Having passed the age of 70, I am getting on in years. After the nine-in-one elections in November last year, I had quite a few chats with young people. I asked them about how they voted and found the thinking of those who voted for non-Taiwan-centric candidates worth discussing.
First, most of them simply wanted to “vote for someone different and see what happens.”
They hardly had any political considerations. They think that as the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has not been doing a good job, a different person or party might as well have a go.
When I asked them whether it would be worth it if it led to Taiwan losing its sovereignty, freedom and democracy, their reply was: “No way.”
Second, most of them think that Taiwan’s mother tongues and native cultures have no practical value. They would rather speak Taiwan-style Mandarin and limited English, listen to foreign music and watch foreign films.
When I asked them what they thought about German philosopher Johann Herder’s opinion that the language and culture left to us by our ancestors is very important, they did not know how to answer.
Third, these young Taiwanese who call themselves “naturally pro-independence” do not know much about Taiwan’s languages, history — especially its modern political history — and geography. Neither do they know much about Taiwan’s global ranking in terms of science, technology, economics, politics and culture. They only know that Taiwan is more democratic than China.
Members of my generation all know that the democracy and human rights that Taiwan enjoys today were won by countless forerunners who shed their blood and sweat to achieve it — in many cases sacrificing their lives, their youth or their family wealth. It would be fair to call it “revolutionary” democracy and rights.
We older people are also clear that the democracy and rights we have today are still fragile and could be damaged or even wiped out in a short period of time.
In contrast, members of the so-called “naturally pro-independent” generation have enjoyed democracy and human rights since the day they were born. For them, democracy and rights are “God-given.” In their eyes, democracy, freedom and human rights are completely natural and universal values that are sure to exist forever.
It is a typical political generation gap.
Should we call them fortunate or naive? If they want to call themselves “naturally pro-independence,” they should know a lot about Taiwan and identify with this nation, and they should also know how to present and market it.
That is why the Southern Taiwan Society has always called for education to be Taiwan-centered. Only when Taiwanese of all ages know enough about Taiwan and identify strongly enough with it can they know how to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty, democracy and freedom.
Only then can Taiwan be free of the fear and anxiety that many people are feeling.
Tiunn Hok Chu is a physician and former president of the Southern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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