Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Brewing more than coffee

“Activist” cafes such as the ones owned by former DPP politician Luo Wen-chia and Sunflower movement participant Lan Shi-bo, are part of the growing trend of activism as a fashion

By Dana Ter  /  Staff reporter

Buffalo Books is like a mish-mash of Luo’s personal interests. A Taoyuan native, Luo’s passion for farming and agriculture is evident in ways such as using organic produce and freshly harvested rice shipped from their branch in Taoyuan County to supply the Taipei restaurant. A third branch of Buffalo Books in Greater Tainan not only grows rice, but also holds regular English and music classes for underprivileged children.

Whereas Backstage attracts intellectuals, Buffalo Books draws a more diverse crowd especially in terms of age range. Their Taipei branch provides book readings for children as frequently as it holds talks on cross-strait relations, for instance.

Luo’s collection of books ranges from agriculture and farming to history and politics — including a section on Taiwanese history and another one on Chinese history.

“Taiwanese want to have a deeper understanding of China, and not just from a political standpoint, but they also want to know about China’s people and culture,” Luo said.

He adds that “it’s not right to simply understand China through our own projections of it or through our misconceptions.”

Like Lan, Luo certainly has his own opinions on politics; he chooses, however, to keep them at bay. He says that there is no way to ascertain if his books are converting patrons into social activists, only that he hopes Buffalo Books “will provide a window for people to see a broader view.”

Political activism might just be a fad in cafes and bookstores, but it’s not a fad that will fade anytime soon. Sure, it’s become a sidebar in establishments such as Backstage and Buffalo Books, but it’s nevertheless still there. Eventually, these posters and books slip into our subconscious, showing that sometimes, activism as a fashion can be just as powerful as a call for social action.

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