Wed, Feb 13, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Finding identity amidst the baloney

By Jerome Keating

IF TAIWAN IS to establish its identity, it must begin with the principle that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."

From 5,000 years ago, when thriving Aboriginal civilizations quarried jade and did a burgeoning sea-faring trade with Southeast Asia, Taiwan has had its uniqueness. It was later influenced by the Dutch, the Spanish, pirates, Ming loyalists, Qing conquerors, and the Hoklo and Hakka seeking freedom. You name it and Taiwan received it. Each contributed a part, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In the past century, Taiwan had two great colonizers that wanted to make the island conform to their identity. The Japanese -- the first to control the whole island -- imposed their rule and their language and tried to mold Taiwan into a model colony. After Japan, the fleeing Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) came and imposed their rule and their language; they promoted a different dream, the false dream of retaking what the KMT had lost.

The Japanese were a majority imposing their identity on the minority Taiwanese. The KMT were a minority imposing their identity on the majority Taiwanese. Both have been a part of Taiwan's past, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Democracy has given Taiwan new life. With democracy, Taiwan now has the freedom to declare its own dream. While some deep blue KMT still want to impose their identity and their lost dream on Taiwan, others in their ranks are beginning to recognize the importance of localization and consider changing the KMT party name to "Taiwanese Nationalist Party." The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Identity is not enough for progress however. The second step after identity is to get past the media bamboozlement and down to the issues.

Henry David Thoreau stated succinctly in Walden: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." I would add a corollary to his words: "Most men lead lives of willingly being bamboozled."

This flaw in humanity is what drives companies to hire marketing executives to persuade consumers to buy stuff they don't need. This flaw is what allows the media to get away with providing pap instead of substance. This flaw is what allows politicians to posture and promise and not worry about being held accountable.

Why do people allow themselves to be bamboozled? Perhaps they hope for quick-fix solutions and trust a person's words more than his record. Perhaps they don't want to look beyond the immediacy of a problem to the complexities of its source. Perhaps they would rather trust a media that is interested more in sensationalism than investigative journalism.

Taiwan must insist the media get beyond its pap and sensationalism. Look at what the media focused on before the elections. Taiwan had to endure media overplay of Shih Ming-deh's (施明德) Red Shirts. Their alleged million people protest march was in reality about 500,000 pan-blue members from their Taipei City and County stronghold, an area that holds a KMT voter base of well over 3 million loyalists.

March of the people? March of the KMT loyalists is more like it.

Then the Red Shirts who claimed to be anti-corruption avoided any accurate and specific accounting of the more than US$3 million that Shih's group collected and which disappeared in less than a year with no concrete detailed accounting.

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