Saturday, March 25, 2017

Greetings from a low-level, non-outstanding foreigner!

Many in the foreign community are celebrating new regulations allowing certain "high-level" foreigners to retain their original citizenship when applying for Taiwanese nationality - basically, doing away with the requirement, for them, to give up their original nationality in order to become a Taiwanese citizen. This comes after months of advocating for change, including a period of public comment on the regulations in question.

I guess you could see this as a tiny step forward. Many people do. It's something, that's for sure - but I'm not celebrating.

What this does is allow the government to rest on its laurels, thinking they've 'done something' about the problem of very long-term foreigners, foreigners who are barely 'foreign' anymore, who see Taiwan as their home (in many cases, who were born and raised here). It gives them an out to, honestly, not do anything more for quite some time. In the meantime, the rest of us are left out in the cold. As far as I can tell, this includes Taiwanese with non-Taiwanese parents, that is, anyone who was born and raised in Taiwan and is for all intents and purposes Taiwanese, but are treated as 'foreigners' simply because they have the wrong kind of face.

It also creates more divisions in the expat community where there needn't be any. There are already unfair and unnecessary divisions between laborers, mainly from Southeast Asia, and "professionals", mainly from Western nations. If you think that has nothing to do with racism, you're kidding yourself.

In any case, what differentiates a 'high-level' foreigner from a scrub, in that gray area where people like me reside?

I can't help but take it a little bit personally. Certainly, people might read this and think "she's just mad because she didn't meet the requirements!" but, in fact, I'd be mad even if I did, because the requirements are fundamentally unfair.

Seriously, though, it does make me feel as though my many years of busting my ass to actually be a professional in a field that is not always looked upon as professional means nothing, and that I do not even deserve what every Taiwanese - and some special foreigners - is able to obtain. That ten years of further busting my already busted ass to gain credentials and experience including, but not limited to, pieces of paper, and to be an active force for raising the standard of English language education in Taiwan across the board (I am a part of a group of people trying to bring better teacher training programs to Taiwan, for example) is still insufficient: that I am still trash, as far as Taiwan is concerned, not worthy of consideration, having made no contribution to the country at all.

And, because they passed this fistful of garbage, it is likely to be some time, if ever, before that changes.

Or I could get my PhD (I was thinking about it anyway), take a job at some third-rate university teaching college students in "conversational English" classes of 65+ who don't want to be there, pressured to pass them all anyway, and obtain dual nationality because that is somehow better than what I'm doing now, working with small groups of adults and achieving real results with real-life ramifications, for some fucking reason.

So yeah, needless to say I am not exactly overjoyed that the Taiwanese government decided to tell foreigners that some of you are kind of OK, but the rest of you? Don't let the door hit you on the way out, we don't need or want you enough to give you equal rights (but then complaining that, say, standards of English proficiency in Taiwan are too low). I'm not jumping for joy that a system of divisions and double-and-triple standards is being implemented where no such divisions need to exist. I'm not excited about being labeled a scrub because my pieces of paper are not as good as some other pieces of paper. I'm not happy that the government has decided that my ten years of being devoted to Taiwan and attempting to contribute positively to Taiwan are worthless.

I am also not exactly happy that, up until recently, the government has snubbed people who were actually born and raised here in favor of bestowing a unicorn-like waiver allowing dual nationality to some missionary (as a friend-of-a-friend pointed out, always a white Christian missionary). While I do not deny that missionaries do some good work, the side dish of evangelizing that comes with it is not good for Taiwan. The institutional advantage they enjoy because they have a big religious organization funding their work (which they use to preach their religion, which often comes with preaching the intolerance and bigotry that Christianity is unfortunately known for), which the rest of us can't possibly compete with because we can't afford to work for free, earns little sympathy from me. I await your hate mail for this opinion, but there it is.

In short, I am not dancing in the street over this. It is simply not good enough.

Anyway, enjoy your dual nationality, Some Foreigners.

I'll be over here grumbling in my trash can, where the Taiwanese government apparently thinks I originated and where I belong.


nemrut said...

'Many foreigners' have lived in Taiwan for decades yet refuse to learn the language nor respect the culture. You see them often as they walk down the street with total disdain for the locals and take every opportunity to bash Taiwan/Taiwanese in online forums.

Irony is that they are often the most vocal about 'their rights' and believe theyre entitled to citizenship despite their lack of effort integrating and accepting the culture.

Jenna Cody said...

