Fri, Oct 28, 2005 - Page 8 News List

The path of Taiwan's democracy

By Lee Teng-Hui (李登輝)

The French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said: "... man, being condemned to be free, carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders; he is responsible for the world and himself as a way of being."

Speaking of which, I cannot help but think of the philosophy established by Immanuel Kant's three major critiques. My inspiration from his philosophy is this. Humans must understand their own limitations in order to manage self-reliance and motivation so that life is elevated to a higher purpose and becomes more worthwhile. If we take his analysis to a higher level, we find that what Kant said, "Act only according to the maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law," to be very significant. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1966 undoubtedly represent modem interpretations of this proposition. It is the obligation of the Taiwanese people to themselves and the world to strive for the realization of international human-rights standards delineated in these covenants.

"New-era Taiwanese" ought to engage in such philosophical analysis and take action to practice it, starting from invigorating their minds to realize Friedrich Nietzsche's "revaluation of all values" (Umwertung aller Werte) so that they can shape an all-encompassing spiritual transcendence and cultural renewal.

It would not be difficult for such enlightened Taiwanese to break the shackles of historical fabrications and develop a firm and resolute national identity for a democratic Taiwan.

Only upon this new foundation can democracy eradicate lingering ethnic conflict, prevent anti-democratic political forces from stirring up unrest out of self-interest, and stop the political warfare arising from the hegemonic "Greater China" ideology from gaining the advantage.

A national identification based on democracy is the best guarantee for Taiwan's democracy. Like some of the other countries involved in the third wave of democratization, Taiwan has also lapsed into a worrisome democratic cadence in recent years. This is a situation that cannot be ignored by friends who are concerned about Taiwan's democratic development.

In the future, whether the democratic achievements that Taiwan has made in "the third wave of democratization" will be further consolidated or instead take an unfortunate step backward will affect the expansion or contraction of global democratic values. In other words, how democratic countries can support each other deserves everyone's close attention.

From a geopolitical point of view, the strengthening of Taiwan's democracy is an important link in the democratic front line of defense in the Asia-Pacific region. Once this line is broken, it will be devastating for global democracy and peace.

Yet I would like to make an optimistic prediction that the threats to Taiwan's democracy will not be fatal as long as we do not lose confidence in democratic values, as long as our democratic functions do not head off track, as long as our legal institutions improve and as long as the 23 million people of Taiwan eventually deem their national identification with Taiwan to be natural and proper.

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