Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Fecal Foreigners


Contrary to the inane December 8th letter by Scott Ingram, fecal matters are no legitimate business of government. Does it not occur to Ingram that most of the stray dogs adopted by good people here are of a size such that they require regular exercise which cannot be done on the leash? Or would he go so far as to say that all dogs larger than a poodle should be rounded up and put to sleep for their own good? Does it not also occur to him that his accusation about dog-owners not cleaning up after letting their dogs off the leash is as good as baseless, relying, as it does, on his limited experience and blunt prejudice? It comes, regrettably, as no surprise to me that yet another of the thousands of westerners living in Taiwan should publicly argue for the application of yet more government violence to yet more areas of everyday life such as the simple pleasure of taking one's dog for a walk at the park. Consider also the example of Bruno Walther - arguing for the forcible elimination of private transport in a letter published December 7th - just who on earth does he think he is (aside, obviously from being an eco-fascist)? Is there not a single area of everyday life these people would not like to be subject to the principle of violent coercion, or is the scope of their ambition for government power truly total?

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan

(Sent: Wednesday December 8th 2010. Unpublished by the Taipei Times)


  1. My guess is they won't publish your letter, Mr. Fagan, but I agree with you.

    Hope all is well.

  2. Perhaps, but we'll see Nathan. Can I ask why do you think that?

  3. Why they won't publish it? I would say it has to do with a different idea between cultures and people have regarding the role of the state. Moreover, organizations that would encourage people--my meaning here is private organizations--to do or not do certain things which would be (or not be, respectively) beneficial for society are virtually nonexistent. There is a very weak civil society in Taiwan separate from the state apparatus, and partly due to this, the state is looked to as the arbiter of much. This is reflected in what people wish to read, and this is reflected in what people wish to, then, publish.

    I think politically as well because things tend to be quite polar, there's so much slinging of mud (I mean, seriously, what can a mayor of a city due in the middle of a typhoon?) that both sides scramble to collect as many political gains as possible to satisfy a finite number of constituents. People and politicians don't want to hear about the role of the government becoming smaller in this case; they care more about who to blame. You see this in all democracies, coming to maturity in Europe and rearing its ugly head in the States.

    This means that a readership market for a criticism like you've posted would be very small. I read it and would post it, but I share many of your thoughts regarding the state. I simply take a disillusioned (a.k.a. realist) view that the state is here, and politicians will exploit virtually anything and everything for petty gain. People both a) have nowhere else to complain and b) are used to bitching about government (and rightfully so), so it becomes habit and expedient all in one.

    True, a Westerner wrote this, but I've heard roughly the same thing from Taiwanese. (I didn't mean it is exclusive to Taiwanese; I meant that it is even more expedient here given both historical and political culture.) It's a bit more complicated than that, but I think it develops from these roots. The _TT_ knows that not much good would come from publishing this (that's my guess; I'm not an employee, just an occasional freelance). It is also probably in some ways against what the _TT_ wishes to publish: by picking a side in the debate, one automatically chooses--and, thus, has incentive--to see the debate (i.e., the involvement of the state) continue. I think this is why one sees hardly any anti-state media anymore. It's counterproductive.

    Please feel free to comment. I'm very much interested in these ideas, and also anything you may be able to offer. I'll do my best to check in from time to time. Good day.~

  4. Quick & dirty (no time):

    1) Actually the TT have published more than twenty of my letters since 2009 - feel free to browse my archives - so the notion that they won't publish this one because they don't like my er, weltanschauung, isn't quite enough. I'm sure they don't like me very much, so maybe they just publish me when they've got nothing else to put in the paper!

    2) With regard to Taiwan having a weak civil society - I agree, but with the caveat that strong centralized government is the main reason why this is so. It's the chicken and egg circularity - you can't have small government because civil society is too weak, and civil society is too weak because the government is too large.

    3) On the blame game - why not lay the blame on all politicists, whether green or blue, the State itself? That might help in working toward a shift in the metacontext by which people understand society.

    4) On the TT again - I suspect they publish whatever will spark a bit of a scrap. Plenty of evidence for this.

  5. Oh, I didn't mean they dislike what you have to say--or dislike you. I'm simply saying they probably don't have as much of a desire to do so on certain topics, especially regarding minimizing the role of the state. Nothing against you at all--I'm in the same boat.

    I meant essentially what you said, point 3 (above); I do blame the state, but it is hard for a very political and politicized newspaper to criticize the State as an entity, for without that, the paper would have no raison d'etre or what have you.

    Chicken or egg--precisely. I personally blame it on the KMT Party-state as well as the history of colonialism on Taiwan (the "divide and rule" strategy: divide society and, therefore, rule it). (This is also quite true as well of the PRC, as I'm sure you know, without the colonial aspect.) I also blame it on the relative importance of the family, not that it's a bad thing per se, but that it tends to narrow one's idea of both community and society. This is Chinese influence--something even the May 4th-ers attacked but were unable to eradicate.

  6. "...--or dislike you.."

    Actually Nathan, I am quite sure at least some of them dislike me. I sure as hell 'dislike' them (with one or two qualified half-exceptions).

    " is hard for a very political and politicized newspaper to criticize the State as an entity, for without that, the paper would have no raison d'etre..."

