Wed, Jul 28, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Our future is revealed by looking at the past

By Lee Teng-hui李登輝

Since the late 1980s, Taiwan has undergone a democratic transformation, including the lifting of martial law and bans on political parties and newspapers, and the holding of complete legislative elections and even direct presidential elections.

On the surface, the nation seems to already have accomplished its democratic reform process. However, judging from the performance of many politicians and members of the media, the foundations of our democracy are unstable.

Particularly, the "Greater China" consciousness often overrides democratic values, and is therefore threatening our democratic politics.

Many media outlets are still controlled by this "Greater China" consciousness, and a Taiwan-centric consciousness is often oppressed or smeared. Under such circumstances, opinions that uphold democratic ideals based on Taiwan's localization are especially valuable. The Lee Shiao-feng Column (李筱峰專欄), often published in the Liberty Times, serves as an example of this.

Lee, a professor at Shih Hsin University, analyzes things from the perspective of a historian. Using his articles to correct wrongs and fight against the "Greater China" consciousness, Lee can be called a sharp pen in Taiwan's democratization debate.

On the one hand, he mocks and satirizes politicians with a sense of humor. On the other hand, he interprets and analyzes news using his rich historical knowledge, which makes his articles cheerful to read.

Therefore, my wife and I have developed the habit of reading his column. My better half particularly enjoys his column, and often cuts his articles from the Liberty Times to preserve them.

As Lee says, many people are opposing Taiwan independence while living in an independent Taiwan.

This is complete hypocrisy, and a matter of self-alienation.

This phenomenon is shaped by many factors, but I believe that people's ignorance of their own land is perhaps one of the main reasons.

Taiwan has in the past experienced the rule of many foreign regimes. As those in power change, the target of the Taiwanese people's identification also changes, and so the teaching of our history has never completely taken root in Taiwan.

Lee has devoted himself to the teaching of history. Through the influence of history, he hopes to help more people know this land and the history behind it, so as to build their national identity.

After all, people can only identify with their land after truly understanding it. Identification without understanding is empty.

Promoting Taiwan consciousness is not advancing the division of ethnic groups. On the contrary, Taiwan consciousness is the glue that unites all residents.

I firmly believe that ethnic diversity is not the nation's original sin. Instead, it is a precious asset bequeathed to this land by history. The different ethnic groups in this nation will gradually form a community with a shared destiny and generate even more splendid cultural sparks.

If we all show compassion and tolerance, and put aside prejudices in order to build national identity, the Taiwanese people will certainly create a diverse and unique culture of their own someday. At that time, we will stride proudly ahead and walk our own way.

I believe that Lee's efforts over the years to write books and expound his doctrines will not be in vain.

Lee Teng-hui is the former president of Taiwan.

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