Are they? It seems to me that the vast majority of foreigners who are like this do not want citizenship and intend to leave after a few years (or, if they stay - which I wish they wouldn't but I don't get a say - they don't identify enough with Taiwan to want citizenship. They want to be whiny expats).

Otherwise, I'm not sure about the point of your comment. Are you implying I am such a foreigner? I don't bash "Taiwanese people" in real life or online (I may be at times slightly critical of larger social phenomena, but in fact much less so than I am of the country of my birth and none of the criticisms are particularly specific to Taiwan: I'd point them out anywhere, and they tend to be global problems). I speak Mandarin fairly well and some Taiwanese, and I try as much as I can to integrate or at least appreciate local life and culture, even as I know I'll never truly fit in simply because I look different. I try anyway, because I want to.

Some of the worst offenders in terms of bashing local people, culture and life and making no attempt to assimilate are the very same "high-level" foreigners that are now eligible for dual nationality!

So...what's your point?

Unknown said...

Part of identifying with a place is seeing its warts and feeling the right and obligation to demand that we can do better. When I was an outsider, I felt I should just be polite and praise everything. I no longer feel that way. This is my home, and I don't need to be polite any longer.

This is a government that continually celebrates Taiwan's identity as an immigrant society. This law does not live up to that vision. It is designed to make citizenship much easier to obtain for religious workers and rich people than anyone else. Missionaries qualify by simply hanging around for a certain amount of time. Did they help society? Doesn't matter, they qualify. I'm an academic, and the rules seem to say that I qualify if I win the Nobel Prize (not likely) or publish in top journals, which could mean anything. If I were an environmental activist or a human rights lawyer or a teacher, the law doesn't seem to promise anything. I suppose a sympathetic government could give special treatment in some cases. However, compared to the anonymous long-term missionary, these people face an uphill battle. Is that fair? Is it good for Taiwan? We can certainly do better.

While this law is insulting, I still think of it as a tiny step forward. Jenna, you seem to think that it will preclude future changes. I optimistically think the opposite. I don't think this is the last time the nationality law will be revised.

Unknown said...

BTW, I often think of our status in Taiwan as analogous to Taiwan's status in the world. The United Nations can put its hand over its eyes, stick its fingers in its ears, and say, "nah, nah, nah, I can't see anything called Taiwan." That doesn't mean that Taiwan doesn't exist and isn't a part of the international community. Similarly, just because lots of people look at me and insist that I must be a foreigner and not a part of Taiwanese society does not mean that I am not, in fact, part of this community. Whether or not they acknowledge it (in social interactions or in law), I am part of Taiwanese society. Like Taiwan in the wider world, I'd like to be recognized as a full partner in society. It should not be contingent on my wealth or my religious status. My humanity, my desire to be included, and my willingness to first live a certain number of years as part of the society should be sufficient.

Jenna Cody said...

I don't think it will preclude future changes permanently. I think it will preclude future changes for the foreseeable future, meaning we are going to have to wait longer than we should have to for a *good* law to come and replace this garbage. Now that they've made some changes, it will be awhile before they bother to make more, because it's not a hot-button issue, it's not a priority, and they've already 'done' something. It's an excuse to ignore it for awhile.

I don't want to be 50 before I can even consider citizenship, but it feels likely now.

Rory Baker said...

You are an English teacher in Taiwan. If you go on any street in Taiwan and bump into a caucasian you probably just bumped into an English teacher. We aren't talking hard to staff critical STEM related field here. You guys are a dime a dozen. Not exactly sure why you expect the government of Taiwan to kow down to you guys.

Jenna Cody said...

Well, first, you seem like an asshole, so good luck with that.

Secondly, I am an English teacher, but I would not say I'm a dime a dozen - I'm one of the (fairly few) trained and credentialed teachers. I am not easily replaced - the twentysomethings with no background in education could not do, and would not be offered, my "job" (I do a lot of different things. Not even one of them would hire the typical English teacher you speak of to do the work I do). So, in fact, no, I'm not "a dime a dozen".

But I don't want that to be my main argument, because I don't believe in creating divisions. I don't want to be "kow towed" to, I want foreign workers to be treated equally (at the very least, professional workers and blue-collar workers each to be treated fairly, but I would prefer true equality. That seems impossible right now though. The current system is, honestly, steeped in racism with the intent of keeping SE Asians from settling here). And, frankly, all I want are a similar path to citizenship that Taiwanese have. They can be dual citizens. There is no reason to withhold that from us.

So, basically, no. Try again.

I published this comment so I could respond to it, but if you write more garbage, it will be marked as spam so I don't see future comments from you.