Nationalism casts a powerful spell. It sets “the nation” above everything else, allowing politicians to focus the public’s will on asserting what they portray as the nation’s dignity and the national interest. Whenever a country faces a crisis of domestic policy, the nationalist strategy since time immemorial is to find a scapegoat and declare war to unify the country in hatred against a common enemy.
The war that the US launched against Iraq just 10 years ago is a recent example and a lesson that should be heeded.
Nationalistic sentiments are inducing Taiwanese to forgo their planned trips to the Philippines and have convinced shops to stop selling products from the Philippines. Politicians have their own motives for letting such things happen, but what good does any of this do for ordinary people? How will it make people’s lives any better?
The Ma administration has been making a lot of noise about the current dispute. No doubt, its posturing is based on delusional self-importance and a haughty disdain for the Philippines. However, the reality is that Taiwan has been treading water for a long time and has fallen far behind international trends.
This shouting match is probably not going to quiet down for a while yet. Progressive forces in Taiwan must make their voices heard, so that Taiwanese will not unwittingly dance along to the politicians’ tune. It would be better if Taiwanese used this opportunity to learn more about the country from which many of the nation’s migrant workers come, and about what kind of a life people live in the Philippines. Above all, the lesson that people from both countries really need to learn is how not to let politicians lead them by the nose.
Lorna Kung is spokesperson for the Union of Excluded Immigrants and Unwanted Citizens.
Translated by Julian Clegg