Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Impudence of Being Earnest


Bystanders at the protest talk amongst themselves.

Friday afternoon and evening I stopped by the Taichung protests to take some pictures and chat with the students and their audience.... the Taipei Times reported the other day that Hong Kong students are engaging in a sympathy demonstration for the Wild Strawberries in Taiwan. The paper also reports that the Taiwan students have repeatedly asked the government to explain the excessive security measures taken by the police and security forces during the Chen Yunlin visit in early November.


A student holds up a sign for my camera.

The Wild Strawberries have planned many activities for today. The schedule is here on the sidebar.


Discussions.

Note also that this is an act of civil disobedience: the Wild Strawberries, who are protesting the restrictions of the Assembly and Parade Law, did not apply for permits for these assemblies. The Taichung group reported that on the first day two policemen had warned them to leave or be arrested, but apparently some behind the scenes pressure was applied to the police and they are being left alone.


A law professor at Tunghai speaks to the crowd.

Students are like saints in Chinese culture; their protests carry weight all out of proportion to their numbers. Their earnestness displays an important characteristic for success in local culture: the doggedness to beat your head against the wall again and again until the wall gives.


Politics as usual for these longtime DPP supporters.

BONUS INTERVIEW: USAToday interviews Ma Ying-jeou on the cross-strait talks, the protests, and US-Taiwan relations. You can see the huge benefit that the KMT accrues from having a President who speaks smoothly in English and not in the bombastic, emotive style so common in political communications here. Americans experience that latter style as speaking out of one's own subjectivity, and downgrade speakers who use it. Ma does not come across that way, and thus scores points. Note how he connects himself to Obama too.


Addressing the crowd.

29 comments:

bbk said...

昨晚的東海黃啟禎教授講的卡實好聽

Anonymous said...

"Students are like saints in Chinese culture; their protests carry weight all out of proportion to their numbers"

Michael,

I would beg to differ with you on this. If you look at the record of student protests in China and compare them with Taiwan... ahem!... anyway... :)

Taiwan Echo said...

"USAToday interviews Ma Ying-jeou ... You can see the huge benefit that the KMT accrues from having a President who speaks smoothly in English."

Wait ...... haven't we read this same old story before, from some docs that describes how Taiwan was betrayed by USA in the history ?

Taiwan Echo said...

anon:I would beg to differ with you on this. If you look at the record of student protests in China and compare them with Taiwan

Can you elaborate?

You quoted Michael's "Students are like saints in Chinese culture" that already indicated how different these students are from Chinese (students).

Does your objection to Michael's comment suggest that Taiwanese students are in fact not different from those Chinese students who protest ?

Taiwan Echo said...

"Note how he (Ma Ying-jeou) connects himself to Obama too"

It's funny to see how a politician who is considered "stupid" by both supporters and non-supporters to compare himself to a President who is considered "extremely intelligent" by both supporters and non-supporters.

Anonymous said...

letaiwan echo,

I am just suggesting that it might not be "Chinese culture" at all, but a Taiwanese response to a Taiwanese experience. I think we can understand things more accurately if we indigenize how we discuss Taiwan. You can see how problematic it is to apply "Chinese" to Taiwan, when the social structures in Taiwan and China are so different and have been for a very long time.

Take the protests around Taiwan. The students understand there is a structure in place and at any given moment they know which actions are available to them. They know that under this structure there are mechanisms that can help, hinder or passively allow their actions to progress. Here, they chose protest and civil disobedience. They are responding to the specific social structure in which they live and not a cultural schema that has been vertically passed along from generation to generation. This social structure and the underlying power dynamics (and responses to these forces) are the result of a Taiwan-centric experience of contact, alter, negotiation... and repeat.

In China, students must contend with an entirely different social structure and must negotiate it in a different manner to allow for an entirely different set of expectations for their actions. Protests and civil disobedience are handled differently in China and I can recall a certain student protest that was met with initial indifference and then bloodshed in Beijing.

I think a lot of what is termed "Chinese culture" in Taiwan may need to be reevaluated and indigenized to better make sense of the subject based on the contrasting social structures between Taiwan and China, the connection between micro and macro-level processes of change and the differences in the memes, meanings and metaphors of life in Taiwan and China.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you're never bombastic!

