Today is the 2,563rd anniversary of Confucius’ (孔子) birthday. Taipei residents and visitors have flocked to the Confucius Temple on Dalong Street early this morning to watch the traditional ceremony and eat wisdom cakes. It is too bad that so few politicians partake of those cakes, because they are sorely in need of some wisdom.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration are fond of citing the sage. Ma has been quoted as saying that he keeps a copy of Confucius’ Analects on his bedside table and will read it before he goes to bed. Three years ago, Ma cited the Analects after attending the annual Confucius Temple ceremony, saying it was important for politicians to take the right path.
“Confucius taught us that a politician must take the righteous path, and if you take that path, your subordinates would not dare to take an evil path,” he said.
Ma might want to mull over two other precepts in light of the current battles surrounding Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) and his own actions, which have raised a host of legal and constitutional issues: “Men of principle are always bold, but those who are bold are not always men of principle” and “An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.”
The Presidential Office has repeatedly said that Ma’s stance on the Wang issue is that it is a grave matter with no gray areas, and that he could not overlook any incident that would harm the concept of justice and equality or damage judicial independence.
Yet for a man who apparently sees his actions — and those of others — in terms of black and white, he is often found lurking in the shadows, letting others — like longtime adviser King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) or the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Discipline and Evaluation Committee — do the dirty work.
Ma supposedly gained the nickname “Teflon man” years ago for his anti-corruption stance in the midst of the KMT’s “black gold” era, but increasingly it looks like he uses others to shield him from any mud sticking to him.
He might also want to ponder the advice that “a virtuous disposition without knowledge is susceptible to corruption, and virtuous action without sincerity is not true righteousness.”
However, these are all lessons that politicians of all colors in Taiwan appear to have forgotten, and that voters appear too willing to ignore.
The history of the Legislative Yuan is littered with those would have trouble getting elected in a “moral universe.” Many lawmakers have questionable legal histories. After all, the Wang scandal stems from Democratic Progressive Party caucus whip Ker Chien-ming’s (柯建銘) long-running legal drama over a questionable loan he took out while serving as general manager of Formosa Telecom Investments in 1997. And who can forget former independent legislator Lo Fu-chu (羅福助) being elected as one of three conveners of the Judicial Committee in September 2000 thanks to support from his KMT colleagues, while his son, KMT Legislator Lo Ming-tsai (羅明才), was elected convener of the Finance Committee, despite allegations that he had coerced bankers into giving him loans.
The Confucian notion of “good people politics” (賢人政治) has long looked like a mirage floating above the actual mire of Taiwanese politics.
Meanwhile, any hopes that sparks might fly if Ma and Wang bumped into one another during the Confucius commemorations appeared to be scotched yesterday when Wang did not appear at the Presidential Office’s ceremony, saying he needed to attend a legislative meeting instead. It is unlikely that today will prove any different. After all, for those who follow such omens, the Farmers’ Calendar says today is a bad day for all auspicious activities.