Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday Gatherings in Taipei

I wandered around in Taipei to a couple of small gatherings on Saturday. At meet up organized by Jerome Keating (see post below this one) I had the pleasure of meeting Lynn Miles, the legendary activist and campaigner, whom I have long admired (pictured above). I snapped him in the middle of a discussion of DPP election prospects, which accounts for his cheerful and relaxed demeanor.

After lunch I wandered over to the 2-28 Memorial Park, where lawyer, environmental activist, and gadfly Robin Winkler was holding a subversive gardening activity in front of the National History Museum. Robin is one of the most intelligent and energetic people I know, a good man to fight City Hall with or lift a glass with.

Enjoying the gorgeous winter weather in Taipei.

Looking at the gaggle of gardeners, I asked Robin what the group was up to today. Robin said that this gardening activity is in celebration of International Buy Nothing Day. The idea, he said, is that human consumption is excessive, and so they should spend a day and not buy anything. "Hopefully people will say 'hmmm, do I really need to buy that?'" Robin described. What about the economy? Robin said that his group is thinking about the long-term economy, about a sustainability-oriented economy. "We view ourselves as long-term economists." He explained that Buy-Nothing day was started by Adbusters, a Canadian foundation, about 10 years ago. "There are buy-nothing days celebrated in Japan, Europe, all over the world."

About half the group, Robin continued, had just taken a two-week course in I-lan where they learned about urban gardens and sustainable economics. This was begun by an Australian about thirty years ago, Robin said, who got tired of resisting and went to the creation side. "Gandhi talks about in order to create change, you gotta have resistance, but you also gotta have something better in order for people to go into. So this is the creative side." Robin went on to give the example of a local French expat is talking about using Taiwan as a base for millions of dollars in exports of organic crops, using Taiwan's rich, fertile soil.

"We're using 2-28 park to highlight the way that in Taipei, we consume parks. The government consumes parks by putting in all this cement, and then before its useful life is up, they tear it out again and then give it to another construction company." Robin concluded by emphasizing the importance of gardening as a subversive political act. The most important thing you can do is to grow your own food, he said. In homage to that ethic, they did not apply for permission to put in a garden in front of the Natural History Museum.

Reporters wait in front of the place where Chen Shui-bian was under interrogation.

I headed over to Dead Dictator Memorial, currently known as Nameinflux Hall, to see the Wild Strawberry Student protests.

There was a decent crowd on hand to keep the small group of students company, and to cheer them on. One of the student leaders I spoke to said that they gotten a few hostile voices from the crowd, but others in the crowd had kept them at bay.

The demands.

The Wild Strawberries held an event last week in which they conducted a funeral for human rights. Here is the place where the Wake for Human Rights is being held, right under the shadow of one of the most notorious violators of human rights in history.

As if in echo of Robin Winkler's point about the subversiveness of gardening, the students told me they had planted a garden there as a symbol of their determination to stay.

Afterwards I went for a walk, and had the luck to catch a marching band practicing its evolutions under the watchful eye of the Dead Dictator.

I walked over to Nanjing E. Rd to meet a friend for dinner, and on the way passed Taipei citizens buying up hot foods like these delicious baked hu jiao bing....

...and xiao lung bao

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Robin went on to give the example of a local French expat is talking about using Taiwan as a base for millions of dollars in exports of organic crops, using Taiwan's rich, fertile soil."

I wonder if he is in any bit concerned about the high percentage of that soil which is contaminated with arsenic, mercury and other heavy metals. It is such a shame what they did to the environment.

I hope Robin next trains his attention to making salt. Maybe the colonial overlords will finally get the message.