
There exists a constitution and in principle elections were part of this system.

De facto this system was not existing at least since the Republic of Chinas authority is restricted to Taiwan as there was is no distinction between the powers and no independent control of them in a one party state or in a military dictatorship as it was under the rule of Chiang Kai-shek.
With the occupation of Taiwan by the Republic of China the law was expanded to an area where it never got any legitimating. The authority of the state was not derived from the people who lived in this country! This situation continued for decades, until the end of the, martial law and the first ‘free’ presidential elections.

I think the step from a dictatorship to democracy needs an initial singularity in a countries history, an hour zero.
This might be a revolution (like in France) or a lost war (like in Germany).

Taiwan’s development to ‘democracy’ was a top – bottom approach. The leading party of the one party system reacted on the pressure of the people, but did not fundamentally change the system.

How many of the laws from the old time were never changed?

How many of the people in charge, responsible for the misery of so many families never lost their position?

Was there a Taiwanese Nurnberg trial, to charge the ones responsible for death and detention of thousands of Taiwanese during the dictatorship?

Didn’t the KMT still control many of the positions in the administration?

Wasn’t the KMT the richest party in the world, with a multi billion-dollar asset and ownership of companies in sensible areas like the mass media?

Isn’t the KMT still controlling direct or indirect most of the media in Taiwan?

Isn’t the national anthem still singing about the party who ruled the country alone once?

Isn’t it true that in Taiwanese TV, little girls can still sing about Chiang Kai-shek, who is in the rest of the world considered to be one of the little brothers of Hitler, Stalin and Mao?

What about the dignity of his victims? How is Taiwan honouring them?

Who is bowing to their families?

Aren’t people very creative in calling massacres or dictatorship incident or white terror?

There are so so many other questions, people should start to ask.

If you say, that you think most people in Taiwan feel that they are a free and democratic country, I will answer you with a quote:

‘She can talk beautifully about democracy. But she does not know how to live democracy.’

It is a famous quote by the former first lady of he United States Eleanor Roosevelt about Taiwan’s former first lady Soong May-ling.
The she could be lady Taiwan too.

If you ask many Taiwanese students about what democracy is, you will have almost no chance to get a proper answer. You cannot even get a correct definition and I am not talking about interpretations.
How can a country be a democracy, if even the best-educated persons in this country do not know what it is?

But how could they know? Who told them? How much time in their education is spent on it? Do they learn about the theory of constitutions? Do they learn about constitutional models in different times and countries? Do they learn about the political system, about the role of separated powers, about the importance of the press and about the role of political parties in a parliamentary system, …
This is what students at other places learn in high school! You should expect University students to know about this.

What about the media? Isn’t it the role of the press in a democracy to inform and educate the people in the spirit of the constitution? Isn’t the freedom of press a mayor human right that should be the basis for every constitution?

There is more or less no press qualified to fulfil this idea in Taiwan. The quality is a shame for an industrial nation and a mayor part is controlled direct or indirect by the KMT.

The people of Taiwan lack the maturity and the education as to understand their own political situation as a result of decades of government controlled and manipulated information.

It is the responsibility of a countries students and academics, to fight against this situation and to install a democratic constitutional state and a free society.

The revision of the Parade and Assembly Law will be an example how this can be done successfully and might be the beginning of a revision of the whole Taiwanese law and its parts made in a dark time in history

What are the people of Taiwan? Everything. What have they been hitherto in the political order? Nothing. What do they desire? To be something.

In inspiration of Sieyès ‘Qu’est-ce que le tiers état?’

1° Qu'est-ce que le tiers état ? Tout.
2° Qu'a-t-il été jusqu'à présent dans l’ordre politique ? Rien.
3° Que demande-t-il ? À y devenir quelque chose.