Tue, Nov 23, 2010 - Page 8 News List

Involuntary ‘inaction’ is now a thing of the past

By Chi Ta-wei 紀大偉

During the last half of this year, groups such as environmentalists or those protecting farmers have launched movements calling on the public to take action. While these groups are concerned with different issues, they understand the need to cooperate on various issues to help each other reach their respective goals. The tacit agreements and cooperation between these groups provide an atmosphere of warmth amidst the rain and cold autumn winds.

The ability to cooperate despite their different interests is testimony to the fact that they are able to understand the core values of other groups. It is difficult to define the meaning of “core value” in a few words, so instead, lets consider a couple of even more fundamental concepts: What is a “movement” and what does “action” mean?

Although different groups define these concepts differently, it is fairly easy to see that they deal with progress — an endorsement of Immanuel Kant’s and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s view of progressive history. The opposite of movement or action is generally seen to be “inaction.” In other words, not helping to bring about social progress.

Inaction could be seen as the opposite of these concepts and as an accusation of an almost immorally cold and indifferent inactivity and nonparticipation in social events. However, it could also imply a difficulty to act, such as in the case of physically and mentally disadvantaged people. Their bodies do not meet the expectations of mainstream society: They may not be able to walk fast enough at a demonstration, or maybe they have to sit in a wheelchair and require someone to push them. They cannot enter the toilets at the site of a demonstration or the MRT stations with all the physical obstacles at the stations, or maybe they cannot even leave their home to join a demonstration.

However, this does not mean that these people are inactive and their presence at demonstrations is now so common and frequent that they can no longer be ignored.

The reason this is being raised is partly to stress the fact that physically and mentally disadvantaged people are already taking part in social movements and that they are helping many different movements. The general view is that those who participate in a movement or take action not only speak up, but also stand up and take physical action. Any passionate person would stand up and fight, not afraid of joining the fray and able to sustain a blow or two — such people are seen as masters of their own, healthy bodies. They have full control over their limbs and senses, looking charismatic and alive as they walk down the street, healthy and beautiful. This is the perceived norm.

However, many people partaking in movements or actions have weak bodies and cannot move freely. Many people in disadvantaged groups do not have healthy bodies conforming to the perceived norm. They are often overlooked, hidden away and kept locked up in their homes or in hospitals.

The boundary between what is perceived as the norm and what is perceived as marginal is fleeting and elusive. Marginalized groups include people whose bodies conform to the perceived norm and mainstream groups include people whose bodies do not.

Through negotiation, physically and mentally disadvantaged people have managed to gain a presance at the Taipei International Flora Expo, a good example of their strategy to slowly became part of mainstream society. Not all of them can walk the streets at their leisure, but they can sing and dance on the fringes of the expo.

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