Monday, July 23, 2007

Saturday of Political Stuff

Policeman direct festivities at a Taichung temple.

This weekend we went up to Taipei for the Swenson's meet up, hiking, swimming, museum visiting, and other good stuff.

But we always have time to pause for a butterfly.

Friday night on the metro in Taipei.

Friday evening I stopped by a Thai place by the Nanjing E. metro stop to enjoy some pale ale with unnamed state department sources and the redoubtable Franc Shelton. The ale was magnificent, but the large glasses required no little hand-eye, as Franc demonstrates here.

The next stop was Hooters and more beer. We were feeling pretty good by then.

The following morning I staggered out of bed, not feeling so good, and went to the Shannon meet up. I collected this sign in the subway that warns that it is illegal to sell fakes over the internet. As theft and plunder of IPR rises in China, combined with pressure from the US, Taiwan is experiencing a sudden conversion to IPR support.

The top sign warns that electioneering is illegal in the subway. The bottom sign warns that no poultry should be carried in the subway. I had a lot of trouble tying my goose up at the top of the steps.

Civil Blvd, looking east.

The Swenson's meet up was packed. The presentation was by one of the faculty at Chenchih University who had done research in Shanghai on the Taiwanese community there. The discussion was wide-ranging, and touched on many issues. The researcher said that the Taiwanese live largely as an ethnic enclave in a certain part of Shanghai, about 500,000 of them. At first they sent their kids to Taiwanese schools but lately the trend has been to send their children to elite Chinese schools, and thence to undergrad at a Chinese university, and graduate school in the west. This way they will grow up to be citizens of the world with good connections in many cultures. It was a fascinating discussion with many intelligent questions and comments. The Shannon meet ups are a good place to meet people. We'll probably be off for August, though, so look forward to the next one in September.

After the meet up David Reid and I headed over to the nearby Land Reform Museum, but it was closed.

We then decided to visit the Dead Dictator Memorial, which is now the Taiwan Democracy Memorial, although not 100%, as we shall see. There was an exhibition there on transitional justice in Taiwan. Visible on the structure is a small banner that identifies the name as changed (see previous entries on name changes at the hall, and on name rectification in general).

The contested nature of the Memorial is captured in these two signs, one of which identifies the place as Democracy Memorial, while the other, a work order, identifies it as the Chung Cheng Memorial. Similar situations abound throughout the site.

Scaffolding covers the main door, blocking the view of the statue of Chiang. The memorial itself is the apotheosis of the personality cult that Chiang and the KMT fostered around himself, a cult which continues to be central to the idealized political identity shared by core KMT voters. Unfortunately the global media has utterly failed to convey any of the meanings of the name changes, or their political contexts, to the global reading population.

The memorial is not build of marble, but concrete and plaster in imitation of it. As a result, it is slowly disappearing. If you look close, you can see how dirty it actually is.

Setting up for an activity.

This tacky and poorly-made lion is typical of the construction here. I remember in 1989 I used to come up there on the platform in the evenings with my girlfriend and drink beer and pass the time together. We were never hassled by security. Only in Taiwan.....

Inside, all is tourist.

Contested identities, contested spaces. Here the exhibition on transitional justice begins. The artifacts from the dictator's life have been shunted to a side hall, but have not been eliminated. What the government should do is remove them and give them to the KMT. If they want to worship a mass murderer, that should be their issue. Shouldn't do it on the government dime.

Although the exhibition sits in one of the main tourist sites in Taiwan, only the titles of each exhibit are in English. Translation is desperately needed here.

A blast from the past. Almost forgotten now: in 1996 authoritarian Premier Hau Pei-tsun, who struggled desperately to roll back the escalating tide of democracy here, left the KMT in disgust and ran on an independent Presidential ticket, with Lin Yang-kang as his veep. Here is one of their pamphlets from the campaign. Hau's son is now the mayor of Taipei.

Unfortunately not only is the English limited, it is also bad. How many times have you said to yourself: with a little investment of cash, the English presentation could be so much richer and broader....

As I said....

A replica of a cell holding political prisoners. Tiny cells like this held twenty people.

In a side exhibition area is the collection of artifacts from the Chiangs and their era. Here are the general's cars.

An exhibition room.

David and I had a good laugh over this one: the sedan chair used by Chiang when he went for a "stroll." You know, when he went strolling around on the backs of four strong men. It's like the old joke, when the first mate of the galley comes down to the hold to tell the slaves -- I have some good news and some bad news. Give us the good news first! Well, you'll all be getting double rations today for lunch! Hooray! Now what's the bad news? The captain wants to go water skiing after lunch....

When you look at "national unification" as defined by Chiang in the 1920s, Taiwan is never mentioned. The idea that Taiwan is part of China is strictly a post-1945 notion.

Three beauties from the Philippines grace the hall.

A diorama of the site.

Outside, a water bird enjoys the cool of the shade and water.

Here he gives himself a good shake.

One of the flanking buildings is undergoing repairs.

I stopped by a small protest on behalf of the Hsichih trio, whose convictions on forced confessions, unsupported by evidence, and subsequent death sentences, have energized opposition for 16 years.

The prisoners. Saturday was the hottest day in almost a century, and I quickly got sunstroke.

The protest was watched by policemen, who didn't interfere.

The protest took the form of a people's court.

After the protest, I walked across the city to the Taiwan Beer Bar over on Ba De Rd.

Ren Ai Road as evening falls....


3 comments:

Thoth Harris said...

REALLY good coverage your museum expedition, Michael. You really bring it to life. More of that in the future, I hope... Yeah, with Chen going on about how Taiwan belongs to everyone, at least the information could be translated competently into another language. If it's tranlated into English, Spanish, or Tok Pisin, it doesn't matter; this neverending Chinglish, in a major, international city like Taipei, is a tremendous embarrassment!

channing said...

All those streets in Taiwan that need to be renamed...I wonder how far they'll take the process. Almost every main street imaginable in Taiwan are named after ROC and Chinese ideals.

Biomed Tim said...

I really can't get my mind around the poor translations. It seems like a simple problem but I think I'm missing something; there must be a reason why it proves so hard to correct it. Any takers?