Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Culture clash no, convergence yes

By the Liberty Times editorial

The appearance of questions in the Hoklo language, more commonly known as Taiwanese, on the national exams for customs officials and police created a controversy, because non-Taiwanese-speaking test-takers could not completely understand those questions. As a result, Council for Hakka Affairs Chairwoman Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) paid a special visit to Examination Yuan President Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), demanding a rectification, so as to avoid making waves of "ethnic discrimination" on the sea of Taiwan's complex variety of cultures. At the same time, the Ministry of Education's (MOE) amendment of the guidelines on history curricula for senior-high schools has also stirred up eddies having been accused of attempting to disassociate the Republic of China from Taiwan, because Qing Dynasty history and the history of the ROC on the Chinese "mainland" were reclassified as part of "world history." Some members of the opposition even accused the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of pushing for Taiwan independence in the name of "nativization."

After the DPP came into power, out of their sense of appreciation for the nativized consciousness and nativized culture, it has given top priority to the "Taiwan first" ideal.

In the past, when the Cultural Revolution broke out in China, driven by Marxist-Leninist ideology of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the Red Guards caused irreparable damage to traditional Chinese culture. As a result of such efforts to uproot what it called "old" and "outdated," a major catastrophe to the traditional Chinese culture emerged.

In contrast, Taiwan, where Chinese culture was painstakingly preserved, became a hotbed of Chinese culture. For a time, everything, from drama to cuisines to languages to kite-making to just about anything else Chinese was celebrated by Taiwanese. This is especially true in the cities, where large numbers of newcomers from China congregated.

Under the authoritarian rule of the KMT, the only thing on the mind of the regime of the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) family was the "sacred mission" of retaking the "motherland." This in turn bound the people of Taiwan to Chinese culture. Teaching materials on history reflected solely the viewpoints of the KMT, repeatedly emphasizing the message that the history of the KMT is inexorably the same as the history of the Republic of China.

Even the essay questions of all the tests had something to do with the weighty responsibility of saving China and saving the Chinese people. Most of the students concluded their essays with dogmatic sentences like "the battle against communism inevitably will be won ...," and "one day the ROC flag will once again flutter in the wind above Nanking ..."

Moving forward

Frankly speaking, we cannot compare the authoritarian era with today's political environment where democratization is in process and the transfer of power has been realized.

Instead, we should try to think about how, against the backdrop of globalization, we can on the one hand distinguish ourselves from "socialism with Chinese characteristics" which prevails on the other side of the Taiwan Strait and, on the other hand, search for substantive Taiwan-centered culture.

As a result of education by the KMT and deliberate efforts by the KMT to overlook and suppress Taiwanese culture, people in their 30s and 40s are much more familiar with the history and geography of China than those of the soil on which they live.

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