Thu, Oct 05, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Language politics is hampering DPP power

By Chang Shih-hsien 張世賢

The green camp is adept at adopting short-sighted tactics.

On ethnic issues it has failed to lay out a bold strategy with a broad vision. By using Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) as its primary spoken language, the green camp is trying to gain linguistic dominance over the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Since the dangwai era, the green camp has used the same rough-and-ready tactics as the KMT in this linguistic struggle, yet its desire to replace Mandarin with Hoklo ignores the feelings of people who do not understand the language. As a result, a majority of Mainlanders, Hakka and Aboriginal people have developed a sense of collective frustration.

On top of that, the pan-blue media's lopsided reporting -- which disseminates misleading and distorted information to confuse perceptions of the green camp -- has brainwashed ethnic minorities and turned them into pan-blue supporters.

In order to promote an ideology, the first thing to consider is whether the language one speaks can be understood by the public. No matter how strong the green-camp supporters' bond with Taiwan is, how evil the KMT is or how abhorrent China's behavior is, using Hoklo to promote a pan-green ideology will not only make it impossible to communicate with non-Hoklo speakers, but also make them feel isolated and marginalized.

The ongoing pan-blue media bombardment, which has further complicated the political situation, has entrenched misperceptions of non-Hoklo people that the green camp is the source of the nation's political unrest. Also, the fact that non-Hoklo people feel they are disrespected by the green camp makes it difficult for the greens to garner votes.

Even among people of Hoklo ethnicity, especially those younger than 30, there is a limited grasp of the Hoklo language. As a result, when the green camp uses Hoklo to spread political ideology, how much can these people really understand?

Clearly, this approach can be touching for those in the traditional pan-green base, but what is the point if it cannot gain support from swing voters?

The KMT, characterized by greed, corruption, stolen assets and such despicable actions as joining hands with China, was shown the contempt it deserved in the 2000 presidential election.

The KMT has not changed in six years, and now it is trying to depose President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) through the red camp's Million Voices Against Corruption campaign. But who should be responsible for the pan-green camp's impotent response?

Clearly, the green camp's Hoklo chauvinism, which is manifested in its choice of spoken language, is the primary factor driving voters to the blue camp and keeping the greens from expanding their support base.

The green camp should separate the promotion of political ideology from the goal of reviving the Hoklo language. To increase their legislative power, green-camp politicians should primarily use Mandarin in order to better communicate with a wider Taiwanese audience.

Only in this way can the public better understand and therefore identify with the green camp.

But if political gatherings are primarily composed of a single ethnic community or aimed at discussing an ethnic group's administrative fortunes, then using that group's native language is the correct approach. Meanwhile, Taiwan's native languages can be preserved through legislation and the education system.

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