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 divisions in the expat community where there needn't be any. 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 busting my 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, 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. 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.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Come out for equality tomorrow (because this is what we're up against)

I haven't talked much about marriage equality since the Legislative Yuan went into recess - we ended 2016 with something of a sorta-kinda victory, with the bill to amend the civil code to allow same-sex unions the same protection as opposite-sex ones passing committee - and perhaps it felt like time to take a break.

However, while marriage equality advocates (myself included) have been fairly quiet in the past few months, anti-equality factions have been ramping up the hate, and it's time to call them out.

Why now? Well, tomorrow there will be oral arguments regarding the marriage equality bill (here - be there at 9am - I will be). There are several events planned and several groups trying to get people out. I once again encourage and ask anyone reading this to attend, as well. We must continue to keep beating them by numbers. We can't get lazy and we can't get soft.

Again, this shouldn't matter, but it does. There is social consensus in favor of equality, the legislature has the votes, Tsai has said she supports it, and the DPP has typically been friendlier to it than the KMT. This should be passing with ease, but we are up against an organized force - mostly, Christian churches despite the fact that only about 5% of the Taiwanese population is Christian - that have far more political power than they ought to given the percentage of the population they represent. They have their tentacles (yes, I'm using biased language - eat me) in both the DPP and the KMT, with only the New Power Party and their 5 seats being consistently in favor of justice (yes - justice. When it is a matter of equal rights that affect a group of people directly, especially if there is social consensus, this truly is a matter of justice).

So, please, come out again tomorrow. I know it's yet another rally, and yet another hurdle of bureaucracy, but we truly cannot let up. They are organized and consistent - we must be too.

Remember, this is what we're up against. This flier was found in Xizhi (by a friend of an acquaintance) and shows, simply by the rhetoric it uses, how much Western-style bigotry is driving the anti-equality side in Taiwan. It sounds very much like something I might have seen in the USA in the months leading up to marriage equality and might still see now, in slightly updated form.


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A back-of-the-hand translation - it talks about how marriage equality has "caused distress" in countries where it has been legalized, and gives three (ridiculous) examples:

In France it has apparently caused a 17-year old Vietnamese 'orphan' (adoptee?) to give a talk opposing marriage equality, because it has meant that same-sex couples can adopt children (it is simply assumed to be bad that this might be allowed, which is not the consensus of the scientific community). It hardly matters - in any free society somebody is going to oppose something, just because one kid gave a talk doesn't mean there are deep grievances in society.

In Canada people have "complained online and on the street" since marriage equality was introduced some years ago (again, this is meaningless: there is all sorts of crap online, much of it trolling and much more not worth one's time or not reflecting a general social opinion, and on the street...well, there are always going to be dicks spewing their nonsense.) It goes on to say that Canadian parents are distressed that they cannot prevent their children from learning about same-sex unions and homosexuality in school. There is no evidence that this is a major social issue, however. Again, there will always be people who feel this way. It doesn't mean that society is deeply aggrieved.

In the US it talks about how marriage equality has paved the way for transgender bathroom use (with no evidence provided that this is actually a bad thing, or a problem in any way), and has "led to the election of anti-marriage-equality Donald Trump" (I highly doubt that was the issue that led straight to Trump's election - even if it were, it does not mean marriage equality is a problem).

This science-and-fact-free piece of garbage is not significant on its own. Ignorance is spewed in many forms - it means little in the face of social consensus and there is no evidence that these shallow and illogical arguments are doing anything to sway Taiwanese society, which is more progressive than one might imagine on this issue.

What matters is that an organized group took the time to write, print and distribute it. They are still around, causing disturbances in fast food restaurants, preaching to their congregations, networking to bring crowds that do not represent Taiwanese society...and passing out this garbage by the fistful.

They are still around, and still spreading hate. Their arguments are facile and not only are not based in research, but actively go against it. Their ideas are outdated. They want to keep approximately 10% of the Taiwanese population from gaining access to rights that directly affect their lives, simply so they, the anti-equality protesters, can feel morally superior (and for no other benefit). They are simply wrong.

