The Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall website at about 6 pm today. The CKS Design Competition is on the right sidebar, in glorious pink.
The Ministry of Culture really did it this week with its announcement of a CKS Design Contest (event website). The purpose of the contest -- no I'm not kidding you, please finish chewing all the food in your mouth and don't drink anything for the next minute or so -- was to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the death of Soong Mei-ling, celebrate the love that Chiang Kai-shek and Soong Mei-ling had for one another, and of course, celebrate Chinese culture. This would benefit marital harmony and social education. Did I mention the $100,000 NT prize of taxpayer dollars? Yes, this is in 2013, not 1963. Hope you didn't just spew all over your keyboard.
I'm sure it is easy for you to imagine what came next as Taiwan's creative netizens swung into action to mock this incredibly silly and stupid idea. All sorts of designs alluding to Chiang's murderous ways and the dictatorship he ran, like this one above, for example, flooded the event's Facebook page, which has now been removed. The CKS Design website homepage has now been redesigned twice to eliminate items which had been spoofed by young people. Fortunately some of the originally designed website pages are here. Ben has collected some images here. I've posted another version of the original below:
龍應台指出，不妥的原因是，歷史很複雜的事，如果要把那個時代非常複雜的歷史問題和責任問題，歸到說就是某一個人負責，可能太過簡單化。但那個時代的統治方法，也確實造成很多人妻離子散、家破人亡，如果沒有那樣的歷史縱深與情感在心裡，就會出問題。...basically saying that the response to the contest was inappropriate because history is complex and to assign the blame for 2-28 to a single person is "simplistic." As Ben of Letters from Taiwan put it to me, Lung Ying-tai decided to nail her colors to the mast. The CKS design website finally announced today on the login page that the competition had been put on hold. Three days too late.
Sobering it is to contemplate how this could have happened, many people pointed out. Obviously there had to be meetings, committees, design people, and somehow... nobody pointed out how politically and historically insensitive it is to do something like this. Nobody alerted anyone to how people, especially the young, would respond. Amazing -- why do they think CKS statues vanished from public areas? Why do they think last year students at ChengChi U staged a mock funeral for Chiang Kai-shek?
As anyone who has ever worked on a government project here knows, such projects are aimed to please the people at the top, not so much to carry out their stated purpose, with everyone doing CYA all the way up, a situation innumerable department heads have complained about ("Why am I signing off on all this picayune stuff?"). But it means that people at the top must have signed off on it... and at the bottom, where there must be plenty of young people, there must have been a few subversives who gave this thing a push because they knew what would happen.
You'd think someone might have noticed, because the government similarly tried to run an essay contest a while back explaining why the ROC owned the Senkakus, which went over like a lead balloon and was widely derided (ChinaSmack).
This incident may signal how politically tone deaf and out of touch the Ma Administration is, but what this incident also shows is the long historical shadow of the cult of personality the KMT created around the dictator (my post on JE Taylor's paper) as well as the inability of the KMT to come to terms with and genuinely comprehend the enormity of its own recent past.
PS: My thanks to everyone who passed around links and images.
- Youtube link to video of my friend Cheryl Robbins and her work in Taiwan.
- Richard Matheson's interview with reality abroad, a travel website, part 2.
- Taoshan Waterfall from Steve Crook
- Jens Kastner on how the resumption of live firing exercises in Taiwan is a signal....
- China bank to buy stake in Taiwan bank
- Taipei Cycle show postmortem from Drew
- Rick Monday with The Scene, Episode 3 over at Taiwanease.com as he interviews Adam McMillan, Adrian Achermann, and Seán McCormack.
- China's historical amnesia -- this article made the rounds. It disturbs me, it suggests a kind of Othering in which They suffer from historical amnesia while We do not, given validation by the fact that it is written by a Chinese.
[Taiwan] Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!