Sun, Aug 06, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Apathy is the real foe

By Lee Long-hwa

After having struggled for so long to achieve precious freedom and democracy, Taiwan's survival is hanging in the balance, threatened from the outside by China and its browbeaten and blackmailed economic partners, and threatened from within by the once-powerful and now Communist Party-obeisant Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

But neither of these threats is as dire as the apathy of millions of Taiwanese who simply do not care, or do not think to care about their nation's future.

Their failure to consider that future may change their lives and the lives of their children forever.

We hear many people in Taiwan who have no opinion on who should run the country. These people say that whoever is in power will be terrible anyway. They take no interest in these questions because they feel they are not affected by these issues, and will simply go about their daily lives regardless of who takes power.

We hear many people in Taiwan opine that being part of China would probably be nice. After all, Taiwan is so small and powerless, wouldn't it be better to be part of the biggest country on Earth, which is blossoming before our very eyes? Wouldn't it be better to have peace across the Strait, allowing our businesses to invest more in China, enabling them to thrive and help our economy soar?

To discuss these issues is good, because they are important issues. To simply ignore them is downright dangerous.

There is a prevailing attitude among many Taiwanese that someone more knowledgeable, someone more experienced, someone bigger and better, should be in charge of the country. These people think things were better under the Chinese, under the Japanese or under the KMT. They don't want the responsibility of figuring out who is friend and who is foe; they just want someone else (like China) to tell them what to do. They don't see how wonderful things are under self-rule.

This is shortsighted at best. If China were ever to take control of Taiwan, there would likely be purges, arrests, oppression and martial law; changes to everything from the beginning. Friends, associates, colleagues, coworkers and others would disappear. "Splittists" would be hunted down and arrested.

Even KMT members would not be safe, even though they have toadied to China for so long, because in a communist tyranny, everyone is a threat, especially former enemies.

To naively believe that partnering with China would solve any problems is to ignore the hard truth. But actively seeking to be oppressed is both surprising and sad -- if not delusional.

For so many, it is a logical extension of Taiwanese insecurity and lack of confidence. To seek out oppression from the world's worst dictatorial system as a panacea for anything is a truly dangerous pitfall.

It is time for Taiwanese to abandon the notion that everyone else in the world knows what's better for Taiwan than they do, and to reject the notion that giving up precious rights for supposed economic benefits is the way forward.

It is time for Taiwanese to take an active interest in their future and understand what is at stake.

While people all over the world (including China) are suffering to obtain freedom, Taiwan already has it.

The struggle now is to keep it, and apathy has never protected anyone or anything.

Lee Long-hwa

New York

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