LETTERS: We're all Taiwanese

Mon, Dec 17, 2007 - Page 8

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Sandy Yen's (莊和子) comments recently about pensions paid to immigrants who were former Republic of China (ROC) soldiers must be condemned, not for the principle that lies behind his statement but rather his reference to "Taiwanese" as comprising four-fifths of Taiwan's population who are paying for "Mainland-ers" who comprise one-tenth ("DPP lawmaker duo blast KMT's `pork barrel' bills, Dec. 10, page 3). This plays into the hands of election strategists.

In the UK and the US, voters are positively influenced by images of confidence and clarity of vision. In Taiwan, voters seem to back candidates who espouse victimhood.

As a cultural trait, it is amazing how many Taiwanese, either through poor information or a need to appear modest, complain about the state of Taiwan, particularly the economy -- in direct contrast to the many indicators that suggest a gradual but steady improvement in living conditions. Any candidate that can prove persecution of some sort can amass an army of sympathetic supporters; witness the lunacy of former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) co-opted and orchestrated red-clad campaign last year.

Thus, Chuang's division between Taiwanese and Mainlanders is not helpful to the electoral campaign or democracy itself and is also increasingly inaccurate.

The DPP must start to reach out to all communities in Taiwan and formulate a concept of "Taiwaneseness" that is inclusive, not exclusive.

The term "Taiwanese" should refer to all people dependent upon the sustainability of Taiwan's environment, and not be defined in ambiguous cultural,?ethnic or linguistic terms. Thus for me, "Taiwanese" includes all permanent residents here.

That means?Aborigines, Hakka, recent immigrants from China, speakers of Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) and non-"Chinese" long-term immigrants, who are all equally invested in the maintenance of Taiwan as a habitable ecological system.

This far more inclusive definition doesn't divide people based upon ancestry or origin. It therefore doesn't play into the hands of cynical strategists who wish to paint their electoral base as suffering from so-called "ethnic conflict" to garner more votes.

If the government and the people are serious about completing a peaceful transition to democracy through reconciliation, they must start to accept each other's claims to legitimate residence in Taiwan and drop the question of ethnicity from their political discourse altogether.

A statement by the KMT relinquishing its intention to unify with China and a statement by the DPP formally recognizing "Mainlanders" as Taiwanese would be helpful moves in this process.

We must all be united by the single goal of preserving and maintaining the ability of our diverse environment to support human residence into the future.

That means investing fully in the "Environmental Republic of Taiwan" and moving carefully away from the state of self-delusion that is the ROC, so that future generations will be protected by the fact that their ancestors had the foresight and wisdom to discard old allegiances and identities in the face of new challenges that rendered them increasingly insignificant.

In the final analysis, environment must come before economy and the identities it produces.

Ben Goren

Chutung, Hsinchu County