Wed, Nov 22, 2017 - Page 8 News List

‘Strawberries’ denied room to grow

By Ben Goren

Lee Min-yung (李敏勇) neatly deconstructed this myth by saying it is not young people who are protecting their pension perks at the expense of the nation’s fiscal sustainability, nor is it young people who have handed down an “abnormal nation” caught in a “one China,” “awaiting unification” birdcage birthed of hasty concessions made by today’s grandparents during the constitutional reforms of the 1990s (“Youth must rebuild an unfinished nation,” April 23, page 6).

Myopic, intragenerational sneering is not solely a Taiwanese phenomenon, either. Western media have been awash with articles about “millennials ruining everything.”

Aside from not producing enough babies to pay taxes to care for an expanding and increasingly senile older cohort, through their poor and selfish choices, millennials have allegedly “broken” the standard workweek, dinner dates, golf, sex and relationships, cruises, the housing market, face-to-face interactions, vacations, diamonds and department stores, all because they apparently indulge themselves with luxuries such as avocado toast at the cost of investing in their future.

It is as absurd as it is insulting.

Take just one example: The declining birth rate in Taiwan.

Humans, like other animals, adapt and evolve to their environment. Goldfish unattended in a pond will only grow as large as food sources that can sustain them.

When wages are stagnant for 20 years, even while the economy posts positive net growth per annum, there is effectively a private tax on national demand-led growth.

Productivity rises, but a majority of the derived profit does not return to the economy. Instead, it is often frozen in land investments and offshore tax havens, and in the process severely undermines the nation’s ability to pay for the public services and goods that everyone demands as a basic right, but no one wants to pay for. Everyone is “patriotic” until it comes to saving money by avoiding taxes.

We want the young to have more children, but we do not want to pay them more or provide sufficient and affordable childcare so they can return to work and ensure that their children are looked after.

It would be irrational in this economy for a young couple on an average salary to conclude that they can afford to have two or more children before 30, let alone buy a home in a large city.

If the younger generations are smeared as “strawberries” for being sensible and refusing to be politically and economically exploited, or beguiled by the manufactured desires of mass media, then it is time that the reactionary generations behind them are labeled “durians” — thorn-covered, embittered, selfish, timid hypocrites whose pride is a blindfold to the sight of everyone younger gasping for fresh, clean air amidst the toxic legacy handed to them.

Young people are out on the streets, campaigning in defense of the principles of democracy (the Sunflower movement), against police harassment (the Wild Strawberry Student Movement), for marriage equality, for renewable energy (Anti-4NP) and for fair working conditions and pay (China Airlines’ union strike).

Young people increasingly value a clean environment and a work-life balance that will allow them to share valuable life experiences with their children, rather than just send them to expensive and questionably effective cram schools to pass tests for increasingly devalued credentials.

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