Sun, Nov 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

‘Generation D’ and changing times

By Jerome Keating

As the nine-in-one elections draw near, a new generation of voters continues to emerge. It has a different experience from its forebears, and different priorities. It is called “generation D,” the post-democracy generation.

Generation D voters — those born from 1990 on — would have started elementary school in 1996 or after, when Taiwan had its first full democratic election for president and legislators. They only know a democratic Taiwan, and they too often have a hazy idea of the how it came about.

Not long ago, I was talking with a 24-year-old Taiwanese who happened to be from Taipei’s Jingmei Neighborhood (景美).

I asked if she had ever visited the former Jingmei military detention center, an important landmark in Taiwan’s past struggle for democracy.

She did not even know it existed.

A week later, in a separate conversation, I asked a student about the same place — now named the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial.

This student had visited it on a class project and was shocked by the conditions she saw.

However, when I inquired if she knew that former vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) and Presidential Office Secretary-General Chen Chu (陳菊) had spent years in prison there, she did not.

The lifting of martial law is not that far past. Yet such is the enjoyment of today’s new democracy that it is almost taken for granted. Forgotten are sufferings of many who are still living, who did time at Jingmei, as well as those who went to Green Island (綠島), so that Taiwan could have its democracy.

This is not an uncommon experience. A comparison might be made with baby boomers in the US — born after 1945. That generation gloried in the peace of the 1950s with no living experience of the struggles and sacrifice of World War II, a war where almost every family lost at least one relation serving in Europe or Asia.

However, baby boomers did have an advantage in memory; they had some idea of that past, world-encompassing war. The burgeoning US film industry churned out numerous “war films” that classified the “good guys” and the “bad guys,” and the price paid by all.

Taiwan’s generation D,” on the other hand, has very few “Martial Law era” films. As a result, many of those who could be classified as “villains” from that era of the struggle for democracy are still around and some even run for office. This muddies the waters.

The voting age in Taiwan is 20, and so generation D voters have participated since the 2010 elections. Each year adds an additional crop to this group and their impact is being noticed. Yet this also creates a generational divide.

Many overseas Taiwanese have a different memory. Their experience and loyalty drives them to frequently pay the added expense to return to their Taiwan motherland to vote, even in non-presidential election years. They come because of the strength of their past blue or green experience.

In Taiwan’s electoral landscape, this is the gap that must be bridged. Each generation has its needs and perceived direction that it wishes the nation to take. The generation D voters find that they might vote more for the person and issues than a party, because they carry less baggage from the past.

Faced with this reality, all parties now find it increasingly important to have more viable candidates. They cannot just put up a person with little talent simply because that person has been a loyal party member.

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