Sat, Jan 18, 2020 - Page 8 News List

‘Ancestral origin’ an outdated idea

By James Chang 張志堅

On the last day of my visit to Taipei, I went to the Taipei Guesthouse to pay my respects to late chief of the general staff general Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴) and seven other military officers who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 2.

Coincidentally, a campaign rally was going on next door on Ketagalan Boulevard, with participants chanting that they would bring the government down, while that very government was conducting a solemn ceremony to grieve the outstanding individuals the nation had just lost.

Political criticism and opposition have long since become part of everyday life in Taiwan; at the same time, Taiwan has managed to create the worst-ever election culture and produce the lowest-quality candidate ever.

If a politician who uses people who died in service of the nation and the 921 Earthquake for his own purposes succeeds in getting elected, and his political party were reinstalled in government, the next tragedy they would be using for their own purposes could well be your and my future.

Because I like to nitpick, I found quite a few errors in the posters the Ministry of National Defense had made to introduce each of the deceased officers.

According to the text, lieutenant colonel Huang Sheng-hang (黃聖航) was from Miaoli, Taiwan Province — although Taiwan’s provincial status has long been abolished.

This made me wonder: If someone flies from Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) to Kinmen, would they feel as if they have arrived in Fujian Province? And if they took a boat from Xiamen to Kinmen, would they really think that they are still in the same province where Xiamen is located?

The text also said that Shen was from Yixing (宜興) in China’s Jiangsu Province — although he was Taiwanese through and through, born in what is now Taipei’s Shilin District (士林). So what is his connection to Jiangsu? His long-deceased father was from that province.

Here is the problem: Since 1945, Taiwan has been under the spell of two words — ancestral origin (籍貫). For decades, these two words have been the archenemy of Taiwan’s ethnic integration efforts and national identity.

From childhood to adulthood, we have a nationality, household registration records, school enrolment records, military service records. These records all represent a different status, and statuses change. Development, in a way, is a change in status. However, there is one thing that does not change — the word “origin” in “ancestral origin” is the devil that hides in the details.

Our ancestral origin is unchangeable, because the word “origin” tells us that we follow an unchangeable bloodline and have to carry the weight of our forefathers’ “origin.” This “origin” is not a status, it is a bloodline.

I like to say that only Arabian horses, Belgian pigeons and other animals are judged by their bloodline, and that people are connected to the land where they live, not a bloodline.

Nationalism is humanity’s biggest sin. Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) might have been wise and benevolent, but one-third of his theory was wrong, as it stressed nationalism, a mistake that many autocratic politicians have been guilty of.

Calling for the expulsion of barbarians and the restoration of China? Who were these barbarians? Nothing more than Manchurians, from another bloodline. Bloodline is not something we choose. After all, how much nobler are Han people than other people?

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top