Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Really Freakin' Angry (well, not really)

Given the swift emotion that runs through most of my posts, you may be surprised to learn that it actually takes a lot to make me really angry. Even when I do feel some anger, it's often offset, or satirically blown-up, by using hyperbolic language because I just happen to enjoy speaking colorfully.

Even with this CSSTA/服貿 agreement, while I am angry at the Legislative Yuan and Ma Ying-jiu*, it's really not an issue for me if other people feel differently. Everyone gets to have their opinion, although I do also kind of feel that if you can't defend your opinion, perhaps your opinion sucks - but you still get to have it. And I'm entitled to think it sucks. But I won't say "you're not allowed to think that way". See? Fair. I might debate with them until we're both hoarse or our fingers are cramping up from all the typing, but then I only debate when I find it engaging to do so. It's not a sign that I think others don't deserve to have opinions.

But there are a few things I've heard over the past few weeks that have made me really freakin' angry.

If you think the student occupation is "illegal", well, okay. If you think it's "undemocratic", I'll roll my eyes, but okay. You're wrong, but okay.

If you think CSSTA is "good for Taiwan", I'll think you don't understand the economics involved, but okay, most people don't understand economics, even economists. It's not exactly a predictable science. So fine.

If you think this is purely an economic issue, not a political one, you're damn wrong, but okay. You still have the right to that belief. I won't argue that here: Ben Goren's already made that argument, and he's right. You can click the link

So when do I get really freakin' angry?

"You shouldn't be protesting, you're not a citizen of the Republic of China".

Perhaps not, but I do live here, and as such I have the right (the legal right) to protest. Issues that affect Taiwan do affect me. In fact, as a foreigner in Taiwan I can't vote and therefore have no political power or representation beyond my presence at protests...which makes it more important for me to protest when something is important!

And don't forget that I can't become a citizen because the government has purposely made the requirements to do so prohibitive. They know that few people will give up their original citizenships before they even apply (and face rejection, rendering them stateless). But a Taiwanese person can get a dual citizenship from another country, no problem. And an American (or other) citizen born to Taiwanese parents can keep their American (or other) citizenship and also obtain Taiwanese citizenship, too. The law only targets foreigners. They probably don't care much about white folks coming in and wanting citizenship, but they don't want the SE Asian laborers to get the vote and use their new political power to demand better working conditions and fair wages, among other things. Even though most of them plan to live out their lives here. Sooooooo, it's racist.

And it is exactly why I should be protesting.

Don't like it? 有種出來幹阿!

"You foreigners can't understand Taiwan's issues"

I live here, my life is affected by Taiwan's issues - quite directly, in fact! My income is directly affected by wage increases or stagnation: if my students (most of whom pay on their own) can't afford to pay more, I can't raise my rates and my income stagnates, too. I live, breath, walk in, swim in Taiwan's issues because as far as my daily life goes, they are my issues too. Maybe not the "Taiwanese identity" issue, but anything economic or having to do with social welfare definitely is.

So what makes you think I can't understand? Do you really think foreigners are so dumb that they can't comprehend issues that directly affect their lives? Do you think that even though we live here, we all live in some hermetically sealed expat paradise bubble so that most of your struggles are not ours to some degree, as well? Do you think that your issues are all so uniquely "Chinese" that anyone not Chinese can't understand such intrinsically Chinese concepts as "the economy"?

This one infuriated me - I only calmed down after thinking that the old guy who said it to me was super old and would probably die soon.

I'm terrible, I know.

"If you don't like it, you can go back to America!"

Going to address this answer to the douche lord who said it, although she's probably not reading this.

First, no I can't. I mean, I can, but not really. My work is here, my income. My husband. My apartment. My cat. My social life. All my stuff. I can't pick up and leave much more easily than anyone else - the only difference is that I don't need a visa.

And just because I can doesn't mean I will (see "my life is here", above). Are you trying to say that despite everything you've said before about how foreigners are welcome in Taiwan, that we are actually not welcome? Or only welcome as long as we smile as things that affect us are fucked up left and right, and say nothing? That we're only welcome as long as we don't have political power of any sort? Because that's what I'm getting.

