The “September strife” involving President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) coincides with widening controversy over demolitions in Dapu Borough (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南). Many social movements are saying that the government that should be demolished instead. Angry protesters have taken to throwing shoes at images of Ma and other politicians, denouncing Ma, laughing at him or besieging his office.
Meanwhile, director Yang Li-chou’s (楊力州 ) documentary film Bridge Over Troubled Water (拔一條河) is moving many viewers to cry and laugh at the same time. The film records the lives of people in then-Kaohsiung County’s isolated Jiashian Township (甲仙) in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot and the floods it caused in August 2009. This tale is interwoven with the story of a tug-of-war contest between teams of rural youth, many of whom were born to immigrant mothers.
There is, after all, a big difference between colonists and migrants. The “September strife,” which has become a prolonged “autumn turmoil,” was launched by a colonial regime to settle accounts with the accomplices who helped it consolidate power. Meanwhile, countless women who came to Taiwan from Southeast Asia to marry Taiwanese men are caring for their families or toiling in the fields. To use a Taiwanese turn of phrase, migrant spouses lay eggs, while the colonists only give us chicken shit.
Ma comes from a family of spies, and he is said to have spied on his fellow students from Taiwan while studying in the US. He has a knack for denigrating others, while whitewashing his own performance. He has no concept of democracy, but he enjoys the fruits of Taiwan’s democratic movement, to which he contributed nothing.
Ma was elected president on a wave of unrealistic expectations, but he has turned out to be an incompetent and malicious political hack. He sees himself as heir to the ruling circle that came to Taiwan following the end of World War II fleeing from the Chinese Communist Party.
The forces that Ma represents cannot countenance the prospects raised by democratic reforms following the reigns of former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). They are determined to restore the old regime and snuggle up to communist China.
Compare the colonist Ma with the migrants who appear in the film. Colonists are here to exploit the land, but migrants are here to cultivate it. Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) often tries to open rifts between communities by saying that all Taiwan’s people, including the Hoklo and Hakka-speaking Taiwanese — everyone but the Aborigines — came to Taiwan from somewhere else.
It would never occur to the KMT that those who arrived in Taiwan from other places are also divided into colonists and migrants. Migrants arrive and settle down, while colonists come and go like the wind. Immigrant wives get busy “laying eggs,” and their children will grow up to do the same, but the colonists just dump more chicken shit.
The key question is not where you come from, but where you are going. Colonists should be rejected, but migrants should be welcomed. Among Taiwanese politicians, there are some who choose to hang around the KMT colonist regime and speak in its name. They expect to be rewarded with a share in the regime’s power. However, even if they get into the top ranks, like Wang did, all they can do if they get stabbed in the back is keep smiling. If the Taiwanese KMT does not turn over a completely new leaf, the Chinese KMT will always see them as a corrupted lot who can be used as scapegoats.
Lee Min-yung is a poet.
Translated by Julian Clegg