Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Young Taiwanese are leaving Taiwan in record numbers, and the reason why WILL SHOCK YOU!

Oh wait, no it won't.

The reason why is they want fair pay and reasonable hours. 

"Why is brain drain such a problem in Taiwan?" these articles always ask.

It's because pay is too low and hours are too long.

"OMG China is benefiting from the brain drain!"

Well yeah, because even though the hours there are long and the work culture generally terrible, at least you're being paid better to bend over and take it. If they could earn a competitive wage in Taiwan they'd probably stay.

"How can we resolve the brain drain problem?"

This article could have been written in four words:

FAIR PAY, REASONABLE HOURS

It's not rocket science, jeez. 

"Maybe we could solve it by attracting more foreigners?"

No.

Fair pay, reasonable hours. We are not your excuse or your get-out-of-jail (I hope literal, actual jail because some of these employers need to go to prison) free card to treat workers like garbage. 

This article seems to think China is 'trying' to woo these talented young Taiwanese. 

Maybe, but it hardly matters. It wouldn't work if Taiwan offered labor a fair shake. Most wouldn't choose to work in China if they could get - you guessed it - fair pay and reasonable hours in Taiwan. Bosses who aren't incompetent morons and a work culture that affords autonomy, a voice and a sense of purpose - maybe even the chance to grow and develop in what you do - wouldn't hurt either.

But most people would probably settle for fair pay and reasonable hours. 

This guy who somehow became a professor (wonders never cease) is not only condescending but also wrong.

The cost of living has been rising yet wages have not, which directly affects purchasing power. The difference in pay in Taiwan doesn't reflect the cost of living accurately, at least not anymore. It has nothing to do with choice of career - a total misdirection - and he doesn't seem to go anywhere with his education data.

Basically, he totally misses that Taiwanese are leaving not only because they want fair pay for the hours they work, but also to work reasonable hours. 

* * *

Nobody - at least nobody that I can find - is reporting on the basic facts:

How do you solve Taiwan's brain drain? 

Fair pay and reasonable hours. It's not rocket science. 

But working overtime helps Taiwanese earn more!

Sure, but that's because they're not earning enough now. Few people who earn enough money wish to work themselves to exhaustion. They're doing it because they need to.

OMG the low birth rate!

Yeah if people earned more they'd have more kids, anyway when they're working all the time there's no time to bone.

Again. Not rocket science. 

But why are they leaving???

LOW PAY AND UNREASONABLE HOURS

So how do we get them to stay??

FAIR PAY AND REASONABLE HOURS. 

Guys. Seriously. Come on. Quit it with your nonsense, spinning webs of words around this very simple problem that literally a monkey could solve.

Most people don't want to leave their home country. Some do - they tend to be the adventurers or those looking for something different. Many return, a few don't. That's OK. Some find the lifestyle abroad suits them better, as I did. But most are happy to stay in the country where they are from if that country is more or less a comfortable/good/safe/friendly place to live. Their friends, family and community are here. They wouldn't leave if they could get good work for fair pay at reasonable hours.

So Jesus Monkey-Juggling Christ, if you want to keep them offer them fair pay and reasonable hours.

I'm not even joking about the monkey. If you devised a test where on one side they had to run on a treadmill for like 12 hours (a typical Taiwanese work day) for ten peanuts, and on the other, they had to run on a treadmill for 8 hours for 20 peanuts, the monkey is smart enough to choose the better option.

Like...seriously. How is this hard? 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Gonzo Journalism at the labor protest (updated!)

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So, I pushed myself to go to today's labor protest even though I woke up this morning to the news that my grandfather had passed away (it was not a surprise).

Pushing myself to go anyway was a feat, but there is work to be done and I wanted to be one of the faces in that crowd helping to do it, even if all we were going to accomplish was media attention. After all, I live here and work here too and although the new labor laws don't affect me, Taiwan's generally terrible labor situation does affect me indirectly. Imagine, though, viewing a protest of roughly 10,000 people through a poorly-lit and echo-filled tunnel of unrelated personal grief.

I won't say that I went today as a journalist; I'm not one. I went as a demonstrator in a very conflicted state of mind who happened to plan to write about the experience.

I showed up just as the speeches were getting started and immediately grabbed one of the 'official' (in that everyone had one) protest placards. One side said "累" ("Tired") in Chinese, the other had a large graphic middle finger and said "終止過勞" ("End Overwork"). Almost every labor union I know - and some I didn't know existed - were there. Some were industry-related (e.g. the Taiwan Media Workers' Union), some business-specific (a Carrefour workers' union was present), some related to a specific kind of workers, such as foreign laborers who were quite noticeably present. Some, I noticed wryly, represented workers from government-run enterprises such as Taiwan Railways, Taiwan damn it China Airlines and ugh China Telecom.