But they're organized, and they're still at it, while we've been resting.

It's time to stop resting. We can't let up.

I hope to see you tomorrow.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Places where the KMT might have misplaced and forgotten about a billion dollars



No but for serious, the KMT just sort of "found" like a billion US dollars that they...forgot about? Or something? So I thought I'd compile a helpful list of places the KMT might have found it, since they aren't saying. Maybe look in those again and see if there's another few billion lying around?

1.) Chiang You-bo was sorting his great grandpa's old things and he found it in an old chest in the attic under Pop-pop's war stuff

2.) The other day I found NT100 in my jeans pocket, maybe it was like that?

3.) Someone finally hit Sean Lien with a hammer, he cracked open and it fell out

4.) They finally checked the couch cushions at KMT headquarters (from a friend)

5.) Well, I mean, it's obvious. They thought they'd spent it on their astronomical music and media budget producing high-cost masterpieces like this

6.) Everybody knows that Lien Chan's nickname is "Forgetful Lien" - oops! Forgetful Lien's up to his old antics again! Ha ha ha!

7.) YOU CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND OUR 5000 YEARS OF CHINESE CULTURE

8.) Hung Hsiu-chu left it in the back of a taxi. Fortunately, since Taiwan is such a safe country, the friendly taxi driving uncle returned it.

9.) They had thought of it in the same terms as the 1992 Consensus and only recently realized that, no, unlike the 1992 Consensus, this money is a real thing that exists

10.)  "Oh, but actually...ahem...errr...we knew about this money so...uh...but...what I mean is...see, we brought our own money from China and used it to help Taiwan...so...err...what are you complaining about what with all the good stuff we did for Taiwan and we didn't do any bad stuff at all" (this seems to be their actual excuse)

11.) "Oh hi honey...what do you mean? No, those flowers were for my...boss. It was her birthday. What do you mean her birthday was last month? Well, I forgot, and so I got her flowers this month...what money? Oh, that money...that's...that's for us! It was supposed to be a surprise! You know I only love you."

12.)
"Ooooohhh, that was real money? Oops"


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Feminists have no sense of humor

A humorless bloodsucking feminist
By the way, to get this photo I had to google "ugly succubus", because just googling "succubus" turned up a ream of sexy, big-titted succubi. You can't even be a hellish she-demon without the world expecting you to be sexy. 

Haha, trolled you. This isn't true at all.

But I can promise you that this post is not exactly going to offer proof that feminists can be funny. In fact I fully expect the bros and bro-allied to get all het up over this post, to which I say COME AT ME BROS.

Anyway, just like everyone else on the planet with an Internet connection, I too watched Robert Kelly's BBC interview and laughed at the family antics going on in the background. Anyone with even the slightest sense of humor can see that, from a comedic perspective, it's a masterpiece, with a visibly freaked out Kelly as the perfect straight man.

Then - because I'm a heartless unfunny succubus feminist - it started to bother me. At first I wasn't sure why. It took repeated links from friends: basically this clip got more airtime on my Facebook feed than the Malaysian Airlines plane or the Trump-Tsai phone call - for me to figure it out.

I want to say straight up that I don't know this family, and nothing I'm going to say is a criticism of them. Everyone has their own unique family circumstances. The personal doesn't always have to be political - some people choose and prefer for their lives to be a certain way which I would not necessarily choose.

I also won't criticize the specifics of what happened: Kelly is getting a lot of flak for pushing his daughter away, when a more engaged dad might put her in his lap and keep talking. So what. He was freaked out, probably didn't know what to do and reacted in the moment. Not an ideal reaction but nothing to blast him over. I do not imagine he is someone who typically pushes his kids away (I wouldn't know and I won't speculate). I won't discuss how Kelly's wife looks mortified - it's a natural reaction in the moment and not necessarily indicative of anything more than that.

What I want to say is more general. It's not about this family at all.

