If we look back at the past five years, most Taiwanese probably look at President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) performance with feelings of anger, shock and helplessness.
On closer scrutiny it becomes clear that Ma’s actions did not come from nowhere. He has a pre-modern mind that makes post-modern statements, but he lacks any sense of modernism. In simple terms, modernism refers to core values that have existed in Western society since the Age of Enlightenment, namely science, reason and constitutional democracy. Ma is severely deficient in all three areas and has a mind filled with pre-modern feudal ideas and superstitions.
When Ma had first been elected but had not officially taken office, former premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) was already preparing to attempt to silence well-known academic commentators. Later on, Ma even tried to use the judiciary to achieve the same end. He once said that the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) was unconstitutional and promised to abolish it, but in the end, he went back on his word. Additionally, when Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), the former chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits visited Taiwan, Ma mobilized the police to suppress protests. Now, he is playing tricks with a referendum to legitimize continued construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), despite widespread resistance to its construction. Given all this, how can Ma pretend to have any democratic values?
In the West, postmodernism was a reaction to and a correction of modernism. Following the rise of capitalism, the values that came out of the Age of Enlightenment unfortunately provided authoritarian dictators with fertile soil to establish control over power and wealth and reshape the values of the Age of Enlightenment. Postmodernism was aimed at deconstructing the values that allowed those in power to control perceptions of truth, knowledge and values.
Despite this, Ma has taken postmodernism as his model. He believes blindly in power and manipulating the media to paint a certain picture of himself.
Ma has said recently that his low public approval rating of 13 percent is a result of his pushing through necessary reforms. Yet, can more than 80 percent of people be against reform?
When Ma was recently heckled in English by a Taiwanese at an international conference in Taiwan, Ma responded by saying this was a positive thing, because it was a sign of just how “cosmopolitan” the nation is.
And just after Philippine Coast Guard personnel shot and killed a Taiwanese fisherman, Ma told the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Palau that Taiwan had much to learn from Palau, because it is such a nice country where even jellyfish are friendly to tourists.
Although abolishing nuclear power is an emerging global trend, Ma insists that nuclear power is the way to go. He knows that his words have influence, that he has much power and that some media outlets will do everything they can to serve him. What is regrettable in all this is that the average person, who must work hard just to survive, has limited access to information and is therefore often fooled.
The problem is that in the next few years, the global economy will face massive restructuring and Taiwan will need a competent, resolute and wise leader. Yet, three years is much too long to wait without such a leader. Are Taiwanese going to recall Ma? Can the nation come together to bring an end to his evil regime?
Allen Houng is a professor at National Yang-Ming University’s Institute of Philosophy of Mind and Cognition.
Translated by Drew Cameron