In the middle of last month, former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in the “Jasmine Revolution.” This was followed by anti--government demonstrations in Egypt, with protesters demanding the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Yemen was next. It seems that the fire of political reform has been lit and is sweeping across the Islamic world from North Africa to the southern Arabian Peninsula.
People in these post--colonial states have had enough. Their anger has boiled over and they have taken to the streets demanding political reform and a change in their government. The anger that had previously been directed at the colonial powers is now being aimed at their own authoritarian rulers.
Late last month, Chinese tycoon Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) visited Taiwan and reportedly donated more than NT$500 million (US$17.3 million) to poor Taiwanese. Chen’s donations were like a slap in the face of the government of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who has pledged to boost the economy.
As chairman of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), Ma inherited a party system from the Chiang (蔣) family. How many years has this system existed? There is also a very strong likelihood that Ma will be the party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election. Can this be true?
The Chinese translation of the influential German Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt’s, The Promise of Politics, was published in December. In the book she asks if politics actually creates problems, if we could live without it and what would then happen?
This is certainly worth pondering. Without politics, would it finally be possible for people to have the freedom that they long for?
Arendt asks: “What is politics?” I think a simple answer would suffice: Politics is really all about “freedom.”
I use this specific word for a reason and I wonder what it means to ordinary Taiwanese or to our politicians.
Taiwan emerged from a dictatorship to become a free and democratic nation. The KMT has been in power for many years — years characterized by a lack of freedom and democracy. Despite the fact that we are now free and enjoy democracy, the power the KMT gained during the Martial Law era has yet to be truly deconstructed.
Taiwanese suffered strife and calamities during this period, but many seem to have forgotten this. The privileges still accorded military personnel, civil servants and school teachers are a direct product of the KMT’s “party-state system” ideology. This issue is still with us.
During its history, the KMT has been equally comfortable with an anti-communist and a pro-communist stance. At this point in time, it is collaborating with the communists.
This is being done in bad faith. It is the government going back on its promises and is tantamount to conning the public. All the KMT cares about is staying in power. In a way, it doesn’t really matter if it regards Taiwan as a geographical base, a battlefield or a colony. In the end, it all boils down to the same thing.
Advocates of change would do well to look into what Arendt says about political ideology in her book and think seriously about the implications. They should not just gloss over it.
Lazy thinking leads to impoverished ideas. And impoverished ideas cannot rouse the public to push for reform and progress.
Lee Min-yung is a poet.