Saturday, March 22, 2014

Some thoughts on why people oppose the storming of the legislature, and why such opposition is wrong

I've heard a lot of talk on both sides about the protests currently going on - which, if you hadn't noticed, I wholeheartedly support to the point of going down there 2 days in a row, with a sign, and even giving a speech.

If people are going to oppose these protests, I do hope they'll do so on their own merits and not on grounds that are simply not true.

With that, here are the main reasons why those opposed to the protests feel as they do, and why they're wrong.

1.) "these protests are anti-free trade, which shows that they don't know what they're talking about"

The protests are not anti-free trade or even anti Fu Mao (although it is true that most of the protesters have serious reservations about Fu Mao). The protests are about the way it was forced through the legislature. At this stage it doesn't actually matter what's in Fu Mao, because the people don't know (the KMT has not seen fit to tell us - hmmm....I wonder why. Perhaps because they know it'll be good for them and their cronies but bad for Taiwan?) - what matters is that it was passed in a despicable, underhanded, dictatorial, autocratic way that is simply not acceptable in a democracy.

The fact that the protesters don't know the details of Fu Mao is precisely the point - the KMT hasn't told the public. The public need to know. It is their right. How can they be expected to support this black box?

That is what's being protested - the way Fu Mao was rammed through. Nothing more, nothing less. What's in Fu Mao can be discussed and protested or supported later.

If you're going to oppose the protests, oppose it based on what is actually being protested, not some "they hate free trade" bogeyman.

2.) "the students are silly, they don't know"

Well, again, **that's the whole point**. They don't know because the KMT has purposely kept the Taiwanese in the dark about what's in the pact.

And if you go talk to those students and their supporters, you'll find that they aren't silly at all. They're knowledgeable, politically astute, and they want to discuss issues in calm, rational ways. Spontaneous discussion groups have formed on the street during these peaceful protests - I've been in some of them - and what's being said is quite knowledgeable and fluent in the issues facing Taiwan. The speakers at the open mic in front of the Legislative Yuan - which is just beautiful, an open mic for the public to speak in front of the office of a governing body that is meant to follow through on their voices, not quash them - were eloquent and knowledgeable as well.

If you're going to oppose these protests, don't pretend it's because the protesters are idiots. They are not. It's not just insulting and rude to say so, it's also ignorant.

3.) "they're egged on by the DPP"

NOT TRUE. They're alienated by both parties and keeping the DPP at arm's length. The DPP supports them, but did not instigate these protests and they're self-sustaining, not being egged on by outside political forces. (In fact the protesters are not really happy with the way the DPP seems to be taking over some of the protesting - this isn't a green or blue thing - this is a citizens' concern thing).

How insulting, to suggest that anyone with the will to protest must be the pawn of some political party. As though intelligent, concerned citizens - including students - can't have minds and voices of their own to speak out. In this case it is simply not true, and that's one of the most important and significant things about this protest. In fact, the speakers who took the open mic in front of the Legislative Yuan (it must take a lot of anger, or at least a lot of concern, to get people to come up and speak as they have - it's not like Taiwanese culture is known for speaking out when you are upset!) many said openly that "this isn't about green or blue, and I'm not loyal to any political party."

If you're going to oppose these protests, don't pretend it's because they were "organized" by the political party you don't like.

They weren't.

4.) Sure, protest if you want but don't take over the Legislative Yuan! That's selfish/crazy/embarrassing/whatever.


The legislature serves the people, not the other way around. A democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people (to borrow an American cliche). That building belongs to the people, and those who work in it serve the people. The people have every right to it.

Under normal circumstances it would have been better to go through more directly democratic means to make your voice heard, but come on. This was a bill that was shoved through the legislature in a despicable way. It's easy to ignore street protests - which I think is precisely why opponents say "you can protest in the street, but don't take over the Legislature". Yeah, you can protest in the street, but nobody in power is going to pay one whit of attention. And those who support this view know that. They don't actually want anyone to pay attention to the concerns of the people, because they want this bill to pass so that they and all their rich friends can start making ca$h money as soon as possible.