And I don't want it to lead me to think "This whole 'Taiwan is friendly and welcoming' thing isn't true at all!" because I know that's not the case (for white foreigners at least: it actually isn't that welcoming for foreigners of any other color except maybe the Japanese). I know people who say things like "if you don't like it, go back to America" are in the vast minority, but damn it makes me angry.

Second, unless you missed those 500,000 people in front of the Presidential Office, I'm not the only one who feels this way, hon. Those 500,000 people also don't like it, but you're not telling them to go "back" to wherever. There are millions - perhaps a majority - of Taiwanese who agree with me. This isn't the one angry foreigner and a bunch of Taiwanese who know better. This is you pissed off because another person who lives in the same country as you has a different idea about what's best for it, but who can't even vote accordingly. I have no power. I don't know why you think I'm a threat.

"You don't understand the Chinese idea of government or what a Chinese nation is"

First, what does that even mean?

Second, I'm pretty sure you guys have a government set up in a model commonly referred to as "Western",

And third, it doesn't matter if I do or don't understand what "a Chinese nation is" (heh), a majority of Taiwanese are not interested in being a part of China, and I dare say that most think of Taiwan as a 'nation' or as their 'country'. My view on what Taiwan is (a great little country!) and what China is (a bigger but generally terrible different country!) has nothing to do with "Chinese ideas" and everything to do with, well, my own opinion plus the opinions of - in case you didn't hear me the first time - a majority of Taiwanese.

"You foreigners always want to push your ideas about Taiwan on us"

Yes, that does happen with foreign governments (hint: one of them is China). Yes, historically that has been a problem vis-a-vis colonialism, and I won't minimize that.

But actually, I don't want to push my ideas about Taiwan on anybody. I've long since learned (saving this for another longer post someday) that my opinion and my hope for Taiwan need not be the same thing.

My hope for Taiwan: that y'all get self-determination. Truly, the ability to figure out together the future of your country without any threat or fear. Without China breathing down your necks threatening war or economic suffocation. If you choose "unification", well, that would be your decision. If you choose the status quo, that would also be your decision, as would independence.

That's divorced from my personal opinion: I support eventual independence. But that doesn't mean I want to force independence on Taiwan - it's just what I personally support. What I want for Taiwan is true self-determination (it's not "true" if there's a lurking threat from Big Brother if you choose the 'wrong' path).

Basically the person who asked me this doesn't even know me, but despite our lack of personal acquaintance, that person can kiss my ass.

In conclusion...

So you'll see, most of the things that get me really freakin' angry aren't the opinions of others, they're potshots thrown at me because I'm a foreigner, or assumptions made about me, or a total lack of regard for how much my life is also affected by what happens in Taiwan (and, to that end, this is, to some degree, my fight). It's when race politics enters the conversation and I'm told that as a foreigner I don't get to have any opinion - or any opinion, at least, that the person I'm talking to disagrees with or that is anything other than smiles and happiness.

On the bright side, this is only a small minority of people, most of them very old and used to being bossy obasans and ojisans whom younger folks wouldn't dare talk back to (I'm not very Taiwanese at all, perhaps: if they get all up my butt about race, I will talk back. Oh yeah, I went there). The majority of people respect my right to an opinion and expression of that opinion, even when they disagree, and don't question whether or not I, as an expat, get to have an opinion at all.

So, I don't have to get really freakin' angry too often. That's a good thing. :)

*disclaimer: I have a strong bias against the KMT as a whole, so of course I'm going to automatically list toward whatever side is against them. I don't claim to be fully objective. 


Unknown said...

Hello Jenna! My name is Vera. I am so sorry for bothering you ((
I have read in your blog that you passed CELTA with the grade A some ime ago. I know I should have posted below that topic but I have seen you haven't replied to the last comment there which was in Jan 2014 )) I decided to ask here :)
I am going to take my CELTA course soon, I have been an Eng teacher already for 7 years. There is one thing that bothers me a lot - lesson planning. You wrote it should be vey detailed. Can I ask you a couple of questions about these detailes?
Thank you in advance!
Best regard,

Jenna Cody said...

Sure. You can e-mail me - this blog should be associated with my google account which should turn up my email address, or make it possible to add me on Google Plus. Which I never use, but if I see you add me and send a message I'll reply.