Tue, Oct 10, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Mutual respect can end the strife

By Lii Ding-tsann 李丁讚

Popular movements serve a necessary function in a democracy by constantly renewing and revitalizing the government. However, we should be more cautious about mass movements that have a divisive effect.

Demonstrations between opposing groups can only harden their resistance to one another and cannot resolve the issue that separates them. Therefore, I call for an end to antagonism between the various pro and anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) movements and an immediate beginning of dialogue and reconciliation among all Taiwanese.

Civil society has long been impinged upon by politics. Fierce opposition between political parties has entangled society in a constant battle that only has one purpose: to defeat the other side. This behavior is more representative of groups of animals in which both sides are caught in an eternal cycle of fighting and dying, winning and losing, without ever questioning whether they are right or wrong. Slowly, society's system of values collapses. This is the main factor in our moral decline.

Most importantly, a society constantly at odds with itself is incapable of developing into a civilized community because it is forever caught up in barbarism and violence. Without an end to strife and hostility, a civilized society is unattainable. True social reform is impossible as well, much less the fulfillment of any long-term plan.

To escape this, the citizenry must step into the public arena and open up dialogue, find common ground and forge an agreement on what kind of political structure they want.

Deadlocks are essentially between society and the government, not within society itself. This is the fundamental principle of democratic governance. But in Taiwan, the divisions that political society have created within civil society have led to turmoil which in turn allows the government to control it. This is the biggest problem facing Taiwan's civil society and democratic governance.

Therefore I call on both sides to engage in dialogue and begin to listen to each other. Chen's supporters do not identify with Chen as much as they seem to do. They are motivated by their memories of the past crimes of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and are unwilling to let the KMT benefit from Chen being toppled.

This may just be a "historical matter" to some, but it is still very much alive within the hearts of many Taiwanese. I believe that only by addressing today's political dispute in its full historical context can it be resolved.

The Million Voices Against Corruption initiated by former Democratic Progressive Party chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) started off as a movement purely concerned with Taiwan's constitutional government and was free from any overt involvement by political parties. However, it inevitably settled into the same old lines of confrontation.

The campaign provoked a fierce reaction as it traveled to Taiwan's central and southern regions, demonstrating just how deep-rooted and serious these "historical matters" are to many people. This is an important lesson for all Taiwanese to study, including those in the anti-Chen camp.

Therefore I appeal to all anti-Chen demonstrators to face Taiwan's past and seek to promote dialogue with pro-Chen demonstrators. While you demand that Chen bear his political responsibilities, also demand that the KMT accept its historical responsibilities.

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