First - and what I think bothers me the most - is that had that been a woman in front of the camera, people wouldn't be laughing along like "oh how cute." Maybe some would, but she'd also be raked over the coals for prioritizing her career over her children (even for that one minute), and she'd definitely be crucified online for pushing her daughter away so she could continue to talk about democracy in South Korea (or whatever it was Kelly was talking about - was anyone actually listening to him?) That's not, according to the screamiest parts of the Internet, what good mothers do! But when dad does it, it's so funny and cute!

That led me to another thought: how common is it that it is, in fact, a woman in front of the camera? Husband doing high-profile work for his career while wife watches the kids seems to usually be the way it goes. We wouldn't even have this video because it's so much less common for an influential woman to be interviewed, and if one were, she'd probably want to go into a studio because, unlike with a man, there's a fair chance that interviewing from her home would undermine her credibility with audiences as a serious professional.

In any case, it's just so common that it's the man in front of the camera doing visible public work related to his high-powered career, and so common that his wife is out of sight taking care of the children. A friend of mine pointed out that maybe he watches the kids while she does interviews, too, but then conceded that it was unlikely. Power couples exist, but it seems so much more common that things go this way.

In the expat world, at least in Asia, it seems to be even more common. White guy lives in Asia and has stellar professional career and builds a family, wife is behind the scenes. I don't know how many of those wives had imagined a stellar professional career for themselves, only to find that they had fewer opportunities and choices in life. Not all of them, but certainly some. Any other match-up that involves a woman building a family and strong career seems to be that much more rare - not just for the (relatively few) female expats in Asia, but also for Asian women. As an expat woman, I have personal experience with the former. The latter is equally worth exploring but perhaps by someone with more insight and experience than me. I don't mean to shy away from discussing Asian women's experiences, and there is quite a bit to explore from an intersectional perspective, but I'm just not at all qualified to do that.

To put it another way, if my career had gone in such a way that I was giving BBC interviews from my home office in Taipei while my husband took care of domestic work in the background, it would be notable for how rarely such a thing happens. (I should point out that similar things have happened to me. I've done important work from home - at least, I felt it was important but it wasn't on the level of a BBC interview - while my husband cleaned, took out the trash and cooked dinner in the background. This is notable because, again, it is fairly rare).

This writer pretty much pointed out what was annoying me:

Then, somehow, Kelly hears the siren song of Asia and takes an associate professorship at Pusan National University in Busan, Korea....You know what though? Being Professor Kelly seems like a pretty good gig: a nice house, a nice look, an irrepressible daughter, a shockingly mobile baby, and a wife that will do anything to help him succeed.



Yeah, he does have a pretty good gig. And it's pretty damn easy for a white guy in Asia to get that gig (I am going to get a lot of hate mail for saying that, but I'm not even remotely sorry). It's fairly standard for a man to want a wife that "will do anything to help him succeed" - I'm not saying it's a bad thing, even.

It is quite difficult, however, as a woman, to forge a similar path, no matter where you are. Both men and women face challenges in life, family and career but simply put, the deck is stacked more firmly against women.

Many people don't even believe it is reasonable for a woman to want, or expect, a husband who "will do anything to help [her] succeed". It's she who must support her husband and help his career shine. If she gets anything more than that, she ought to count herself lucky, or something?

And then people wonder why it's so much more likely in this world that it's usually husband who's "on BBC", metaphorically speaking, and not the wife. It's the wife who's chasing kids around so her husband can "shine", and not the other way around. So often. So very, painfully, often.

Again, I do not mean to criticize this particular family. I don't know what choices they made or what preferences they have. I have no idea what Kelly's wife's goals and desires are, and it's not my business. It's not about them.

I'm pointing to a greater issue of inequality in the world and how it is revealed in this clip, simply because it is so much less likely that we'd see something similar with Mom talking to the BBC. If it were just as likely or common, I wouldn't be writing this post.

