President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was inaugurated for a second term on Sunday. In stark contrast to his assumption of office four years ago, with his reputation as an unsullied politician, there is now widespread and increasing public dissatisfaction with Ma.
When people start to believe that incompetence is worse than corruption, no amount of explanation makes things better.
German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm said that living only to gain power and reputation is a disease. This is especially true for someone who gets carried away with child-like fantasies. The final stage of the illness is to become convinced of one’s own incompetence before finally becoming overwhelmed by feelings of futility and agony.
Every choice involves the risk of failure. Without risk, the choices we make are not real decisions. We can never know for certain what the consequences of our best efforts will be. For example, there is no way an emotional being can avoid some degree of insecurity. Therefore, an individual must not only strive for a sense of security, but also be able to accept insecurity without panicking.
However, we now seem to be living in an era of collective neurosis. Government policy is constantly changing because it lacks a central guiding philosophy and lawmakers are torn between respecting party unity and public opinion. As a result the public does not feel that there is a risk management strategy in place behind all the insecurity.
A society that is mentally healthy encourages each person to utilize collective art and skills to engage in creative activities. In a society steeped in dissatisfaction, people only passively react to stimuli and it is hard to create the conditions for setting goals. A positive national happiness index is not a guarantee given out on talk shows; it is an environment one must work toward. Cold hard statistics do not make people feel better when they believe they have little to be happy about.
At its core, the authoritarian ideology in leaders is like a ghost that will not go away.
The Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek has said that ideological criticism is too often focused on “over-rapid historicization.”
He has said that human beings tend to link products of ideology, like concentration camps, with certain images, like that of the Holocaust, or certain social orders, such as fascism, when reflecting on things that seem to run counter to human nature, because we tend to think that if we can destroy Nazism and totalitarianism, we can also destroy the whole ugly idea of concentration camps.
However, if we think about this in terms of what we have learned from psychoanalysis, it cannot be completely eradicated from memory; it will morph into another form and return to haunt us. We think Taiwan has completed its democratic change and bid farewell to the authoritarian Martial Law era. This universal belief is an example of Zizek’s “over-rapid historicization” and a complete negation of reality.
Judging from the government’s actions and statements, Ma has returned to a form of paternalistic leadership while continuing to use the catchphrase “national happiness index” to cover up his incompetence and oppressive nature.
Following recent policy changes, Ma has adopted the attitude of a parent hoping his children will grow up to understand that without suffering now, things will only get worse later on. However, in the end, Ma said that price increases would be introduced in three stages because he did not dare to be so arrogant, and to show he understands public opinion.