2013年1月5日 星期六

Transitional justice, neoliberalism, and apathy in Taiwan

We had free elections,… we elected a free parliament, we have a free press, we have a democratic government. Yet…[t]here still exist and work the powerful structures of the former regime…Many places are governed by the same people as before. They are connected to managers of industrial enterprises. There exist immense bureaucratic colossuses that preclude rational economic behavior of individual enterprises and firms. The old bureaucracy persists in all levels.

(Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic. Quoted in David, ‘Lustration Laws in Action’, 394.)

This article contains lines that some readers may find radical, offensive and disturbing.  

2012 just passed. It is not a peaceful year for the 23 million people in Taiwan. The blog "妖言" (in Chinese only) lists the issues that haunts the island for the past one year as followings show:

(1) Nuclear Power
(2) The Land Rights / The Right to Reside
(3) Economic Issues
(4) Media Monopoly 
(5) Death Penalty 
(6) Labor Rights
(7) Environmental Issues

All these issues mentioned above are truly worthy of continuing attention and debates among us as the citizens. They are the manifestations of neoliberalism. They precisely demonstrate how the lives these days are defined by figures, numbers, and accompanied rankings. Some people are so insanely obsessed with all these "indicators." They believe their countries should pursue the best numerical outcomes, and one of the ways to reach it is liberal market in every sense. With government's interventions aimed to eliminate all the obstacles in the market, so many things that are actually incommensurable in the commercial world are transformed to commodities for competition in the "free market." Under this situation, the government, which should have protected its people, comes to be the conspirator with giant enterprise whose own motto is making money. 

All those seven issues above (and others) trigger so many concerns, attentions, and subsequent movements. Tons of related articles are shared on social media like Facebook. Unfortunately, all these pieces of information don't succeed in box office. For example, I do concern about the media monopoly and therefore I paint the wall on my Facebook with related debates and words. Interestingly, the friends who are willing to share and discuss are so few, and they always form the same cast. The rest of my friends? Ok, some seldom log in on FB and thus are not able to see all of the stuffs. Some are apparently optimistic and would like to say something to support the government as possible as they can Hence, they tend to share the seemingly objective reports that fight against the activists and question the legitimacy of the opposition side. I really don't understand why there are still many people believing the government and the market mechanism. But at least they are openly being what they are and openly demonstrate what they think. Under this situation, the discussion and debate are possible. 

However, there is a group of the FB users can be seen, appearing to dissatisfy with the status quo  as well. But they usually distance themselves from all the issues. They just don't share or like what's going on. It doesn't mean that they simply skip, dislike, or disagree with all the perspectives. It doesn't mean that they are not concerned about the issues either as I've said they are not pleased at the situation right now. Nevertheless, I do think it still to some degree embodies what life people these days want to live and how they would like to change the world and made it better. Furthermore, it also points to what kind of future they would like to leave for the coming generations. Ok, maybe you would say that I am imposing my own ideology and doctrine on those who don't share the same faith and value with me. Hence, it's their right to determine what to read and what to share on their FBs. Ya...you are right...

The answer to this apathy/indifference might partly lie with Taiwanese nationality referring to conservatism and money-driven rule, and partly with the nature of transitional justice which is not copes with at all. I do think these two elements are interdependent  on each other. But I argue that the factor of transitional justice plays the most part on leading to the situation these days. Due to the unfinished transition justice, elites who took high-ranking position in every sphere before continues reproducing their privilege and success today. They also use their resource and power to downplay what they have done in the past and how important it is to look backward if the society would like to move forward. With this premise, Taiwan has no lustration law which can to some extent prevent the persons who had close relationships with the past regime from taking important societal positions. On the other hand, Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation barely makes any ripple to intrigue people due to its invisibility as well as its politicized nature, which may provoke antipathy and untrustiness among average folks. 

This adverse circumstance for justice establishing, combined with (some) Taiwanese people's addiction to money making, or the so called stable life pursuing, has made this island a perverted case among other post-authoritarian countries. Some youths take all kinds of freedom they enjoy as granted while a group of people  grew up in that non-free era perceive the bad old days as an actually better one owing to the staggering economic growth and   accompanied GDP soaring. However, the fact that we could still log in on Facebook and YouTube doesn't mean we have a truly sound democracy and unfettered civil society. It doesn't guarantee that the human rights will be with us forever and ever either. It will fade away if we don't explore and learn it more! The authoritarian devil can definitely return to get us, not to mention that it is actually lurking in the neighborhood. On the other hand, many of the economic developments do have their dark sides such as the seven issues mentioned previously. In other words, not only the relations of production but also the social values and knowledge are obscured by varied forms of fetishism underpinned by the immense neoliberalism. All these factors make a vicious circle, which subsequently drive the society insane and frantic.

So, what should we do? Or, what we can do now when the tumor is at late stage? Change the legal system? Redesign the educational programs? Launch a revolution when some threshold is reached? My own answer is that we have to face the history first. Namely, we still have to deal with the transitional justice even though it can probably tear apart the society. By doing it, we might restore the trust in politics. By doing this, we may bring people back to the forefront of social issues with diverse perspectives. By doing this, the dark history might not be repeated in future generation. 

But what is the measure then? Sorry, I don't know yet...