People will likely accuse me of being bitter for writing this. Sure, whatever, have fun. It's not really about me, though: I actually have the awesome, supportive marriage with a husband who would do anything to help me shine if I so chose, or my life took that direction. I'm not bitter about my life, I'm bitter about global inequality, a world where it is always more likely that the Robert Kellys of the world (again, nothing against the actual Robert Kelly, I'm sure he's great and if he's not I don't care) will be on BBC, and their wives, most likely, won't.

Yet, I am inserting my own views and sensitivities into this: if I were the wife in that video, I'd be asking myself how my life got to be such that I was corralling children while my husband was giving BBC interviews. It's not that watching children is less valuable work, it's just that it always seems to be the woman doing it, whether she wanted it to be that way or not. Plenty of women do want just that, but plenty don't, and many had always envisioned something a bit more equal only to wake up one day and realize they didn't get it, and aren't likely to. I don't have children but even if I did, I have still always imagined that if my life took a turn such that someone in my family was notable enough to be on BBC, it would most likely be me. (In fact, Brendan is highly intelligent and deeply insightful, but as the more outgoing, career-oriented, politics-and-activism-involved partner, it likely would be me).

And that's all fine - what bothers me is how rare it would be for it to actually be me, simply because I'm female. How much easier it is for a man to achieve professional notability and have a family than for a woman, even if she never envisioned anything less than an equal partnership.

For all of these reasons - how it usually goes this way, how in 2017 we still don't have equality, how unlikely it would be for Mom to be a viral sensation the way Dad is here, and how she would be criticized far more if she were, I have trouble sustaining a good belly laugh over the video.

I'm sure - because I'm a woman on the Internet with an opinion - that I'll be raked over the coals for this, and lots of people will assume I'm attacking this family despite my saying twice (three times now!) that I'm not. Because, again, we still don't have equality.

Yet, before I finish, I have one more point to make. A huge number of people seem to have assumed that Kelly's wife was, in fact, the children's nanny. I can't help but think many of them came to this conclusion because she's Asian. All I have to say is that that's super racist, what the hell, don't be racist. Seriously.

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's time to stop those pro-China protesters

Yeah, China!

Awhile back, I ran into those odious but seemingly-legal pro-unification protesters that sometimes pop up at major Taipei landmarks. Imade the case that, as strongly as I disagreed with their views and goals, that as Taiwanese citizens they had the right to protest. I find it ironic that they have been protesting in support of Taiwan being unified against its will with a country that would immediately take away their right to protest, but they still had, I argued, the right to protest. Their ironic goals make them stupid, but don't negate their rights. 

I want to take that back. I no longer feel they should be allowed to demonstrate.


This is not because I vehemently disagree with their views (though I do). I disagree with lots of people, but it doesn't mean they don't have the same rights I enjoy. It is not even because what they essentially advocate is the termination of the existence of the nation they live in: if Taiwan were to democratically decide to unify with China, I wouldn't like it one bit (I'd probably sob for days), but there wouldn't be much I could say about it if the vote was fair and not done under threat. A nation can, in theory, vote to terminate its own existence. I don't even feel this way because their views are so out of line with the vast majority of Taiwanese - they would still have the right to voice them through legal protest.

No - they should not be allowed to demonstrate for a few key reasons, none of which go against the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression that I believe in.

The first is that they are one of the few protest groups whose violence is internal. 

Violence sometimes erupts even at peaceful protests - which the vast majority of protests are in both intention and execution - for what I have observed are three reasons (says this person who is not an expert in social movements or protest). The first is because law enforcement or some other force is pushing back on them in a way that begets violence. Even if your intentions are peaceful, if the police (or some other group) are coming at you with clubs, mace, smoke bombs and water cannons, or trying to keep you from exercising your right to protest through aggressively breaking up groups or fencing them in, it's easy for what is intended to be a peaceful demonstration to get out of control. The second is when an outside group or force - perhaps loosely in agreement with the protesting group, perhaps in opposition to it - intentionally steps in to sow a bit of chaos. This is what often happens in Taiwan and Hong Kong when gangsters, in the employ of other forces, try to incite violence by aggressively bullying peaceful demonstrators. The third is when the injustice set upon an aggrieved community is so great that people just snap. 