Protesting in the street would never have forced Fu Mao out of passage and back into a clause-by-clause review. The students did what they did because they had to - there was no other way to insist that democratic process be followed in this particular case.

5.) These protests are undemocratic.


Protesting is a democratic right. Civil disobedience is what forces reform on a government that has ceased to hear the will of the people. It's what turns dictatorships into democracies and brings about civil rights reforms for minorities and the oppressed. There is a place for it in any healthy democracy.

Or would you prefer dictatorships never be overthrown, civil rights never be passed, and have apartheid still in existence?

If you want to point your finger at something undemocratic, point it straight at the legislators who pushed this bill through.


stephknee hsu said...

"And those who support this view know that. They don't actually want anyone to pay attention to the concerns of the people, because they want this bill to pass so that they and all their rich friends can start making ca$h money as soon as possible."

As someone who stands in this camp, I just want to say that you're absolutely right! I definitely want all these protestors to get the fuck out of here so I can hear about some real news, like where the hottest brunch restaurants. I mean, what do I care, right? My grandfather was high-ranking general in the KMT, and since my wealthy parents went to the US to be educated and returned to Taiwan to become CEOs, I am a bona fide rich-as-Midas ABC. We chuckle nightly in glee as we recount the tales of how Ma and his gov't are pushing through this bill + sell us out to China, so we can get easier access to exploiting people in my parents' factories and make even more dough.

I mean, it would be ridiculous to feel that there might be other, more efficient ways of making your voice heard, and that with all this talk of the Legislative Yuan being "for the people"; it's bit disheartening to see these people just lounging about inside the Legislative Yuan (they're not violent, but it's just as irritating to see someone lolling about playing Flappy Bird on the livestream they've got going on), and that ultimately all this non-violence that everyone is praising this movement for is going to be its downfall, since Pres. Ma can probably look forward to completely ignoring any demands, moving his government to some other place until everything dies down, media and otherwise, and then just...doing his thing. (Which is, of course, making me + my parents richer, because god forbid we admit that he might actually believe that Taiwan as a whole could economically benefit from China).

I reckon I should go give a speech about how I feel, too. Reckon they'll listen to me-- as I'm a cool foreigner and all, right?

Jenna Cody said...

Stephknee, as sarcastic as your post is meant to be, in fact, that is how a lot of people opposing these protests feel.

And no, I don't think there is a better way to make their voices heard, because the people who pushed through this bill saw to it that the only way to insist that this NOT happen was to do what those students did.

There really was no other way of stopping it.

You may feel that this isn't true, but I can't think of any other way that would have been nearly as effective - marching in the streets does nothing. Going through democratic/electoral processes is great in the long run but wouldn't have changed a damn thing regarding the obstruction of justice that these politicians rammed through the legislature.

I truly believe the students took the only route available to them.

As for what they are doing in there, if you're stuck in a room for 3 days with nothing but a laptop, what else would you do? People need to take mental breaks - I'm not going to deride someone in the Legislative Yuan for playing Flappy Bird.

And I do think most people who say "the students could have tried another way", in fact, do not want the students to succeed. Truly. You may not feel that way, but the majority of opponents do. They want Fu Mao to pass, by any means necessary, and saying "there are other ways to protest!" is cover for that, knowing that those other ways don't amount to shit.

Jenna Cody said...

By the way, regarding that speech - I hadn't been planning to make it (I don't think you heard it - my guess is that if you'd been there this would not have been your reaction). I was asked to by about a dozen people, and after so many people urged me onstage, I decided to say something brief, which was entirely unplanned.

I'm actually both thrilled and puzzled that someone who reads this blog knows that it was me who gave the speech, but then I do post photos of myself here, so it's not creepy or anything.

I'll be posting a transcript of it soon, when I get a few more photos uploaded of what was going on that night.