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Also available were fake temple talismans on yellow paper, a reference to Premier Lai Ching-te saying that working hard for low wages was akin to earning "merit" (in the Buddhist/karma sense). Some people held placards showing a Pinocchio-like President Tsai, who is seen as having lied about the DPP's support for Taiwanese labor. Others held signs that looked like cassette tapes, a reference to a legislator saying all of the slogans being chanted outside were "on a tape" (something the pro-unification protesters - all 6 of them - regularly do) because the "real laborers were busy working hard at their jobs".

I didn't stay for the whole demonstration - which is actually still ongoing - but I stayed long enough to see some intense clashes between demonstrators and police over where the protest was "officially" allowed to be held. More on that later.

First of all, if there's any reason for hope, it's this: for the first time, foreign laborers were being brought into the fold and treated as equals alongside Taiwanese workers. They took the stage and had a translator (as the speaker used Bahasa Indonesia) relating their speech in Mandarin. For the first time that I'm aware of, labor from private and public industries came together, and had visible support from other social activist groups as well.

In fact, the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, several marriage equality groups (including the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline) and a Taiwan independence group holding signs saying "Fuck ROC" and passing out stickers saying "DPP KMT both are ROC", despite none of these issues being the main focus of the day.

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Taipei Labor Bureau Commisioner Lai Hsiang-ling at the protest

Along with the far left, the far right of the Taiwanese political scene was also there. Veterans showed up demanding the benefits they'd been promised, and at least one KMT legislator, Lee Yen-hsiu (李彥秀) was present giving interviews and generally pretending that the KMT gives a crap about labor (SPOILER ALERT: it doesn't). Apparently the NPP also declared its support, but oddly was not present. I fully intend to, um, inquire about this. Not cool, NPP.

This protest won't do much except garner media attention, but what I really hope comes of it is this - that these groups will continue to work together and turn labor issues into a major social movement with broad and active support. This sort of cross-pollination - marriage equality, Taiwan independence, migrant workers' rights, leftists and rightists, government workers and private-sector workers - is needed for a movement to gather momentum.

Several speeches, as well as several people I talked to in the crowd, noted that the DPP is no better than the KMT. While I do think people hold the DPP to a much higher standard than the KMT and that's not always fair - the KMT can get away with being supremely awful, and yet they're still around and still sometimes get elected whereas everyone jumps all over the tiniest slip by the DPP - that's to be expected when one party grew out of a mass-murdering dictatorship it doesn't seem too contrite for having perpetrated, and the other had idealistic roots based in freedom and democracy. You expect more from the people who claim to be better.

That said, on labor issues, and frankly on a lot of domestic issues, I have to say that they deserve the criticism. I'm generally happy with the way the DPP is handling China, but they're sure making a mess out of Taiwanese domestic issues, labor included. All I can really say is that they inherited a massive KMT mess to clean up, and the main problem is that they haven't got a clue how to do it. So they suffer for their own mistakes - which is well-deserved punishment - as well as the KMT's, which isn't.

Remember, we wouldn't even be in this labor mess if the KMT had given a damn about labor during their many, many, many, many years in power.

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KMT legislator Lee Yan-xiu at the protest
The presence of foreign blue-collar labor groups was of special interest to me, as a foreigner myself but one of comparative privilege. I was happy to see that they were included and treated as equals to Taiwanese workers, as this has not always been the case: often groups that claim to support Taiwanese labor and care about labor issues ignore or outright dislike foreign labor, thinking (erroneously) that foreign labor steals jobs and drives wages down, rather than what they really do, which is support the economy by doing the hardest work for truly exploitative wages.

In fact, I wonder if this is why the NPP - which seems pro-dual-nationality for (some) foreign professionals, but is not in favor of relaxing restrictions on foreign professionals and certainly not a great friend to foreign blue-collar labor - didn't show. Hmm. NPP, I luv you guyz, but come on. You're losing me here.

In any case, two things I noticed about foreign laborers at the rally: first, that they mostly wore surgical masks (unlike most Taiwanese workers there) because they were afraid of being identified and fired, a point explicitly made in their speech. Second, that while Taiwanese workers were fighting to have fair labor laws, the foreign workers were in some cases fighting to have the labor laws apply to them at all: many of those present held signs demanding that foreign care workers be included under Taiwanese labor protections, which they currently are not.

