Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Arise, O Taiwanese third society

By Lin Chih-Chen 林致真

The most common reaction to the term "third society" is one of confusion. "Does Taiwan even have a first, let alone a second society?" is a question that many would ask.

The answer to this question is a definite yes, and the chaotic political struggle we see every day is living proof.

Taiwan's first society is the one that existed prior to 1945; the indigenous society, if you will. This society experienced the colonial rule of Japan and was even at war with China and its allies during World War II.

Taiwan's second society consists of people from all over China who came and settled in Taiwan between 1945 and 1949. Members of the second society came from very diverse backgrounds, but Taiwan's foreignness at the time forced them together.

The next four to five decades saw a small minority of the second society dominating Taiwan's political and cultural spheres.

The first society was mostly suppressed in those two spheres but was quite successful in contributing to Taiwan's economic miracle.

However, with Taiwan's democratization, the first society was able to obtain political representation in the form of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whilst the second society was continuously represented by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or other pan-blue groups.

With the DPP's victory in 2000, the political representatives of the first society took the reins of power for the first time.

However, even after seven years of DPP rule, the political power of the second society still refuses to recognize its political leadership.

At the same time, the political power of the first society sought extremism as a way of self preservation.

Thus Taiwan over the last few years degenerated into what former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) termed a "democratic civil war." Even today the two main political powers are still engaged in a fierce struggle with each other and it is severely damaging the country's democratic vitality.

What then is Taiwan's third society? To put it simply, the Third Society is all those of us who are sick and tired of the struggle between the first and second society.

To us, the two societies have much interests in common -- much more than they are aware of, in fact.

For example, many politicians from the first society highlight the bitter past experienced by many members of the public under the KMT's authoritarian rule.

However, these people often overlook the fact that the majority of the second society's members suffered even worse fates.

Members of the second society still feel a strong sense of insecurity because of their minority status. They fail, however, to see the first society's fear of a minority-rule resurgence.

To members of the Third Society, the ongoing struggle neglects the common interests of all Taiwanese and instead exaggerates the minor differences between the two old societies.

The struggle also exploits external antagonisms for internal electoral competitions, which in turn shows the outside world how polarized the nation has become. At the same time, the struggle between the two political blocs of the two old societies utterly fails to give Taiwanese any meaningful policy choices.

Instead, the two blocs present the same irresponsible fiscal and social policies made up by corruption and tax cuts that have trapped the country in an abyss of monstrous national debt.

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