    What? The TT exists purely to propagate social-democratic ideology? Well it is a Soros creature, but my whole project here with this blog, my letters and my confrontation (or according to them "trolling") of Turton, Reid and the other wankers [did you know they've all banned me?] is to try to persuade other people here that the green movement's general outlook about what things should look like is all wrong. If I may reach for something so bold as 'grand strategy', my bet is that repudiation, devolution and privatization of State functions offers the better hope for Taiwan viz China, not the eco-fascist bullshit most Westerners council Taiwan toward. And that is where blaming the KMT doesn't really do it for me. The hope for the future lies with opposition, not really to the KMT per se or China per se, but to the collectivist impulse itself common to both. And this is why I spend my time fighting the DPP and the TT and the other foreigners - because they should be the hope for the future, but they aren't because they are merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and complaining about the weather.

  7. I'm with you, Mike. The state is the problem. The problem for me is that in order to attack the state in Taiwan, one has to attack the KMT. In my most recent editorial, I tried to put the blame on both parties--the KMT for its ties to gangs, and the DPP for being too cowardly to address it for fear of losing an election. The fact of the matter is, this is a state apparatus still controlled at least 95% by the KMT because it was built, developed, and run by the KMT for so long; even after the DPP held the presidency, much of the bureaucracy was still very pro-Blue and functioned with the party, not the state. Love him, hate him, or have no opinion, Chen Shui-bian was constantly confronted with this. It was also interesting that the KMT knew exactly where to look when it came to finding evidence of his corruption. But that's another story for another post. My meaning here is merely that I find no hope with the KMT. I find very little with the DPP, but at least there is an element of opposition there.

    I wish the DPP would stop worrying about fighting for scraps and simply call the KMT out. I think in this situation, people would see the myths underlying virtually everything both are about and both uphold. For myths they are.

    But alas, and for the same reason I think the _TT_ dislikes anti-state materials, both parties are merely fighting over scraps. I simply dislike the KMT more because there's a longer history there of myth-making and vomiting bile, as Nietzsche wrote. But in the end, both vomit bile, and both will give you everything if you worship them.

    And yes, foreigners who try to push this eco-fascism on the DPP are successful because the DPP is running out of places to go. I'd say Taiwanese in general need to just stand up and say to hell with it all, but alas again, the only way to do that is in oposition to the cold (KMT-created) monster. It's too bad they don't just sink the ship (the Titanic, above), but there's too much invested there. We both know that. And coldly it tells lies, too. . . .

  8. "The problem for me is that in order to attack the state in Taiwan, one has to attack the KMT."

    If such attacks on the KMT were to come from foreign governments, foreign companies, and foreign NGOs (foreign = non Chinese) then perhaps they could act as a spur to internal reform. As it is however, criticizing the KMT (in general) from within Taiwan is a tactical dead end. It may be that that is also true of the DPP. Criticizing particular policies that bear visibly on significant points of principle (e.g. land theft) and acting against these policies is, I think, more likely to bring pressure to bear on the KMT to reform. I could be wrong, and in any case, even that is pie in the sky right now as most young, 'politically aware' Taiwanese are too busy trying to save some fucking dolphins off the coast of Changhua...

    "..foreigners who try to push this eco-fascism on the DPP are successful because the DPP is running out of places to go."

    No, I think it's more a case of the DPP being intellectually and morally weak. There are places for them to go, if only they'd have the backbone to get up off the muddy shore and fucking walk. They do not argue, for example, even for such things as devolution of government from one central authority to many local ones - that in itself could help to delay or otherwise complicate the eventual anschluss from Beijing. They do not argue for breaking up the utilities and communications monopolies or near-monopolies. They do not argue for reductions in government spending, for removing the subsidies and other protections given to the agriculture, education and healthcare 'sectors'. I realize such policy aims may not fall within the scope of practical politics right now, but the only way to make them so is to grow some balls, keep making these arguments and stick to your guns. But right now the pan-green camp, under current 'leadership' is a million miles away from this.

  9. Anyway, it looks like you were right that they wouldn't publish this letter. I'll have to get busy with the next one...

  10. Well, I think you have many fine points here. My meaning about the DPP having nowhere to go was more along the lines of the KMT co-opting many DPP initiatives. There were many commentators back in '08 who were saying that the political center of Taiwan moved to the green; some were saying the Ma Ying-jeou had to become bluish-green to win the vote (this was written in hindsight, of course). I wonder what they are saying now?

    You make good points above. I wrote a bit of an editorial today about the DPP needing to grow some balls and take the political initiative. Not sure if they'll publish it, although I've been fortunate in that regard of late.

    I think, too, the DPP is too worried about fighting over scraps, both within and without the party. The only way they are going to win in 2012 is if they break from their instruggles between the old and washed-up generation (don't get me wrong; they served their purpose of heloping to break single-party rule, but they are a bit washed up today) and the younger generation. I'm quite sure they will not choose a viable candidate; the old guard will want a candidate they think "should run," and the young group needs to find someone who "can win." I predict lots of infighting and will be surprised if they can scrape much of anything together. Much like the Democrats back in 2004, they had a chance to destroy a douche of a candidate, then-president Bush, and wasted the opportunity on John (a.k.a. Herman Munster) Kerry.

    Either way, life will go on as it has always gone on--that is, badly.


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