The airline, telecom and railway workers also interested me: as they pointed out in their speeches, their bosses are the government, and yet these new labor laws will screw them over, too.

Not everyone in the government is blind to this: the Taipei City Labor Bureau commissioner, Lai Hsiang-ling (賴香伶) marched with protesters in solidarity.

After listening to all of these speeches and chanting the usual anti-government slogans, we walked from DPP headquarters to what we thought was going to be the Legislative Yuan. On the way, I saw a marriage equality sign that said (in Chinese) "We can't get married but no matter - home, life, all not given". I quipped to a friend, "I'm surprised nobody has a sign that says "the birthrate is so low because nobody has time to fuck!" He replied that, in fact, someone on stage had said that (I missed it - I miss a lot, what can I say) but there was no sign. Too bad.
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Clashes with police

I noticed something I hadn't seen before - though it is possible they have always been there and I just hadn't taken note: police cameras. Every few yards, one of the police officers watching the march was filming it.

When we hit Zhongshan and Zhongxiao Roads, however, a line of police appeared and would not let us continue up Zhongshan - trying to force the crowd to instead walk west, past Taipei Main Station. Organizers asked the crowd not to do that, as the route they'd applied for had them going up Zhongshan Road, whereas the police said they were not allowed.

There are conflicting reports of what exactly happened: the organizers were saying that the police were blocking an intersection that they had been approved to march through, with some commenting that this was to create conflict. Others say that the police announced the protest violated the Parade and Assembly Act and that was the reason for the blockade. Some say this was a ruse to simply stop the protest, as there was a possible intention to storm the Legislative Yuan (again...I suppose).

I don't buy either of these. Why would the police want to create conflict? Peaceful protests can be - and usually are - ignored. Protests that end in brawls grab media attention. Why do you think the KMT did exactly nothing to stop - nor to answer the demands of or even acknowledge - the old DPP-led protests during the Ma administration?

In terms of the second, with legislators and high-profile government employees there, and with it having been all over Facebook for weeks, there is no way this march "violated" any laws. Come on.

In any case, the protesters started chanting "police let us through!" and several intense clashes broke out, though nobody appeared to be seriously hurt (I was right there for one of them).

Finally, the police gave way after several attempts to push through, and the intersection - one of Taipei's largest and busiest - was occupied.

Here's my pet theory as to what happened:

By virtue of it being at Zhongshan and Zhongxiao Roads, the protest stopped outside of the Executive, not Legislative, Yuan. Apparently - according to a friend - a meeting was being held in there at that time. In any case, it was so heavily blockaded and surrounded with barricades and barbed wire that there was a clear government fear of an attempt to storm it.

UPDATE: the forced move into the intersection was, according to one of the organizers, an intentional move by the rights groups to start a conflict.

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What resulted was an occupation of a major intersection - garnering more media attention than any of the previous labor protests, possibly the most since the 200,000-strong marriage equality rally - that is still ongoing. There are still clashes with police as people attempt to storm the Executive Yuan (see?) and apparently the police, according to a friend, are starting to look 'ready'.

I left around 4pm, because frankly, I lost my grandpa this morning. It was time to go and take care of my own headspace.

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Migrant workers are afraid to show their faces for fear of retribution from their employers
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Fake temple talismans mocking Premier Lai's comment about low pay earning "merit"
But watch this space - a lot of people don't have much hope for a massive, Sunflower-scale labor movement. I hope they are wrong - labor issues affect us all, and there seems to be potential from what I saw today for the sort of mass cooperation among different groups that could well propel the cause forward. It's true that labor isn't "sexy" in the way that cross-Strait relations are, and that the students who drive a lot of social movements in Taiwan generally don't have much work experience - that is to say, they are not laborers themselves - and so might not be as attached to the cause as it doesn't affect them directly. It's also true that it's hard for labor to fight back against the ever-evil boss class, the ones keeping their wages low, refusing to hire a sufficient workforce, and keeping toxic work culture expectations in place, as not everyone can take time off or afford to lose their job.



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"You can abuse President Tsai!" the people who set these up told me helpfully. She makes noise if you slap her. 


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Is there anything more Taiwanese than a bunch of workers in nylon vests drinking Wisbih (or is it Man Niu?) at a protest?
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More migrant workers
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Although there were kids at the protest, I got the feeling it was much angrier and more visceral than typical family-friendly Taiwanese demonstrations
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My favorite protesters, every time
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Even government workers are upset



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A reference to the "the slogans are taped" comment by one legislator



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Lots of different groups came together


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Losing losers who lose

Look, I could say a lot about the Huang Kuo-chang recall vote.