Anonymous said...

Anyone hear about the financial analyst, Zhu Guo Zhi, who, wrongheadedly blamed Ma for the crappy economy. In a published article he referred to Ma Ying jiu as the "stupid president".

He has now been barred from appearing on television for 30 days.

Brrrrrrrr! Winter is coming on fast and there's a chill in the air.

Anonymous said...

"Note how he (Ma Ying-jeou) connects himself to Obama too"

What?!? So Bush who pushed for expansion of the presidency, expansion of the military and police powers, expansion of surveillance, came up with secret detentions and renditions... Obama who was elected in large reason to undo all this... is somehow similar to a Ma Ying-jeou that spends money without passing laws (1 billion NT in a fund to "help businesses" with the executive openly stating they will not disclose how it is used), signs agreements without legislative approval, tells police to push people around, confiscate property, detain them without any basis in law (the cops silently admit in those painful videos of protesters being detained, pushed around, while repeatedly asking for police to say what law they are violating) ...

I'm sick... what kind of delusion is this?!

Anonymous said...

From the interview: "Even before I was inaugurated, I proposed a very big plan to invest roughly $125 billion U.S. dollars to spur the economy… As (Nobel economics laureate) Paul Krugman likes to say: "Let's get fiscal.""

Ma is such a douchebag. This is a claim he's stated previously in Taiwan's media.

So let's get this straight:

About a year ago, when inflation was tipping higher and higher and the economy was going gangbusters, Ma proposed huge amounts of government spending, that would have been disastrous for the inflation it would cause and the "crowding out" effect it would have on private investment.

Let's pretend to ignore he also was saying how great HK and S. Korea were doing, how Taiwan was so much worse than S. Korea, who in nominal terms, is going to take a huge hit this year (Mark, Arty, and others, you guys need to come back and comment again on how great you think Korea's nominal GDP is versus Taiwan's or otherwise eat your well-deserved crow...).

Now, the economy is facing a global slowdown, inflation is no longer an issue. Ma now thinks he was prophetic.

But you never said inflation was going to come down, you never said there was going to be a global slowdown. All we can conclude is that you seem to think that regardless of what GDP growth is, what inflation is, you seem to think the government needs to spend a lot of money! What an ass...

Anonymous said...

BTW, Michael, that's not Ma Ying-jeou's regular English. As they mentioned, it was edited for length and clarity, which means a lot of grammar editing.

There wasn't much follow-up. It could have been just as well a list of questions emailed to him with replies emailed back (which if you do the email over email back dance two or more times includes the possibility of followup). So I don't think this really says anything about Ma's ability to communicate in English, though obviously it's much better than Chen's (who basically couldn't speak English).

Anonymous said...

Students are like saints in Chinese culture; their protests carry weight all out of proportion to their numbers.

Yeah, I'm suspicious of "Chinese culture" statements like this as well. I would say that Taiwan has a tradition of political activism both by students and by professors. Direct presidential elections were brought to Taiwan in part by student protests (but obviously Tangwai, DPP, the Taiwanese diaspora, many concerned foreigners like Linda Arrigo, and US aid and pressure contributed as well).

I don't see it in China either. Or HK. Or Singapore. It seems pretty Taiwanese to me.

Michael Turton said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank goodness you're never bombastic!


I love being bombastic. It's why I opened a blog.

Anonymous said...

Michael... this one's for you.


http://tw.youtube.com/watch?v=3lgAHgV14io

Anonymous said...

I think when this is all over, if Chen walks free again... he needs to be recognized for his true life's work and true vocation.

Chen should be recognized as Taiwan's greatest performance artist. He puts Cloud Gate to shame. Chen is a master of his art. What a dedicated showman.

Anonymous said...

Students are like saints?

Does this mean that they arrive perpetually late for class, eat food in the classroom, fall asleep during the class when they do bother to come, show disinterest in their classes yet expect high grades at the end of the semester?

Maybe its their lack of intrinsic motivation that carries weight all out of proportion to their numbers.

Stone said...

"...the huge benefit...from having a President who speaks smoothly in English..." and "how he connects himself to Obama.."

