The intention may be noble, but the tendency to project our values and beliefs onto others whom we presume to defend often leads to resentment
The temptation, though fundamentally altruistic, to try to help others by adopting their “cause” can have the unintended consequence of inspiring resentment among those who are being “helped.” Part of that outcome derives from the condescension or “I know best” attitude often inadvertently taken by individuals who are, and always will be, external to the conflict in question.
It may come as a shock to the interventionists among us, but as David Reynolds points out in his biography of the anti-slavery activist John Brown, many African-Americans came to resent the condescension and paternalism of (white) anti-slavery organizations that hijacked the cause in abolitionist US.
The same, in my view, applies to a more contemporary cause celebre, that of Taiwan’s independence. How often have expatriates, bloggers and academics abroad made policy prescriptions for Taiwan, as if they knew more than the Taiwanese themselves, only to disconsolately shake their heads when those ideas are not lovingly embraced, or when Taiwanese appear unmoved by the repeated insults from Beijing? I myself have often been guilty of that practice, inspired no doubt by a romantic, if not Hemmingway-esque, desire to make that fight my own.
My op-ed, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here. (The picture is of pro-unification demonstrators awaiting the arrival of ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin in November 2008.) Also, my response to letters sent to the Taipei Times.