Friday, January 08, 2010

Odd question on a rainy day

Had the one day off today. On my way to an afternoon fueled by coffee and idiosyncratic music at Kafka on the Shore near National Taiwan University, I stopped at the neighborhood Eslite bookstore, hoping to grab a book on the history of the battle of Kinmen (Quemoy) published by the Ministry of National Defense. As I couldn’t find it, I went to the information desk and asked the lady behind the counter to locate it for me. It turns out they were out of stock.

Two things, however, stand out from the brief conversation that we had. First, she had never heard of said battle, admitting that she was rather thin on her Taiwanese history. Then, as I was paying for another book I had decided to acquire — Chang Sun Kang-i’s Journey Through the White Terror: A Daughter’s Memoir — she asked me where I was from. Canada, I told her. Odd, she said. Why, as a foreigner, would I be interested in Taiwanese history? Because I want to learn as much as I can about Taiwan, I replied. But, Taiwan is practically China, so why learn about Taiwan? No they’re not, I replied. They’re two separate countries. But why the interest? Because I am a journalist in Taiwan and it is part of my job to acquaint myself with my subject. She shook her head, took the NT$250 for the book, and mumbled something about their difficult position, or something like that, whatever that meant.

An employee in a bookstore across from Taiwan’s foremost institution of higher education. Hum. I crossed the street and went to Kafka on the Shore, where I sat myself in a comfortable corner, ordered a coffee and cracked open a book on politics and change in Hong Kong and Singapore. Thankfully, the waiter didn’t ask me why in hell I was reading about Hong Kong and Singapore.


Jonathan Benda said...

Maybe she's lost hope...

Islander said...

That's just sad. I think the current generation of Taiwan's young adults are so clueless about their own history. Part of this is due to the Chinese-centric education.

I recently visited historical sites in Tainan, some dating back to the Dutch colonial period of the early 1600's. Many signs at Dutch historical sites portrayed the Dutch as a foreign force that "occupied" China's Taiwan when in fact the Dutch were the first to colonize Taiwan and brought people from China to settle and cultivate the land in Taiwan. Taiwan was then inhabited by Austronesian Tribes and would not be a province of China until 200 years later.

In other words, when the Chinese-Japanese pirate Koxinga defeated the Dutch, they wrested Taiwan from the Dutch rather than "returning" Taiwan to China.

dennis said...

it is this group of ppl that is the no.1 enemy of taiwan. grr i hate them, they make me angry.

BIT said...

When the history book is written by an authoritarian government and force it into a new generation the impact is so huge that an entire generation loses its basic instinct to challenge whether anything they are taught is true or not. They read the history and take it for granted as if that's exactly what had happend. When I was a kid, I always challenged my parents when they told me that how civil socity Taiwan was before KMT came to Taiwan. I felt that's not what I read from the history book. Well I'm older and wiser now due to a lot of real history books I read from all over the world that is so accessable thanks to the internet. I wish I had a chance to tell my parents that I totally agree with them but I can only tell them at their graves now. Is there a hope for the new generation to finally understand the real history of Taiwan, I hope so. The internet is such a powerful tool that I feel the people of my generation who witnessed many astrocities that happened in the past 50 years should be able to educate the younger generation. I normally forward an unbiased news article to my children and let them make their own jusgement and I belive they have learned tremendously from the Internet. They are proud to be Taiwanese not Chinese.

Dixteel said...

From what I heard (but no real scientific confirmation), almost all Taiwanese currently between the age of 35 and 55 are brain washed very well by the KMT education. They are the most clueless generation in Taiwan right now.

Scott said...

This brings to mind the questions that I have, when I am at the big political rallies and demonstrations in Taiwan.

Mostly, the demonstrators are 50 years old or older. That goes for both the pro-KMT and the pro-DPP crowds.

Pretty different from protests you see in the West, where you will not see very many people OVER 50.

My guess is that this is because it is only the older generations that actually experienced the transtition from martial law to open democracy. They know what it was like to NOT be able to protest in the streets, so that is precisely why they enjoy doing it so much now.

The younger generation dosen't remember martial law, and they certainly are not taught anything about it in school. So that is why they are not particularly concerned about a possible erosion of their civil liberties, and that is why they are more-or-less satisfied with the KMT government, and not particularly worried about what changes might occur if the KMT succeeds in gradually selling out to China.

Of course, I did see quite a few more young people during the month of the "red-shirts"-- it became suddenly very trendy to "show that you care about morality" by putting on a red shirt and going down to the protest with co-workers and classmates. But those people we completely clueless, anyway.