Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Chickenshit Society

Caught this cool bee with lime-green stripes in a field near my house.

Indeed, it was doubtless in Germany that chickenshit reached its wartime apogee. Consider the activities devised for the inmates of camps like Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz -- digging holes to fill in again, endless "roll calls" in freezing weather with the dead falling in place: these are merely chickenshit raised to the highest power. - Paul M. Fussell, Wartime.

A few posts below this one I blogged on Death by Chickenshit, quoting Fussell. Yet, chickenshit shapes how authority everywhere in Taiwan culture acts, one of the darker legacies of its links to China. It's one I have long wanted to discuss, but frankly, have been afraid to. A couple of paragraphs in a Taipei Times report on the Dapu Demolition caught my eye because of the classic chickenshit move:
The groups said the county government even asked one of the homeowners to pay a disposal fee of about NT$242,000 — approximately the same amount as the owner received in compensation for the land expropriation.

They said the request laid bare the “brutal and intentional bullying” nature of the Miaoli County Government.
Yes, knocking down someone's house because you want to round off a science park and then charging them to have the debris removed, that is a classic chickenshit move. It is the Taiwan construction-industrial state equivalent of the Chinese security state's classic chickenshit move of sending the families of executed criminals a bill for the bullet that killed their loved one. The State added the bonus chickenshit move of wrecking the houses with their things still inside, then piled on even more chickenshit by arresting a protester for chanting (J Michael has an excellent full report here). The recent demolition of the Huaguang Community produced a similar flow of amazing chickenshit -- like fining and suing the people who didn't or couldn't move, wiping them out financially.

But... chickenshit is everywhere. In the extra work loaded onto students, especially in senior high, but the torment extends throughout the System, teaching the young the true meaning of arbitrary, unchecked power. In the immense quantities of wasteful paperwork -- like at a university where I once worked, for the teacher evaluation we were required to download information stored in the university computers, print it out, and hand it to the authorities in printed form. In the meetings where leaders ramble on, unchecked -- chickenshit loves to hear itself talk. In the petty punishments meted out to underlings of every stripe -- students, employees, even children by parents. We foreigners in Taiwan are often protected from the full flow of chickenshit. But imagine for a minute how it shapes the lives of the Taiwanese....

UPDATE: The kind of chickenshit that dominates the Huaguang case, in which a semi-legal community of squatters have occupied government land for decades is being pushed off to make way for big developers to make big bucks, is on display here:
Yu said the house he has lived in for more than 30 years was bought from a friend and the transaction was completed after filing for registration at the Daan District Office.

“Although I did not own the land, the house was mine,” Yu said.

Therefore, Yu said he does not understand why he was found by the ministry to be illegally profiting from occupying the land.

After the ministry won a lawsuit, the court ordered forfeiture of one-third of his youngest son’s salary to pay legal costs of NT$130,000.

In addition to a fine of NT$2 million (US$66,862), Yu must pay NT$110,000 for the dismantling of his house if he fails to demolish it by the deadline.
The community was put on the land by government officials years ago. There were actually many empty houses in Taipei at the time these people came over with Chiang in 1949, but they were occupied by high-ranking KMT members and similar powerful types. Hoi polloi like Yu were left to fend for themselves.
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Mike Fagan said...

Well the proper answer to "chickenshit" is to tell the presumptive authorities to Fuck Off - alternating the volume and pitch to suit the stature of the overlord/underling being addressed.

MJ Klein said...

as a person living in a neighborhood populated by both Filipino and Vietnamese factory workers, i must say i prefer the Filipinos, hands down.

Anonymous said...

there's no end to this bull, no matter the country no matter where in the world, its always the same mess. People can't even live in peace without being abused by corrupted "officials" and "people just doing their jobs"
I'm sure the brown shirts were also just "doing their jobs"

the total lack of empathy of these people for their fellow human beings in these articles really gets me.

Today it's the people of 大埔, tomorrow it's the money in the bank, then government pensions.