I could point out, as New Bloom did, that twice as many people mobilized to vote against him (though ultimately not enough) as those who came to vote for him. Okay, yeah, that's true, but honestly the push was against him - that side was always going to get more people out on Let's Vote For Something Stupid Day. Those who support him might just as well decided to stay home.

I could mention, as Frozen Garlic did, that this mess was partly the fault of Huang and the NPP themselves, for pushing for ridiculously low bars to make recalls happen. This is correct, but the point has already been made and, in any case, Huang survived. I have heard that despite this debacle he still believes in the idea of relaxed recall criteria, which kind of feels a bit Socrates-with-the-hemock-y, y'know?

I could bring up the issue that the failure of the vote seems to have mostly been reported in English by 'new media' - for example, the Taipei Times published pieces leading up to the recall, but doesn't seem to have anything on the recall itself (if it does, it's buried so deeply that I couldn't find it).

I could talk about the fragility of democracy, the difficulty elected representatives face knowing they might not be able to serve their entire terms, and how fringe groups might will use the recall laws to cause problems in the future. That's all fine, but ultimately a little obvious.

But you know what? I don't feel like it.

What I feel like saying is this:

Hey anti-gay losers - guess what? You're LOSERS! That's because you lost.

Your agenda is not welcome in Taiwan. Your hatred is uninspiring. People didn't come out to support your bigoted garbage recall vote. You are losing losers who lost.

Taiwan may still have a strong undercurrent of conservatism - certainly it's an issue among the older generations, as it is everywhere - but we've proven that that conservatism doesn't extend to American-style bigotry and discrimination. Taiwan is, in fact, better than that. Taiwan is the first Asian country to move towards marriage equality and I think will, despite delays, be the first Asian country to implement it. You lost.

This is because - nyah nyah nyah - you are losers. 

You have some support, that's true. There are 40,000 or so bigots in Xizhi whom I'd like to flip off. But ultimately, not enough.

You could turn around and say "but you guys lost the 2012 elections and you will probably lose again someday". This is true. But those elections were between differing political ideologies which are tied to deep-set notions of identity and history, animated in part by powerful and wealthy interests that battle it out behind the scenes. In a two-party system such as this, each side will continue winning and losing in turn. At times, it seems to mean little.

Naw, your loss is far worse.

You asked for 66,000 or so people to show up to vote for hate - and they didn't. They woke up on Saturday, yawned, thought "nah, those guys are jerks" and poured a cup of coffee. They blew you off. 

You wanted them to stand against equality, and not even in any way that would make any difference. Seriously, marriage equality is coming. If you'd unseated Huang out of some twisted sense of vindictiveness, it would still be coming. Huang is not the key to stopping it - it can't be stopped. You can't force a reversal of the highest court's decision.

You just wanted to do it to be jerks.

But you lost. They didn't come, because you are losers.

Taiwan is better than that, and it's better than you.

My latest for Ketagalan Media: the KMT is a virus and the ROC is a compromised system

That's not the actual title, of course, and it covers more ground than that.

I'm just happy that the fine folks at Ketagalan let me publish this behemoth, include a swear word and call the KMT a "virus".

Be warned, it really is long. But it's well-organized and I'd like to think thoughtful as well.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Uncomfortable

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Window of the Wen-meng Municipal Brothel

Over the years, I like to think that my knowledge of Taiwanese current affairs and history have both deepened, and as a result some of my opinions have changed. At times, these are changes in my entire worldview. At other times, they are small updates to well-worn beliefs that turned out to have less basis in reality than I had thought.

One such change in belief has been over the "comfort women" issue, although perhaps my feelings have simply become more nuanced.

At first glance, the issue seems fairly cut-and-dried: Japanese-era "comfort women" (a euphemism for women forced into prostitution for Japanese military officers during World War II - in fact they were sex slaves) have received neither an apology for their treatment nor any form of real justice. Obviously, they deserve this, although there are only two known Taiwanese comfort women still alive.

Also at first glance, it would seem to be a good thing that there is a women's rights group in Taiwan pushing for compensation and recognition from the Japanese government for its exploitation of comfort women in Taiwan (link above), and that a museum detailing their history was opened in 2016.