None of the reasons above is cause to dismiss the idea of peaceful demonstration.

However, there are also groups who use aggression and violence as a tactic - as above, their violence is internal. Perhaps they do it to create fear among another group (anti-abortion protesters do this, to the point that some women feel unsafe going to a women's health clinic - and that's the point). Perhaps they are in the employ of someone who wants to discredit the idea of protesting at all. Or, perhaps it is simply to anger others into striking back, or simply to get media attention.

The pro-China protests in Taiwan cannot be classified as one where violence is brought in by outside forces. They are one of the ones for whom it is a tactic - most likely for media attention. They need it - there are only, what, five of them? They have been aggressive and will continue to be aggressive because it is intrinsic to their goals to do so, not because law enforcement, gangsters with dubious motives or the righteous anger of deep injustice. They were given several chances to stop the violence and protest peacefully, yet they persisted.

Update: apparently the most recent video of protest violence is not of this group but of another gangster-led pro-unification group. Still, my point stands - they're not going to demonstrate peacefully because nobody will pay attention to them if they do, so it's time to stop them for good. Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to be violent. They had their chance, and now they need to go.

Even when they are not physically violent, they purposely skirt noise ordinances: there is no way their Musical China Douchemobile is within the legally allowed decibel level for...whatever it is they are doing. Blasting pro-China opera songs? Yet it's difficult to stop them because they are hard to report when they keep driving around. 

Another reason why they ought to be stopped? Because I am no longer convinced that they are simply private citizens with a strongly held opinion demonstrating for what they believe in. I am sure there are a few sincere pro-unificationists running around Taiwan: every society has its extremists. However, I truly don't believe that this group is so sincere. Given how common it is for pro-China, anti-localist and anti-self-determination protesters in Taiwan and Hong Kong to have ties back to gangs who, in turn, have ties back to government (it seems to usually be the Chinese government, but I wouldn't put it past some of the more radical deep blue factions of the Taiwanese government to do this too), it is not crazy to think these guys might also be paid PRC stooges, too. If - and this is a big if, but I think a plausible one - the PRC has something to do with the little show they put on at various high-traffic sites around the city, then that amounts to a foreign government sticking its hands into Taiwanese affairs. Governments do this all the time, but that doesn't mean it should be tolerated.

It also calls into question exactly who the police are listening to when they cordon off or act aggressively toward peaceful protesters (harassing the indigenous rights protesters at night, or isolating peaceful marriage equality demonstrators), but allow this group to start fights unchecked until the mayor steps in (and similarly do little to stop anti-marriage-equality protesters, blue-camp-aligned protesters or actions by groups organized by known gangsters such as White Wolf).

This is quite similar to my reasoning behind supporting laws that do not allow non-residents to participate in protests or demonstrations beyond observation: if we allowed it, thousands of paid Chinese "protesters" would be on the next flights over from China, marching in the streets for unification. Stopping that may mean that some well-meaning people who don't have the right visa can't engage, but I find this a reasonable price to pay.

The final reason why I think it's time to pull the plug on this group is related to the point above. I do not think they are sincere because they don't seem that concerned about actually convincing anybody. That's good in one sense, because if they were, they'd be failing. It raises the question, though, of who exactly they are protesting for. My best guess - and a lot of my friends agree - is that they're doing it to create good photo ops in China. Perhaps for a time they were there to put on a show for Chinese tourists streaming into Taipei 101 - look, we were right, our Chinese brothers across the strait do want to be a part of China, you can see them protesting for it against their evil government right here! - but those are basically gone now. Now, I'd put money on it being done for photo ops that can be strategically placed in Chinese media.

In short, they're not there to convince Taiwanese. They're there to make Taiwanese society seem more divided on the issue than it really is (as it's not actually that divided at all).

