Tue, Dec 06, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Democracy favors our better angels

By Ku Chung-hwa 顧忠華

Last Saturday's elections were one of the hardest fought local government polls ever in Taiwan. They resulted in a crushing defeat for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) dominance in local government has now created a siege situation around the central government. Apart from analyzing subsequent political developments, we might look back over the social impact of political conflict in the last few years from the perspective of "human nature."

After the power transition in 2000, Taiwan entered a phase of "competitive democracy," in which the results of every single central and local government election are seen as providing crucial momentum heading into the next elections. As a result, beginning in 2000, every single election has created a political storm. This situation is not likely to change until after the presidential elections in 2008.

Many people are sick of partisan wrangling at election time. The fierce political races often lead candidates to use whatever means possible to secure their goals, thus revealing the dark, greedy and dangerous elements of human nature.

In addition to vicious competition, the media revels in sensationalism and scandals, presenting the political situation like a soap opera.

This causes people to become disillusioned and disinterested in the political situation, in the belief that it is little more than a nasty power struggle devoid of any traces of the positive side of human nature.

People may wonder whether politics is really so indecent. If so, isn't democracy's release of the spirit of competition akin to opening a Pandora's box, unleashing destructive forces? Is an authoritarian society, in which restraints are imposed on competition, more in line with human nature?

If we take a look at other democratic nations, vigorous political competition and the process of elimination that establishes an ultimate victor does not necessarily have to create an arena for vicious, corrupt and lying politicians to seize power.

Often, the human virtues of trust and justice triumph, and the competition brings forth a good leader.

The history of elections in Taiwan has shown this to be true in many instances. In other words, we can say that the people have a "standard" which allows them to often select the candidate who conforms to the positive side of human nature, which makes such candidates more likely to win.

We should therefore conclude that "politics ultimately reflects human nature."

This is because politics is not merely a calculation of expediency, but also includes projections of affection, identity and trust. Elected political leaders must carry out their political platform in keeping with human nature. Only in this way will they be truly affirmed by society.

I want to propose a slogan to all Taiwanese politicians: "Politics from beginning to end comes from human nature; therefore it should in the end return to human nature." This could serve as a reminder to them to make an effort to be more "human nature-oriented" in governing Taiwan.

Ku Chung-hwa is a professor of sociology at National Chengchi University and chairman of the Taipei Society.

TRANSLATED BY LIN YA-TI

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