It might even pass the sniff test to the casual observer that the KMT, and former president and creepy mannequin rescued from a department store fire Ma Ying-jiu in particular, sure have a lot to say about the importance of justice for Taiwanese comfort women. After all, they are one of two major parties, and the DPP doesn't seem terribly bothered about the lingering historical injustices of the Japanese era. Besides, the KMT - thinking they are the One True China - still sees Japan as a historical enemy in a way the more Taiwan-centric DPP does not. 

But then the questions start piling up.

Why is the KMT so bothered about Japanese-era comfort women, but doesn't seem to have much to say about ROC-era comfort women, despite a movie having been made about this very issue?

In fact, is there more to the story of the Wen Meng Municipal Brothel than my slim volumes on Taipei's historical buildings let on? (Cue my "sarcastic surprise wow" - of course there is. The twin books were published by the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs.) How many of these 'licensed sex workers' were slaves - not by the hand of the Japanese government, but instead the ROC?

In fact, back when the whole kerfuffle over former sex workers being told to vacate the premises despite its having been named a cultural heritage site took place in 2012, the KMT was in power both in Taipei and nationally. Although the courts are of course supposed to be independent of the elected government because that's how an independent judiciary is meant to work, I doubt there's nothing the city government could have done to ensure the preservation of the building (which is still standing as far as I know as the dispute rages on). Why didn't the KMT-run city government care enough to do something, if they care so much about comfort women?

And why is it that despite this museum having been open for a year, I've never seen it advertised locally, although there are three reviews on TripAdvisor?

Could it be - and I know I'm about to shock you - that the people banging pots and pans over justice for Taiwanese comfort women...don't actually care about comfort women at all?

I'm not the first person to make this case, though I can't find a comparable redux of the issue in English. It seems likely that the conclusion alluded to on The View from Taiwan is correct: the 'comfort women' issue was likely devised as a political cudgel to attack the more Japan-friendly DPP (the KMT, thinking they are the bearers of the One True China, seems to take their assumed obligation to hate Japan seriously) and to try and push Taiwanese voters into hating Japan as much as they seem to hate the Chinese government. Of course, to them it is right and correct that we should spend all of our energy hating a democratic ally, freeing up more headspace to stop worrying and love our Chinese overlords, the Chinese Nation Which Is Rightfully The ROC Including Taiwan its and 5,000 6,000 years of Chinese culture.

Okay, so, case closed, the comfort women thing is fake news, it's all a ruse, time to wash our hands and go home, right?

Well...

First, I was curious about the background of the group that pushed for the creation of the comfort women museum, the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation (formerly the Taiwan Women's Rescue Association or 台灣婦女救援協會). It grew out of the Awakening Foundation, whose most prominent founders were Lee Yuan-chen and former DPP vice president Lu Xiu-lian (Annette Lu) - known for being a vocal feminist but also for saying all sorts of problematic things.

I could go into this more deeply, but it's well after midnight and frankly there's no need. I was mostly curious if the opening of the comfort women museum was yet another political cudgel, meant to sow division between Taiwan and Japan to serve the KMT's interests. Yet as far as I can tell, the TWRF grew out of an association that did not have ties to a specific party - Lee was born in China, yes, but I can't find anything on her political affiliation. Lu is, of course, one of the greenest of the old-school greens.

Although I should point out this passage in Doris Chang's Women's Movements in Twentieth-Century Taiwan, just as something to chew on:

Most of the Rescue Foundation's members were middle-class professionals from the ethnic Chinese majority. Like the Chinese gentry scholars of the traditional past, members of the Rescue Foundation perceived themselves as the moral-intellectual elite that should offer assistance to the less fortunate members of the society (p. 121). 

I don't know what to make of that vis-a-vis the comfort women issue, so I'll just leave it there.

Secondly, I can't just let it go at "this is a purposefully-designed KMT political wedge and you'd best ignore it" - as a woman who cares about justice issues for women...I just can't.

I can't help but think that as much as this issue is being flapped around like an limp puppet by the KMT - who don't actually care enough about the issue to add a little padding to their argument or do anything meaningful - that as a result of it being shambled around by one side, it is being purposely ignored by the other.

A case could reasonably made that Taiwan needs all the allies it can get - even perhaps historically problematic ones like Japan - and as such, that pursuing the comfort women issue is far from the highest priority. It is also notable that even when Japan has "apologized" for its treatment of comfort women, that the agreements are more for the political gain of certain groups or parties and are not really for the comfort women themselves: those who survive often remain dissatisfied. It could be argued that an issue being used for political gain by one side ought not to be touched by the other.

I agree with all of that, and yet...

It feels once again as though women are getting screwed.