Please stop, Michael. This is making me sick. I don't care how Ma insults those dumb shit who voted him into office, but how dare he insult us by implying he's anything close to Obama? A non lawyer (but pretending to be one) who could never manage to pass any bar exams either in the US or in Taiwan, the only thing Ma shares with Obama is the Harvard alumni status, nothing more. The past 5 months further exposed the dreadfully low level of both his IQ and EQ, which, unfortunately, is also accompanied by an excessive share of arrogance and contempt for his own people. As to his "smooth" English, I will try not to be too harsh, let's just say that it sounds quite broken when he's without a pre-memorized script.

No, Mr. Ma, you are no Obama.

Your delusion is especially offensive when we consider the countless political and socio-economic advantages you enjoyed throughout your entire, privileged life.

No, Mr. Ma, Obama you are not.

Michael Turton said...

Fantastic video, truly all about me. He even managed to locate two of my ex-girlfriends for it!

Richard said...

I blogged about Obama and Ma a week or so ago. Take a look here:
http://scubathugsteve.blogspot.com/2008/11/president-barack-oma-ying-jeou.html

For the most part I believe you can't deny all the eerily similarities that have occurred thus far between the two and their elections.

You'll see that I make the connection and infer that Obama will be a failure like Ma, but that's just inevitable when you are comparing two things.

Yes, I did not vote for Obama, but I, as much as any other person, want to see him be successful and get us out of this economic mess. But, as we all know... that's one tall order.

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts:

1) I can't believe how much weight Taiwan's prosecutors are giving to "witness testimony" in all these corruption cases. It reminds me of the old days when a person could be called a "Communist" by anyone with a grudge and quickly marched to the old race track.

2) Is Ms insane?! Giving out restriction free NT 10,000 Consumer Tickets to low income families (Total household income below NT 1.2 million per annum), so they can ghetto their way down to the Costco and buy consumer electronics and stimulate the economy... that's nuts! Doesn't Ma Ying jiu have a TV. Has he not been paying attention to how well that worked for the US with the rebate checks? Ma... election season is over... you won. You can sit on the red envelopes until the next election cycle. Your vote captains are going to feel you went over their authority. HeL Lo!!!??? Anybody there???

Boy... I'm just glad we got rid of that "Mad Chen" and his erratic, insane, policy making.

Anonymous said...

"For the most part I believe you can't deny all the eerily similarities that have occurred thus far between the two and their elections."
How about the similarities between Sarah Palin and Annette Lu? Oh, maybe there are none....... Should anything have happened to McCain, Palin could get us out of one mess and right into another bigger one.... The farther she is from the White House the better off we all are...
How about the similarities between McCain and Ma? Both are decent people who unfortunately get victimized by the more extreme elements of their repective parties. If Obama turns out to be a 'failure' you'd have to make one HELL of an argument to convince anyone that McCain would have fared much - if any - better.

Anonymous said...

"How about the similarities between McCain and Ma? Both are decent people who unfortunately get victimized by the more extreme elements of their repective parties."

Wow! What makes you think Ma is a decent person? A decent person would stand on the right side of history on occasion. A decent person would not support or be an apologist for an authoritarian regime. A decent person would have held a respect for human rights and social justice rather than rail against those ideals. A decent person would take a moral albeit politically risky stand. A decent person could make a principled stand against China's growing hegemony. A decent person would ensure the laws are being applied fairly and evenly. A decent person would not tolerate the corruption under his own feet. A decent person would not skirt chances to demonstrate leadership. A decent person would not be the chairman of the KMT. If this is your definition of decent... I seek depravity.

Thomas said...

"If Obama turns out to be a 'failure' you'd have to make one HELL of an argument to convince anyone that McCain would have fared much - if any - better."

Funny, I think McCain would be better as things stand now...as did 46 percent of the US voting electorate...

Care to explain the many similarities between Sarah Palin and Annette Lu?

Dixteel said...

I agree with Richard that there are a lot of similarities between Obama and Ma. Both studied at Harvard, both last names end with "ma", both considered charismatic...how much more eerily similar can you get?

