Many may recall that the country, quite different from previous New Years festivities, rang in this year with the unusual vibe of a maturing sense of civic awareness as high-profile celebrities such as the popular band Sodagreen (蘇打綠), pop singer Shin (信) and Aboriginal rocker Chang Chen-yue (張震嶽) who, while leading revelers in counting down to the New Year, trumpeted messages for the anti-nuclear energy campaign, against media monopoly and the construction of the beachfront Miramar Resort at Taitung County’s Shanyuan Bay (杉原灣).
The phenomenon of celebrity activism gained further momentum in the months that followed as a slew of prominent public figures, including seasoned directors Leon Dai (戴立忍), Ko I-chen (柯一正), Wang Hsiao-ti (王小棣), best-selling author Jiu Ba-dao (九把刀) and pop-rock band Mayday (五月天) made statements on various social issues.
The latest addition to the growing list of artists doubling as political activists is 20-year-old female entertainer — dubbed by media the “Chicken Cutlet Girl” (雞排妹) — whose denunciation of government policies has stirred up discussion among netizens and, in particular, young people.
While some are quick to point to her relatively unimpressive education — she dropped out after a year in college — and suggest she is too inexperienced to contribute to a discussion on national affairs, they ought to be reminded of Sun Yat-sen’s (孫中山) lecture in which he said: “Politics is a public affair.”
Everyone in the general public has the right to speak their mind on political issues.
Chinese philosopher and essayist Hu Shih (胡適) said that when young people start paying attention to and taking part in politics, it means the country has big problems. Ironically, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) might be thanked because, as a result of his poor governance, the nation’s bleak outlook is compelling young people and artists — who are normally apathetic toward politics and duck from sensitive social issues — to speak out in a capacity other than for entertainment purposes.
The trend of increasing celebrity activism is gratifying because it suggests Taiwanese are slowly breaking away from the shadow of the White Terror era, where discussions of sensitive social and political issues were often taboo.
The involvement of big name celebrities and public figures helps draw substantial attention to issues of critical importance to the country; it increases public awareness and civic engagement.
By no means should members of the general public blindly follow the ideas expressed by celebrities, but rather, movements through celebrity-endorsement should generate attention and thereby healthy public discourse.
The country’s fate cannot and should not be decided by a handful of politicians who probably hope people stay out of politics except when it comes to election time. They seem to want to be at the steering wheel with no comments from the back seat.
Taiwan is a democracy and the people are the masters of the country. The more people in every walk of life engage themselves in civic affairs, the brighter and more hopeful the nation can become.