One side is using a women's issue for their own gain and doesn't seem to care much at all about the actual women involved, and the other side wants nothing to do with any of it, and will prioritize other matters over justice for less than a handful of extremely elderly women.

It stings because "other matters" always get prioritized over women. We always get told our issues are not the most important ones, if they are acknowledged to be issues at all.

The KMT - the closest thing Taiwan has to a 'conservative' party although the label doesn't fit perfectly - can't be expected to do much better. After all, they are who they are. The DPP - the closest thing we have to a liberal party and yet it's not really despite having "progressive" in their name - is failing us just like every other liberal group seems to. We're important, sure, but never quite important enough. There's always something more pressing. Someone else always needs justice first.

So yes, Ma Ying-jiu is once again being a douche-schooner by using an issue neither he nor his party actually cares about to advance some other political agenda, but by then pretending as though the issue isn't important, the other side is failing women as well.

As it always has been and as it feels like it always will be. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Time to ride that dragon (and Ker Chien-ming is a coward)

Please enjoy this photo of cowardly garbage person 柯建銘 sneaking out a side door of the Legislative Yuan after the stankerific amendments to the Labor Standards Act passed, like the loser and all-around character-lacking person he is. Taken by a good friend.

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He's the one with the bald head.

Oh yeah, protests broke out today, for good reason.

There's a big protest on Sunday 12/10 in Kaohsiung and on 12/23 in Taipei - I advise you to be there. I am supposed to make 5 curries, and I will, but I also need to be there. I'll make it work.

Let's ride this dragon. 

Sunday, December 3, 2017

民進黨不行,國民黨再贏: on dragons and not riding them

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Look, I know I said I was going to take a break, but I'm taking a break from taking a break so here you go.

Still working on my personal junk, you'll hear about it when I'm ready to talk about it. Still working on grad school, just needed a break from that. Don't worry, I'm plugging right along.

Anyway.

I'm not particularly surprised that the DPP has turned around and betrayed Taiwanese labor with their new bullshit changes to labor regulations. (Quick note: the seven public holidays mentioned in this article only snapped back into existence for a year - otherwise, we haven't had them for the entirety of the decade I've lived in Taiwan. They're also not great holidays, to be honest. It's not as though we lost something we'd grown used to over many years.)

They might have a better origin story - I mean, they didn't commit mass murder and pillage and steal from Taiwan for decades after flying and sailing over from another country and settling in like they owned the place - but their ascendancy to the main opposition party of the (even worse) KMT hasn't left them as pure of heart as they might have started out. Sure, they began more idealistically but I don't think anyone can realistically say that they've maintained their dangwai-era vision. They'll line their own pockets, set up their own patronage networks and kowtow to special interests just as much as the KMT will. We've known that for awhile.

I think we've all known for awhile that the DPP is a corruption-filled pustule - perhaps we just told ourselves until recently that all the pus was because they were fighting the KMT infection. But come on, we knew.

Oh but they're not willing to sell us out to China, and they didn't perpetrate a murderous half-century or so of political and social oppression, so they only really look better by comparison. They were always going to bend over and take it from big business. The major difference is that they're pro-independence buttmonkeys who didn't kill people.

Likewise, I'm not even really shocked that they've gone so limp on marriage equality. I'm angry, but I think deep down I always knew that this was in their nature. They were always going to bend over and take it from conservative and Christian groups. Again, the only real difference is that they're pro-independence buttmonkeys who didn't kill people.

They have a better origin story, that's really all at this point. At one point they surely meant what they said with all of that idealism about a better Taiwan. I don't know when things changed, but the spirit of the dangwai who fought for a better Taiwan seems to be dead. Now, they're in it for the power just like the KMT it seems.

I guess deep down, as I can't be surprised, I'm mostly just sad.

Perhaps we always knew that neither of Taiwan's two major parties ever really had the people's backs, but until recently at least we could pretend. We could tell ourselves that if we could just hand the DPP a presidency along with a legislative majority, we could actually get something done. We could transform the country, or at least start down that path.

Now we know that's not true. Now we know there's no major party that really will do the right thing, that will govern as representatives of the people, that will really have our backs rather than letting those with more power than Taiwanese labor (or marriage equality activists and the LGBT community) get up on their backs.

Now we know - there's no one to vote for. Not among the major parties.

I mean, if anything, activism is in the same old rut it always was. We all though things would get better when Tsai's inaugural parade featured that huge sunflower-bedecked float touting the strides Taiwan has made in social movements. And yet we still have a few hundred people turning out for protests until something huge blows up, we still have the same old muddy turmoil, the same old pro-China zealots beating people up and the same old police not responding. The same old turned back from the government. Did the DPP really think that activists would back off because the less-bad party won? That fighting back was something we only did to the KMT because they sucked so hard? That sucking only slightly less hard would be good enough?