But I don't think the resulting presidency and legacy of their administration will be similar because the surrounding situation is totally different. There is national identity crisis in Taiwan, but there is none in the US. Ma and KMT want eventual unification while Obama and Democratic want...get out of the mess the US is in right now maybe? But whatever Obama and Decmocrats want I think it's safe to say they don't want unification with African states. (Although the name might sound cool, United States of America and Africa, "US Double As" for short...but that's just ridiculous).

Anonymous said...

Ma is governeing like "W".
He has a deep personal conviction in an ideology and he has surrounded himself with a core group of people who all agree with him on that ideology. He believes he is right based on his own faith in himself and believes that if he just ignores dissent, stays the course, only listens to concurring opinions, the majority will eventually come around to adopt his unpopular views, and he will just sit back and bask in the glory.

Ma believes it is necessary to impinge upon citizens rights when those rights interfere his ability to create his "world", just like "W". Ma has seen nothing wrong with torture and has supported a regime which engaged in torture and countless human rights violations, and like Bush he is unapologetic about his support, believing it was a necessary step to combat "evil".
Ma, like "W", is a student of supply side economics and, despite the current demonstartion that that is a failed and corrupt idea, he contunues to embark on a road that removes all barriers for large corporations to maximize their profits while neglecting the rest of the participants in the economy and at the expense of the workers and the environment. Oh... and like "W" did with the US, Ma is working hard to make Taiwan an economic dependency of China.

I am sure more parallels can be made, but it appears the US is just finishing 8 years of a Ma Ying jiu presidency.

Dixteel said...

I agree with you, anon...

Some people even joke that Ma's deep personal conviction is Nobel Peace Prize.

Saw a qutoe from Benjamin Franklin recently..."Even peace may be purchased at too high a price." Reminding me of the recent events in Taiwan. Peace...so many slavery, terrors and surpression are done under your name.

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Both the title and the content of this article imposed a harsh feeling on me, one of those student protesters, because a large portion of this article is considered "bombastically" subjective without the basis of better understanding the panorama(facts). Perhaps, it is only a blog which I should never be serious about, since everyone has his/her own right to blog whatever he/she likes in a country,where human rights and the freedom of speech are secured. We,some(or many) Taiwanese students,are afraid of what you've taken for granted now,such as blogging freely,may suddenly be deprived as what had been done in the past few weeks by the police. Therefore, we are asking for the apologies from the Ma's government. However, that so-called "voluble" bilingual doesn't bother to face the crowd and avoids holding any talk with these people, a minority he assumed.

As to your description of the civil disobedience of this movement, I'd argue that this accuse may not hold if we claimed our activity as an academic symposium, the form not being restricted by A&P Law, on these appeals. From another perspective, civil disobedience was presented with purpose this time, and the reason was already mentioned in a blogger's feedback.

If you really enjoy living in Taiwan, please be less imprudent while blogging about Taiwanese social phenomenon. Thanks!

Michael Turton said...

Both the title and the content of this article imposed a harsh feeling on me, one of those student protesters, because a large portion of this article is considered "bombastically" subjective without the basis of better understanding the panorama(facts).

The title is a play on words, borrowed from a famous play entitled The Importance of Being Ernest. Any educated native speaker would recognize the reference.

"Impudence" is good, not bad, in my view, and so is civil disobedience I completely support the students in their activities and I hope you continue with your civil disobedience.

Cross-cultural perceptions in communication cause many problems for people communicating in either direction. I think your post also suffers from that problem.

BTW, You have no idea what kind of panorama I have on the protests or who I talking to about them. Perhaps you should ask 承樺...

Michael

Anonymous said...

Michael,
I admit I might misunderstand some of your words and points earlier while being involved too much in the movement(coz I love Taiwan so much, and became intensively sensitive to the meaning of each of your words). It can be true that my previous post also suffered from the problem of cross-cultural perceptions. But at least we tried to communicate! As you may know, many people on this island don't attempt to do so under certain tradition and atmosphere.

The "imprudent" I referred in the last post is mainly designed to arouse the urge of mutual respect, because no one enjoys being offended even in humorous ways. Sorry, if it is too harsh!

The panorama is viewed diversely from different standpoints as you said. I think yours may be interesting and worth understanding as well. However, I have no idea who 承樺 is and how this person can be approached?