Monday, October 16, 2017

Biking and Cole and Links....

Hidden in the hills around Taichung are many interesting places...

If you read one thing today, it should be Andrew Kerslake's piece on Stifled Paradise of Biking... Andrew writes:
I too often feel embarrassed for the people who have read my writing and taken the plunge to visit for a ride only to find their routes choked with pollution levels too dangerous to cycle without tempting asthma. I am embarrassed by glistening natural vistas marred by the industrial blight of smoke stacks, cement factories or the rotting concrete shell of a failed mega-resort. In Taiwan we almost get it right so often and we have a lot of potential, only to overdevelop our way into having all the charm of a shopping mall food court. I wrote about this issue back in 2015. I am writing about this issue today.
J Michael Cole came out with one of his weakest pieces in a long time: Double Ten and the Narcissism of Small Differences. It's the kind of thing that attempts to gain by force of rhetoric what it cannot take by force of argument:
While differences exist on a number of issues, both blues and greens agree on the fundamentals, on the ideology — which goes well beyond a chosen form of governance — that defines Taiwan (or the ROC) and that differentiates it from the increasingly authoritarian PRC. Thus, while crass attacks on one’s political opponents are an unavoidable, if lamentable, by-product of electoral politics, we need to separate those tactical punches from attacks (often made by politicians seeking attention with an eye to securing a position or their party’s nomination in an upcoming election) that, for short-term political gain, risk harming Taiwan at the strategic level: its institutions and the way of life that mainstream blues and greens alike have come to cherish. The actions of politicians who break that basic rule (and those happen far too often) should no longer be countenanced.

Rather than bicker over a flag or nomenclature, matters which like institutional reform can in due course be addressed by a process of evolution, Taiwanese from both sides of the aisle must find it within themselves to recognize and emphasize their shared interests. One can be a radical supporter of Taiwanese independence or conversely a proud waishengren citizen of the ROC and still both would agree on the values, mores, ideas and means of governance that define this place. If only they would sit down together and listen to each other rather than talk past each other or treat the Other as a perennial enemy. Much of those differences are artificial, kept alive and exploited by politicians and media outlets that thrive on division. Democratic systems by design create political camps that act in opposition to each other, rallying voters behind them. Such are the politics of contention. However, given the immense challenges it faces, Taiwan cannot afford to create divisions where they no longer exist, or to widen those that do exist to the extent that they begin to erode the very foundations of the state. At this juncture, reconciliation might very well be a matter of survival.
Yeah... except no. It would nice if reconciliation were so easy. But the ROCers and the Taiwan independence crowd disagree on fundamentals: on whether Taiwan is part of China, on the relationship between the government in Taipei and Kinmen, Matsu, the South China Sea Islands, and the Senkakus, all of which are part of the ROC but not part of Taiwan. On the legacy of the authoritarian era and how to handle it. On markers of KMT colonialism in Taiwan, and on whether the ROC is a colonial state. And on many other things...

...what Cole has done is confused Taipei class solidarity for general political solidarity. Middle and upper class people in Taipei agree widely on many things. This shared broad class solidarity is the foundation of a broad political consensus -- much of it somewhat liberal to very progressive, a spectrum Cole meets daily, fits into, and finds congenial, but things are very different when you get to working class greens who have risen from working to running small factories far from Taipei, or farmers, or central and southern Taiwanese in general. The shared ideology Cole refers to is really more or less the common view in the capital that the economic and political arrangements that make life in the capital so sweet really ought to continue.

But this is an agreement among elites... Recall, for example, that while the Taipei DPP is mostly in support of gay marriage, southern Taiwan DPPers are not. They have a completely different world view. Recall the bitter struggles over irrigation and fishing cooperative positions, the vast corruption of local governments, the interpenetration of organized crime and everyday life, the patronage-construction networks, the lack of super convenient public transportation, the easygoing nature of the police, the ominpresence of agriculture, the constant lawbreaking, the running of local areas by factions of powerful families... the world outside of Taipei is very different, and does not share its values.

For the rest of Taiwan, that middle/upper class in the Celestial Dragon City is a colonial ruling class that sucks resources from everywhere else on the island and brings them north to ensure its comfortable lifestyle. And the farther south you go, the less they like the ROC. This regional difference is a key driver of politics in Taiwan, and it is not a difference in nomenclature.

The difference between the ROC and Taiwan is not a difference in nomenclature obscuring shared ideologies, any more than the difference between British India and modern India is merely a difference in nomenclature obscuring shared ideologies.
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Anonymous said...

I think your link meant, "What the world can learn from _Taiwan's China_ experience".

What would the world learn from China's Taiwan experience?

Karl Smith said...

Isn't that the Tian De Jiao temple? The one with the statues of the five holy figures? If so, who are the five?

Anonymous said...

What is that round yellow building on top, and where is it located? This looks like a place you mentioned before, which (as I recall) was a Tiandejiao temple that had an idol of Muhammad in it, among other objects. Same place?

Michael Turton said...

Yes, same place. The Big Five religious leaders: L Ron Hubbard, Michael Jordan, John Lennon, and the Olsen twins.

Anonymous said...

In every country in every era, the lower economic class always views the upper economic class as parasites regardless of who the upper class is. This blatantly obvious universal truth doesn't make Cole's piece about Taiwan inaccurate.

Anonymous said...

Yeah this Cole fellow seems to yell about Democracy a lot ....and then goes on to argue that for the sake of Taiwan it's time to get rid of politicians who show differences of opinion.

Anonymous said...

Karl: I suppose it must be Confucius, Laozi, Sakyamuni Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad.

Michael: How can I find this place? I'd like to take a photo for the Muhammad Image Archive.