So what now? Punishing the DPP - which they roundly deserve - will only hand the KMT a victory. The KMT deserves to be punished more harshly than anyone and it seems they never quite get what's coming to them. We criticize the DPP, calling Lai Ching-te "God Lai" and making fun of him, but the KMT is full of princelings who fancy themselves as gods come across the water from China. This is not a solution.

A buildup of smaller parties? Great. I would love to see the Third Force come together, I'd love to see the two big parties fracture and split and a true multiparty democracy flower. But let's be honest, that's probably not going to happen. I'd love to see the NPP gain support and really challenge the DPP without splitting the liberal vote and handing victories to the KMT - but I'm not sure about either.

At the local and legislative level we can vote for these Third Force parties, but who do we vote for at the presidential level when the DPP has gone down the tubes, and the KMT is already in the gutter?

What I fear is going to happen is this. Tsai will win a second term because presidents here generally do. Ma wasn't punished for being a terrible president. Tsai won't be punished for being a weak one who seems to have betrayed the people she campaigned to win. She'll muddle along just like she is doing in this term, things won't get better, the DPP will continue to suck, and the KMT will start seeming "not that bad" in comparison.

Of course, they are so much worse. But that's not how I think the electorate, sick of 8 years of DPP bullshit, will see it. They'll see it as a "change", and will be willing to give the Chinese princelings another go-'round.

This doesn't mean that Taiwan will suddenly swing pro-China. I don't see that happening again. The conditions for Taiwanese identity to remain strong and even grow are still there. I just see a lot of light blue and green people who aren't as politically attached to "Taiwanese identity" decide that they can preserve their support for it while still voting blue. You know, just like they did when they voted for Ma. You know, deciding that their love for Taiwan can exist under a KMT leader, or that civil society will keep that leader in check. They may forget what happened the last time they thought that.

And in 2024, blammo. We'll be back to the same old bullshit from the KMT.

We thought it couldn't happen in the US, that the Republicans were dead, and yet look what happened. It can happen here too, even if the KMT's core ideology is dead (one major difference: the Republicans' core ideology only seemed dead).

Yay.

The DPP can do better and needs to do better, but I think it's clear that they won't. What's worse, for now they're impossible to punish. Nobody has our backs, and there's no way right now to force them to. This is what happens in two-party systems: no matter their origins, both sides slowly morph into a giant douche fighting a turd sandwich for your votes. 

The NPP also needs to do better - this could be their moment, and they have captured it to some extent - Hsu Yong-ming is my new hero - but they need to really grab this dragon and ride it. Get those labor votes and get them now. Do it while the KMT is still in shambles. Don't let those apolitical votes turn light blue again. They need to hold it together and get those votes right now so that some of their younger leaders can gain experience to assume the mantle before the party's momentum withers and their base goes with it.

But - Hsu's filibustering aside - if that were happening we'd see bigger turnouts for these protests, and we're not. We're not seeing enough public calls to action from the NPP - we're seeing Freddy Lim talking about how "useless" the old Tibetan and Mongolian Affairs Committee was (which may be true, but I don't know that he's asked Tibetan refugees, perhaps, what they think of it?). We've got Huang Kuo-chang worried that he's going to be unseated in a few days. We've got former Sunflowers trying to encourage people to turn out, but no big names in youth activism really leading the charge (to be fair, some can't right now). We've got the DPP shouting "your Sunflower movement has collapsed!" and the Third Force not responding in a way that's proving them wrong.

Hsu Yong-ming can't do it alone, but I just don't see the sort of rallying that we need. We need another 400,000 people to go downtown, sit their asses down at Jingfu Gate and tell the DPP what's fucking what, and it's not happening.

Seriously, it feels like 2013 up in here.

I know these things need to evolve naturally, and maybe it'll be a slow burn until the big blowout, but hey, I'm waiting. In any case, what's waiting for us at the other end of that blowout? In 2014 there was a clear path forward: kick out the KMT. Hell, we chanted it in the streets: 國民黨不倒,台灣不會好. What now? 民進黨不行,國民黨再贏?

The dragon seems to be passing the NPP and Third Force right by.

Come on, guys.

