Thursday, December 31, 2015

Goodbye 2015, And What Have You in Store for Us, 2016?

Another year comes to a close, and once again this man-made transition reminds me of the truth behind what my parents told me, years ago, when I was a small child, and which sounded utterly preposterous at the time: That as one gets older, the passage of time — our perception of it, that is — accelerates. Every year that passes makes me more hurried, more afraid that I will not have enough time to accomplish all the goals that I’ve set for myself, to try to make the world a better place through my work, my actions.

The year that is about to expire was once again a very generous one to me. The highest of many high points was the publication in late March of my book Black Island, a project that was very close to my heart and represented the culmination of three years of hard work covering Taiwan’s social movements. The publication of 《黑色島嶼:一個外籍資深記者對台灣公民運動的調性報導》, the Chinese version of Black Island, in early December was also a new high, as this was my first book to appear in that language. There will be a second book in Chinese in early February, and this one will be another new achievement as it will be my first book to be published in Chinese first, with the English edition to come later in 2016. Needless to say, having my work translated into Chinese has truly been a great honor, and something that I’d never imagined would happen when I relocated to Taiwan in 2005.

The year that’s about to begin will also be one of transition, as Taiwan will elect a new leader in January. With that comes some uncertainty, no doubt, but also the promise of rejuvenation. Change is a positive thing, as the recent election of Justin Trudeau made perfectly clear in my home country, ending nine long years of Conservative rule that often took the country in a direction that I would argue didn’t always reflect Canadian values. After eight years of KMT rule under President Ma Ying-jeou, irrespective of his accomplishments and failures, it’s time for change here, too.

My wish for Taiwan in 2016 is for its people to transcend the political divide that, in the current election cycle, has become more pronounced (at times vitriolic), and to genuinely work together to improve their home. As I strive to explain in my upcoming book, the things that the people of Taiwan have in common greatly outweigh that which separates them. And yet, the tendency among politicians and in the media is to focus almost exclusively on the political preferences, ethnic background, and social status that set them apart from one another.

One thing that I have discovered during my nearly ten years working as a journalist here, and especially in the past three years that I have spent documenting civil society, is that the overlapping values and interests of the people in Taiwan, the liberal democratic way of life that they enjoy, are far more defining of their identity than the politicians they vote for or the political parties that they support. Though generally not acknowledged, that characteristic is not only Taiwan’s strength and resilience; it is what defines it and what sets it apart from the authoritarian neighbor that claims ownership over it. My fondest hope is that in the wake of January 16, regardless of the outcome, people from both sides of the “divide” will have the wisdom to see in the “other” that which is equally precious to themselves, and the ability to work together to strengthen the precious — and fragile — nation that is Taiwan.

I promise to continue to work to the best of my abilities, and with utmost sincerity, to serve this beautiful land and its extraordinary people.

Wishing all a happy, prosperous, peaceful, and healthy New Year.

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