Mon, Mar 08, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Vote in the referendum to determine own destiny

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

The dust has settled following the debate about voting and vote-counting procedures for the upcoming referendum and the debate about the referendum questions has formally begun.

The biggest issue now is the great difference in attitudes between political camps. In particular, the declaration by a certain presidential ticket that they intend not to vote in the referendum brought another force into play. It now seems voting has become equated with support for the green presidential ticket and vice versa, regardless of whether one supports or opposes the referendum questions.

The result of the referendum is, in fact, irrelevant to the question of who will win the presidential election. Purely as a result of political manipulation, a "political mobilization" aspect is now attached to a decision to vote, thus diminishing the referendum's significance as a means for the people to express their free will.

This development is, in a way, a reflection of Taiwan's "ideology trap" -- any public issue is easily politicized and one's political stance is used to simplify and smear certain opinions. Regret-tably, those most frequently caught in this trap are scholars and cultural and media workers who see themselves as belonging to society's elite. Slipping away from mainstream public sentiment, they block social advancement.

Take the referendum, for example. While not openly speaking out against it, former members of the Council of Grand Justices and legal and political scholars from the authoritarian era have tried hard to fabricate reasons to support the blue camp's suggestion to refuse to vote, thus proving German sociologist Karl Mannheim's standard definition of ideology: Ideology is a thought model that distorts the truth because the truth does not coincide with individual or group interests.

So how do we determine truth? The 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally produced an unprecedented voluntary turnout. But if so successful a mass movement is denigrated as "populist" by scholars, then they are distorting the truth to suit their own prejudices. Further, if a majority of the people believe the wish for peace and opposition to China's missiles are the issues on which they most want to make their voices heard, then the referendum is probably the most peaceful way of expressing this wish through direct democratic means.

The reaction by the "elite" is, in fact, not surprising. Beginning during the martial law era, this group has constantly looked down on popular free will. Using their monopoly on discourse and media, they have repeatedly forced their own ideology onto the public. Although this was quite effective under the party-state system, the people, transformed into citizens and free people with equal rights, are now leading the elite as Taiwanese democracy is maturing.

By comparison, the old ruling class is incapable of casting off the curse of ideology and, becoming "unfree" and unaware, it seems they are attempting a last effort before their final collapse by intimidating voters into relinquishing their right to participate in the referendum.

As we break down the evil influence of ideology, we understand that all free people should vote in the referendum to collectively exercise further hard-won civic rights and fight together to win freedom from fear, the most legitimate of God-given human rights.

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