Update: Indian food in Taipei

I've updated my long-running list of Indian restaurants in Taipei, making a few improvements:

- Standardized format with links and addresses in green
- Consolidated updates
- New additions (including places I haven't tried yet and a few changes in ownership)
- Cleaning out of entries for places that are closed
- Updates of reviews - a few places have slid considerably in quality
- A few more photos

I've hit literally every restaurant I've heard of or can find, but I can't try them all and I can't keep up with every opening and closing, so I do count on reader comments to help me out with this.

I consider this my bit of free community service, making sure everyone can find their perfect Indian food match in Taipei since 2008. Yes, I started this in 2008. I have been making sure Taipei's Indian food scene has a consolidated online presence for 9 years. This is because I'm great. You're welcome. :)

I'm working on this in part because I want a break from reading for my paper due in January, and in part because I'm genuinely heartbroken over the labor law kerfuffle going on in the legislature now. Did the Taiwanese left and Taiwanese labor (that is, most of us) ever have a major party that had their backs? Can the NPP pick up the slack and become a bigger force? I don't know, but it's killing me to watch both major parties screw us over so royally. Truly, the old Turd Sandwich Party used to have a real rival. Now, they're just running against a Giant Douche Party.

I just can't take it. It breaks my heart. Let's talk about curry instead. Consider this my fiddle music as Rome burns.

Friday, December 1, 2017

One tiny opinion...and time for a break

So first, I'm going to be cutting back on my posting between now and March/April. Grad school deadlines are getting closer and while I'm chugging along nicely with my written assignments, I need more time to focus on them and that time has to come from somewhere. I am (almost certainly) about to start doing teacher training as well which means more time planning lessons as I get used to my new role. I just won't have the time to write like I did this summer and autumn.

Frankly, I also have some personal junk to work through and I need to make time for that. Nothing serious, don't worry. Nothing even hugely life-changing.

This doesn't mean Lao Ren Cha will be totally dead between now and then - I have a few posts on the back burner that will be going up, and if something really catches my eye I'll take the time to write about it. The volume, however, will be considerably less.

I'll also still occasionally put work out through Ketagalan Media - watch for an interview with a well-known Taiwanese artist coming up soon - and I have another (paid!) writing opportunity coming along, so I'll be around.

And now, for an opinion.

As the whole world knows, in the US chaos continues to reign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on his way out, some fucker is on his way in (yeah yeah the CIA director...but also whatever, everything is a shambles and we're all gonna die), and Tom Cotton seems destined for the CIA role.

So...Tom Cotton.

You know when I've said in the past that I have an issue with the sorts of conservative Republicans who tend to support Taiwan, because they're so horrible in every other way? Well, Cotton is one of them. He's a horrible person with horrible opinions who happens to have one correct viewpoint - Taiwan. Frankly, just by association with the hellscape that is his political worldview, this makes Taiwan look bad. I'm happy for support in the halls of US government, but it sure doesn't look good for us that he is the sort of person supporting us (and Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and all sorts of other terrible people).

Of course, I've come around on that a little, seeing this bipartisan letter in support of the TRA, but it still remains that we have a menagerie of horrible far-right ideologues supporting us too.

And now that Cotton is in the national spotlight, all the people whose support we want are talking about how horrible Tom Cotton is, how awful every single one of his policy stances are, and how he has "taken outspoken stances far to the right on every issue domestic and foreign".

I've long feared that the left, hating everything about the right, might continue to not support Taiwan simply because horrible people do support it. In government I'm not that scared - clearly there is bipartisan support. But in terms of winning more Americans over to Taiwan's side (that is, getting them to know Taiwan exists and that China treats us like garbage is one of the many reasons why China ain't great), I could well see American liberals who think of themselves as 'well-informed' turning against Taiwan because someone like Cotton supports us. (The right does this to the left too, but it's the left I'm concerned about persuading). Just because they are usually right and generally do not hold abhorrent social views, do not kid yourself that lefties are smarter - there are plenty of idiots who will hate something just because someone like Tom Cotton likes it.

I've already been seeing it happen. In the past day, more than one person in my Facebook feed has expressed hatred for Cotton and everything he stands for. So far they've been open to hearing that he's actually right about Taiwan, but I doubt every "we hate everything about Tom Cotton" liberal is going to be so easily persuaded, and most won't be approached at all.

So yeah...mixed feelings about this. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it doesn't matter. But it hasn't stopped me from worrying. I want support for Taiwan, bipartisan even, but support from people like him just taint us by association with the people we want to convince. To use a tired cliche, it's a double-edged sword.

Anyway, I need a bit more wine and then to sleep, because I don't have any free time ever.

See you when I have more to say and time to say it.