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Taiwan's young democracy still has a long road to travel

Publication Date : 09-05-2014


Nearly six months have passed this year, and Taiwan has already experienced numerous street activities that have shaken society in various ways.

The Legislative Yuan, Ketagalan Boulevard and other streets of Taipei City have all become platforms for people who would like to express their opinions and stand for what they believe in.

Groups of protesters fought against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement and nuclear power plants while others took to the streets to support the police and the government.

It might seem like people know what they have been doing the past months, but when we look closer at the arguments and disputes displayed in those street movements, the truth slowly comes to light.

When the government carries out policy to attract international investors to come to Taiwan, especially Chinese ones, some people call it selling Taiwan out. When the investors leave Taiwan to put their money to work in other countries, some people blame the government for bringing about an economic downturn.

Protesters slammed the government for failing to shut down all the nuclear power plants, but also for hiking electricity prices. Students rushed into the Legislative Yuan and occupied parliament, vowing to protect Taiwan from the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement with their lives. Yet the government is facing delays in its planned voluntary military service system because enrolment rate among the youth is very low.

The truth is that most people in Taiwan hold double standards when it comes to the issues that they care about. They choose the part of the issue that supports their arguments and are then extremely vocal about it. When they are faced with opinions that challenge their arguments or ideas they attack these dissenting opinions in a bid to mute them.

There is no doubt that the younger generations in Taiwan have some unique qualities. They are passionate, creative and fearless. However, there is one thing that the majority of them lack: the ability to think independently and objectively.

When people only accept information from sources and news outlets that they trust and believe in, it means that their ideas and thoughts will be based on subjective points of view.

When the issue of the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement was brought up, “explanatory packages for the lazy” were created and put online in an attempt to draw more people's attention to the issue. Many decided to join the movement after reading those articles.

The twist is that some of those articles are truly for the lazy because they are full of misleading oversimplifications and sometimes even outright false information, no matter if they come from the supporters or the detractors of the pact.

The problem with basing ideas on biased sources is that nothing can be done or solved because no one listens or even tries to understand the other's point of view. When there is so little room for discussion, how can we expect anything to be solved?

Another social issue stemming from the street movements is that when people are too passionate about what they believe in, they will start to force other people to accept their ideas and thoughts.

When protesters occupied the streets of Taipei and blocked the traffic during rush hour, they claimed that they were fighting for Taiwan's future. But the funny thing is, maybe those motorists who were on their way home had different visions of their own future without the need of other people's assistance.

It cannot be denied that Taiwan enjoys the benefits of all the past street movements that have endowed society with valuable democracy, and Taiwan is still a student when it comes to learning how to properly carry out the will of the people since we only directly elected our first president in 1996.

The bottom line of democracy is to value other's opinions and freedom while at the same time respecting the rule of law. Civil movements are important but they should not be the means to enforce a group's will on the nation, no matter how popular the group is. It should be rather an invitation for dialogue between citizens on issues important to the nation.


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