Allow me to quote Andrew Yu (游進忠) of the Hakka Affairs Commission, who this week admitted he pulled the plug on an acceptance video by a journalist to whom the commission had just given a major award.
The freelance journalist, Yeh Jih-chia (葉日嘉), had made the fatal mistake of criticizing the Miaoli County Government (full of Hakka, of course, given the county’s unique demographics) for leveling some Japanese-era kilns. On Tuesday, our very own Taipei Times reported Yu, a media officer, as saying:
“If we showed the video at an award ceremony organized by the council, it would be like a government organization attacking the head of another government organization — that’s something we simply cannot do, otherwise we would upset people.”
Journalists upsetting people? The thought of it!
Then, with a flourish, and no hint of irony or embarrassment, Yu said: “There’s no freedom of speech at a government agency.”
That’s the spirit. I say we need more men like this in the central government, because we’re not going to be able to reintroduce authoritarian essentials to governance on the strength of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) personality alone.
Come to think of it, we could do with more men like Andy in the Taipei City Government, too. If the Department of Rapid Transit Systems had put this rising star in charge of naming stations on the MRT’s new Neihu Line, which opens today, we could have recaptured the can-do spirit of simultaneous brainwashing and backslapping that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) made us learn to love.
Instead, we’ve settled for literal geography. What a waste!
My ancestral mentor, the curmudgeonly physician Colonfucius (肛夫子), emphasized the importance of zhengding (正鼎) — or making sure that the legs on your ceremonial tripod are about the same length lest the damn thing topple over, thus preventing the tripod’s owner from having a panic attack and seeking out a pissed-off Colonfucius in the middle of the night.
That morsel of wisdom is well and good, but a pragmatic sage has his limits. I doubt Colonfucius said anything about the need for choosing the right names when you need them the most.
Thus we turn to that other master of a bygone era: Confucius (孔子).
Christians talk about the great mysteries, among them marriage, the nativity and death. But in pagan Taiwan, there are only two great mysteries.
The first is how the Chinese Professional Baseball League attracts anyone to its games — apart from the players’ wives and girlfriends.
The second, and more profound, is why even the most obnoxiously rabid Taiwanese independence supporter uses the word dalu (大陸, “mainland”) to refer to China — even though the connotation of the word spits straight in Taiwan’s eye.
Can you see where I’m heading?
The Confucian maxim of zhengming (正名) can mean to conduct oneself in a way appropriate to one’s station, though it can be simplified to something along the lines of “straight talk”: calling a spade a spade, as it were. Making the words of a title correspond to the reality, whether the reality be someone’s behavior or the nature of a thing. In two words: no bullshit.
Now that we look to be stuck with a KMT government for as long as it takes the Chicoms to rip the guts out of Taiwan’s political mainframe, it’s time to ask some pointed questions, such as: Do we start aping the KMT of old and learn to hate our neighbors all over again or is there some kind of new and improved, pet-friendly KMT that we can learn from and emulate?