Freedom of speech and assembly comes with some basic assumptions: that you are acting of your own accord and not in someone else's shadowy employ; that your motives are sincere and your goals genuine; that you are not a part of some foreign government's strategy and that your intentions are non-violent.

This doesn't mean I think we should ban all pro-China or pro-unification protests. Not even close - as much as I disagree with it, the actual viewpoint being expressed is not the problem. My problem is with this particular group.

While it's difficult to say for sure, my honest opinion is that these specific pro-China protesters meet none of these standards. In such a case, I truly do not believe it violates the basic right to freedom of expression to stop allowing them to demonstrate.

The chances of the Taiwanese government investigating, let alone doing something about this?

Most likely zero. I'd love to be proven wrong.

I suppose we can look forward to them blasting music and pushing us around for awhile yet.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Let Her and Falsehood Grapple: Women's March Taipei (2017)

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Please excuse the lack of insight - this is more like personal experience and a bit of straight reporting -  I'm writing with a headache and trying to get it done tonight.

Anyway, every year I say I'm going to take Lao Ren Cha back to its roots - a blog about life as an expat woman in Taiwan, and women's issues in Taiwan and Asia. Every year I fail, instead doing what I've always done which is just to blog about whatever I want. 2017 is likely to be no different, but at least this one time I can post something in line with Lao Ren Cha's original intent.

Today was International Women's Day, and the fine folks at Indivisible Taiwan put together a march from Freedom Square to Da'an Park Station to raise awareness of women's issues in Taiwan and around the world. Perhaps 80-100 people showed up - I'm neither a great journalist nor a great crowd estimator so I'll just run with that. That's pretty damn good for an expat-heavy march not aimed at a specific issue, and I was proud to be a part of it.

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That's big for me - I'm usually not free on weekdays, and I'm not much of a marcher (but ask me to hang out at Jingfu Gate for a good cause and I'll be there), and as the years go by my loyalties really have shifted from US issues to Taiwanese ones. This is my home, after all. I don't really do signs, balloons etc., I just like showing up. You know I care about something if I make time - on a weekday afternoon! - for an activity I am not otherwise inclined to do.

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Yu Mei-nu speaks at Da'an Park
I spent much of the march toeing the line between kinda-sorta-reporting-on-it and participating, which I think is a fine liminal space for a spitballing, F-bomb dropping feminist blogger to be for something like this. I marched, and I didn't interview anyone because I am lazy, but I kinda hung around with my journalist and videographer friends. All sorts of different folks showed up - some high schoolers, many expats, many locals, a good mix of men and women of various ages. People had different reasons for marching, from supporting women's issues and causes worldwide to a targeted statement from expats in Taiwan to the Trump administration (my reason for marching - and specifically targeting the assault on reproductive rights in the US and globally) to simply wanting to see more expat-local inclusive events with greater international exchanges in the name of women's rights and progressivism generally.

Anyway here's an actual article on the march from New Bloom.

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Before the march, I wasn't even sure right up until I got on the MRT at 4pm if I was going to go - I had a lot to get done and I'm just not a marcher. I had felt like I did my part by helping to put together and edit a Taipei Times letter to spread the word about the march. That I went, and am now writing this despite coming down with a headache, says something!

Once we reached Da'an Park station, there were short talks by legislators Karen Yu, Yu Mei-nu and Jason Hsu (you can watch two of those three - with English, in fact Hsu spoke exclusively in English - in the links above - lazy journalist that I am, my phone was low on power so I could only capture two talks).

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All in all it was nice to come out, meet some people I'd only interacted with online and some expats I hadn't known in person (though it seemed like everyone knew me? If it weren't for the red hair and being super loud on Facebook that would be creepy, but okay, cool) and walk for something that matters. I don't have any deeper thoughts than that - and I have a headache - so I'll leave you with this:

Even in Taiwan our really not-that-controversial march attracted a religious nutter. As we passed she, an older foreign woman, stood to the side literally thumping a Bible (like LITERALLY thumping itm you guys, I thought that was just an expression but no!) and shouting "Jesus is the only man who can save you!"

