Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan is lacking a cultural paradigm

By Kuo Li-hsin郭力昕

In May, the Formsan Association for Public Affairs, jointly funded by Taiwanese and Americans, lobbied the US House of Representatives to pass a resolution that would call for the dispatch of Taiwanese Marines to Iraq. The move caused an uproar among some members of the public, but then the incident seemed temporarily to come to an end. Meanwhile, a number of incidents that undermined the US-led effort in Iraq were reported in the media.

Let's talk about Michael Jordan's quick exit first. Air Jordan flew through China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to promote Nike basketball shoes. But the basketball great's 90-second appearance here angered fans who had splashed out money for a glimpse of the legendary athlete. From the media reports and messages on the Internet, one can tell that the fury did not result from the American capitalistic imperialism that the Jordan icon embodies.

In fact, it was quite the opposite. What they were angry about was that Jordan spent less time with his Taiwanese fans than with those in China and Hong Kong, relegating them to the status of second-rate victims of America's cultural imperialism. Jordan remains a god to his Taiwanese fans, but the fact that he didn't treat them well is extremely embarrassing.

Another Michael won the Palme d'Or in this year's Canne Film Festival with his latest documentary, Fahrenheit 911. The American documentary director Michael Moore dug into the ugly side of the Bush family in his documentary. After its screening at Cannes, the anti-Bush, anti-war film received a 20-minute standing ovation, the longest ever at Cannes. Before the prize was announced, there were two countries where the film's distribution rights were not being eagerly sought -- the US and Taiwan.

In the US, although Walter Disney's art-house subsidiary, Miramax, had bankrolled the documentary, Disney refused to let the unit distribute it for fear of its political and economic fallout (Moore planed to release the film in the run-up to the US' November election and weaken Bush's bid for the presidency). In Taiwan, the reason is simply the poor box office record of Moore's last documentary, Bowling for Columbine. Even if we put aside Columbine's stinging critique of the gun culture rampant in America, anyone who had seen the film would a give thumbs up to the movie. Sadly, Taiwan's audiences have been force-fed with the pap of Hollywood mainstream movies, and have no taste for such films.

Another interesting piece of news was Taiwanese pop singer Luo Da-you's (羅大祐) protest against the US Congress' plan to ask Taiwan to send Marines to Iraq. At his concert in Hinchu on May 22, Luo cut up his US passport and declared that he was giving up American citizenship on the spot. A week later, Luo went to the American Institute in Taiwan to formally relinquish his US citizenship.

His actions came as a shock. One was shocked that a gadfly singer known for offering a critique of Taiwanese society in the early 1980s even possessed a US passport, although there was no specific political persecution nor need for exile at that time.

The anti-war or anti-American movement is not only an ideological resistance movement but also a contest of language. If we can only bring to bear worn-out vocabularies and tired gestures against the sweet words of American imperialism, then both our governments and those of other countries can simply ignore us. Even those youngsters hanging out in McDonald's and Starbucks near the AIT probably won't even bother to pop their heads out and see what is happening out there.

This story has been viewed 3896 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top