Friday, August 03, 2012

No country for old men

Young Taiwanese protest over the Want Want/CNS deal
The point where youth say enough is enough, when they realize that cynical old figures are compromising their future, could be at hand 

For those who have long complained about the seemingly apathetic Taiwanese youth on matters of politics, the past two weeks must have had elements of both surprise and relief, with two large student mobilizations taking place in two cities on two different continents: London and Taipei. 

The catalyst in both instances was injustice — the removal, following official complaints by China, of the Republic of China (ROC) national flag at a non-Olympic venue in London, and the creation of a pro-China media monster through the acquisition by the Want Want China Times Group of China Network Systems’ (CNS) cable TV services, and the subsequent threat of lawsuits by a Want Want employee against a student. 

Hundreds gathered on Regent Street in London, proudly showing the ROC flag, while about 700 protested in front of the CtiTV building in Taipei, calling for freedom of speech to be respected. In stark contrast to the protests organized by the pan-green camp, where the majority of participants are usually above the age of 50, those two events involved students and young professionals who were educated, connected and angry. They were, in essence, the same type of people who took to the streets earlier this year when two houses were flattened in a suburb of Taipei to make way for an urban renewal project; or those who turned up in large numbers to confront police and contractors when farmland was seized to accommodate large-scale industrial projects. 

Issues of justice, rather than abstracts of ethnicity or nationality, are what lights the fire in the belly of Taiwanese youth today. For them, the past is in the past and the issue of who they are has already been settled; what they look to is the future and the uncertainties created by injustice. 

My unsigned editorial, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.


Michael Fagan said...

"Issues of justice, rather than abstracts of ethnicity or nationality, are what lights the fire in the belly of Taiwanese youth today."

I want this to be true, because both "nationality" and "ethnicity" are too easily spun upon the premise of society as a mere State-run hive. And yet the first such injustice you mention - the flag in Regent St - would seem to have everything to do with "nationality".

That being said, who knows whether this "nationality" is more an abstracted sublime of place than a frustrated dribble of nation-statism.

Michael Fagan said...

From a comment (#10) by Robert Scott Kelly on Michael Turton's post on the subject...

"So really, what does being Taiwanese mean? The one political movement that would give it real meaning..."

So, according to RSK, the kids can have no identity outside of the State-sanctioned blue-green choice; identity can only really "mean" something if it generates political power.

Yet it is the exercise of political power - of coercion - that the so-called "strawberries" seem to be railing against, as in the recent cases of State-sponsored theft of private property in Miaoli and Taipei.