Okay, whatevs, Jesus was cool, but who says I need any man to save me? Anyway, God is dead so that's fine.

All I have to say is that it's weird to come across that specific brand of nutbag in Taiwan. They're all over the US, we practically breed them there (literally - they tend to have a lot of kids. Again, fine, whatever). But in Taiwan? Was she a missionary? If so, she wasn't very persuasive. Was she a garden-variety expat who just happened to also be a Bible-thumper? If so, okay, but...really? It just seems like a rare type out here where the expat community I know trends very liberal.

I suppose she was out there thumpin' that Bible for the same reason we were: to come out and demonstrate for something she truly believed in. Sure. It's just, in the war of ideas, I simply don't buy that her ideas are equally valid. One side preaches equality, the other intolerance. One side preaches not judging and giving opportunity to all, the other preaches slotting people into categories based on their genitals. Like, you have a vagina, you go here. Act this way. Be like all the other vagina-havers. Or something. I don't get it. It goes against any real notion of science or ethics.

So, let her thump. We have better ideas. Or as John Milton put it:


“Let her and Falsehood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

We need more detailed and timely Taiwan news in English

I just have a few thoughts to share about some news from Taiwan this week that I wanted to share, despite my generally avoiding link lists or news summaries. Let's start with the key point - there are a few other unrelated links below because I don't know where else to shoehorn them in.

A quick note before we begin: on Wednesday March 8th (International Women's Day), Indivisible Taiwan will hold a march from Freedom Square (CKS Memorial Hall) to Da'an Park Station at 4:30pm. I have to work, but I wanted to spread the word.

Anyway. Let's start with this essay by Sunflower leader Lin Fei-fan on the reasons for his support of the indigenous Taiwanese who are fighting for full land rights (an explanation of the issue can be found in the essay). I can't make the argument any better - I recommend you all go read his essay instead. In fact I wouldn't even try to make it, when I have said in the past that we need to open up the international narrative and discussion on Taiwan to more strong Taiwanese voices, he is exactly one of the voices I mean. So listen to his words, not mine.

There has been discussion on my public Facebook page about how, as a non-indigenous person, Lin is not the best voice to speak for them, and we ought to be elevating indigenous voices specifically (and that this has been a discussion in those communities for some time). In fact, I agree completely. However, I do feel that while we absolutely ought to seek out these voices, there is room for well-written and thoughtful pieces such as Lin's, which exhort fellow Taiwanese to care about these causes. Both can be true, just as there is room in international discourse for non-Taiwanese scholars and academics to weigh in (or even bloggers like me), even as Taiwanese voices are sought out and included.

What I want to say, however, is that those of us who can read Chinese have known about this issue for well over a week. I don't mean to show off (okay, I kind of do a little, but please forgive me). My point is, plenty of strong supporters of both Taiwan and indigenous rights globally simply don't read Chinese, or not at the level they would need to to keep up in this way. Even I read sections I can't follow via Google Translate or just go very slowly, but I'm at the point now where that's only for sections - I don't have to put an entire essay like this into Translate.

I don't even mean that I want more original reporting on Taiwan in English, although that would be nice, and useful (original reporting in Chinese and Hoklo-language media is not always up to snuff). There is quite a lot of interesting discourse out there in Chinese that it would be beneficial in terms of engaging the international community in Taiwan affairs and promoting a greater understanding of Taiwan.

Discussions of English language imperialism aside, I just want to point something out. Lin makes an excellent case for Taiwan understanding itself before it can ever hope to be understood by the international community:

What kind of county will Taiwan become? This is a question every person who hopes Taiwan will become a country worthy of respect, where Taiwanese can hold their heads high among the community of nations, should always consider.
 
But if we are unable to understand the situation and oppression each group has experienced, then how can we expect the international community to understand Taiwan?

