The controversy surrounding Democratic Progressive Party vice presidential candidate Su Jia-chyuan’s (蘇嘉全) farmhouse in Pingtung County has dragged on for almost a month, beginning when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) launched a series of attacks on Su and his family over the farmhouse and other alleged acts of misconduct.
With so many people demanding “land justice,” I have come to understand that farmers are expected to forgo all desires and act completely docile if they want to enjoy a happy life.
The lessons I’ve learned over the past month are as follows.
Farmers must go out at sunrise to tend to their fields and return home at sunset to rest. They must be servile citizens and never strive for upward mobility. If the price of agricultural produce goes up because of typhoons, they must bite their tongue and accept the complaints of urban residents. When the price of bananas falls to NT$1 a bunch or a head of cabbage costs NT$0.50, they must accept their plight without complaint.
In this context, it is better for everyone if our farmers stay relatively ignorant. Everything will be fine as long as they finish their basic compulsory education and then work in the fields.
However, problems can be expected if they raise gifted and smart children who go to college or get doctoral degrees and then work for the government or become teachers, because then they stop being farmers and cannot be allowed to inherit the land of their ancestors. Although the law technically still allows them to do so, they will never be anything more than fake farmers in the eyes of those with such demanding moral standards.
In addition, if farmers work hard and save their whole lives, or their children return home one day basking in the newfound glory of professional success and want to build a nice house, it really should be ordinary looking and not attract too much attention. Actually, it would be preferable if it was made from straw.
A farmhouse worth NT$9 million (US$300,000), even if built in accordance with standards laid down by the Council of Agriculture (COA), would be far too presumptuous in the eyes of those northerners with their hundred million dollar apartments. If they can only have 100 ping (330m2) to live in, then a NT$9 million farmhouse with a yard and a pond is just not fair.
Farmhouses must not display exterior art or sculptures, and in the event that they do, such “art” must be removed. Walls cannot be erected even to prevent theft or for safety reasons. Roads must also be as narrow as the small ridges found between a farmer’s fields because according to certain rich people, farmers do not need art or cars.
It is OK to leave farmland without a farmhouse fallow, you can even apply for a government subsidy in that case. On the other hand, if you have a farmhouse on your land you do not deserve such subsidies and if the land is left fallow then that just confirms your status as a fake farmer.
If you are a farmer, you are not allowed to serve as a high official and if you aspire to do so anyway then you simply cannot have any farmland. If you do, you will be punished or forced to give it away, even if it has been in your family for generations. Judging from the moral outrage of some people, it is an unforgivable offense for senior government officials to own a farmhouse or farmland.
Seemingly, it is a mortal sin in Taiwan for the children of farmers to keep the farmland of their ancestors, even if it was inherited and they love the land with all their heart.
Humbly accept your fate, children of farmers. In the eyes of some, you are not and never will be one of them. You will always be on society’s lowest rung and should aspire to nothing more.
Huang Tien-lin is a former national policy adviser to the president.
Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat
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