I want to make a corollary case: if Taiwan wants the international community to understand it as a country, public discourse on issues affecting it, even domestic issues, needs to be more available in other languages. Yes, English: like it or not, it's the international language we currently use and the current language of international-level public discourse. We currently have several great sources: Ketagalan Media, New Bloom, Taiwan Sentinel, Taipei Times (not perfect but let me put it this way: they get a mention whereas China Post doesn't), several blogs, The News Lens International and Focus Taiwan.

It's not enough, however. There is no good reason why I should have been aware of the issues behind, or very existence of, the indigenous people's protest on Ketagalan Boulevard, a full week before that information became available in English, and in less detail at that. Otherwise, it is very difficult indeed for those who care about Taiwan to follow discussions on Taiwanese issues, or join them, if the information is only available in Mandarin. Certainly one might expect any specialist to be fully fluent, but plenty of supporters and other interested people are not specialists. I am not a specialist but I don't think anyone would say I'm not a supporter or friend to Taiwan, and I only know Mandarin because I decided I was going to learn it and did, because I happen to be particularly good at that sort of thing.

If Taiwan wants more attention, support and understanding internationally, we are simply going to have to have more bilingual (or trilingual, or multilingual) sources available for the discussion of contemporary and historical Taiwanese issues.

Of course, that doesn't mean the readers will come. There is not a lot of interest in Taiwan internationally, although I wonder if part of that is because this sort of discourse about it is not available in English, or not in a timely manner. If the information were there, perhaps more people would take an interest? Or perhaps not - but we can't know until we make it a reality. We can't even begin to engage the international community until we take this step.

Along those lines, please check out Queerious, a new site focusing on LGBT+ issues (including marriage equality) with English content. There's not a lot there now, as it is quite new, but it is absolutely worth keeping an eye on. My rant about making discussions and news about Taiwanese issues more available in English isn't just reserved for the current indigenous people's protests and struggle, but for every issue affecting Taiwan.

Finally, just a quick note on this article. I can't say I'm a fan (sorry Taiwan Sentinel). It's okay, but it seems to follow the formula of asking a question in the headline only for the answer in the article to be "no", and I am typically not big on such rhetorical sleight-of-hand. Furthermore, while I appreciate that the article is clear in calling the "1992 Consensus" "so-called" and "highly symbolic", it is not clear enough in calling out the simple truth that the so-called "1992 Consensus" does not exist. 

And why on earth should President Tsai wait at all - for any reason - to acknowledge the truth of something that does not exist?

If you were curious about my reasons for insisting that the whole thing is a laughable fiction, here they are:

1.) Su Chi - a former KMT politician - admits he made up the term...in 2000 (not even 1993 - 2000!)
2.) The two sides don't even agree on what the consensus was (Taiwan says "One China, different interpretations". China has never agreed to that). Words mean things, and a "consensus" means you have, well, a consensus. If you don't agree, you don't have a consensus, therefore there can't have been a consensus because WORDS. MEAN. THINGS.
3.) Even if the two sides agreed to something in 1992 (nobody disputes that meetings did take place), nobody sent by either side to those meetings was a democratically-elected or otherwise publicly-agreed-upon representative of the people of either country. China doesn't care about such things, but Taiwan does. Let's say in 1992 some unelected officials from Taiwan did agree to some sort of "consensus" with their Chinese counterparts. So what? The people of Taiwan never entrusted them with the power to speak for Taiwan - Taiwan's first full elections didn't take place until 1996 (there had been some more local election activity prior to that). Whatever they might have agreed to in that alternate universe is irrelevant to Taiwan as the democracy it is today.

So no, Tsai should not "wait" before changing her stance to be more "flexible" on the 1992 Consensus (or anything else), because it is stupid to acknowledge a fiction as true - a lesson the US is currently learning the hard way.

For the record, here is a list of things that do not exist:

1.) Leprechuans
2.) Fairies
3.) THE 1992 "CONSENSUS"
4.) Unicorns
5.) Any version of "One China" that includes Taiwan
6.) God
7.) Bitter melon that tastes good
8.) Santa Claus
9.) Genies in bottles

I bid you good day!