Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Order, Not Chaos

J.Michael Cole wrote one of his unsigned editorials in the Taipei Times yesterday (Tuesday 15th February) entitled: "Egypt Is A False Analogy For Taiwan". The idea strikes me as curiously weird; curious in that I wonder who he had in mind in writing it, and weird as in the points he raises are obvious. My curiosity peaked right at the beginning:
"Following weeks of demonstrations in Egypt that ultimately forced former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down on Friday, some commentators have suggested that events in North Africa could serve as a catalyst for discontent with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)."
"Some commenters"? I've left my request for enlightenment over at his place; it may or may not get answered. The weirdness hit me on the second paragraph:
"For one, the situations in Egypt and Taiwan are very different. Taiwan does not have a radicalized and easily mobilized political opposition such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has a long tradition of opposing despotic rule."
First, I don't recall seeing anybody suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood was the dominant demographic in the protests at Tahiri square, so for Cole to focus on them as a point of comparison is... strange. Second, to describe the Muslim Brotherhood as having a "long tradition of opposing despotic rule" is not different in kind from describing the Taliban as "staunch anti-Soviets"; this groups agitates for, among other possible things, the imposition of Sharia Law on the Egyptian people, and so if they cannot be persuaded otherwise then they are to be despised at the very least, not praised.

As to the assertion Cole attacks, that events in Egypt could inspire similar protests in Taiwan, I would be extremely worried if enough people got it into their head to do just that, for deposing a government in that manner is a desperate tactic of last resort and is extremely dangerous - and for additional reasons to those that Cole goes on to list.

No. I argue for the rational deconstruction of the State and the depoliticization of society, not the desperate but courageous headlong charge into potential chaos we have seen in Egypt.


  1. This struck me as an odd editorial as well. I've been surveying both English and Chinese media, and have found very few such associations. This editorial gave me the idea that such debate was raging. It seems more to me like either a) possible reverse psychology (or what have you), or somehow stirring the pot by putting the idea out there or b) asking people not to make such associations if they have been. Both are odd reasons to write such an editorial (although I could have missed something in the Chinese media) unless the _TT_ has been getting many related letters which they've refused to publish. But to not publish such letters and to publish this instead is almost equally confusing. I didn't make this association. You didn't make this association. I haven't heard anyone around me make such associations. Perhaps the writer made an association and then _________. (You fill in the blank.) You're right: "weird."

  2. This is all I've found so far:

  3. Thanks Nathan - sorry I was a bit busy holding my own over on this comment thread. I'll have a look at the weekend if I get time.

  4. I happened to stumble onto this blog and would like to say it is refreshing to see some conservative/libertarian ideals in an otherwise sea of liberal Expat-in-Taiwan blogs. Sometimes, I can picture some of these expats with a maniacal glee in their eyes as they enter Taiwan because they view Taiwan as some sort of fledgling democracy that they can somehow reengineer into their idea of a liberal utopia.

    Do you mind providing a some general background information on yourself? Your writing seems polished yet very technical.

  5. Marcus: thank you; I try to do my best.

    General background information: I'm British, 31, and poor (but with designs on changing that last item of course). I'm in a now over three-year relationship with a Taiwanese girl, I'm of average intelligence (despite frequent compliments to the contrary), and am perhaps 70%-80% ashamed of my background in the social sciences having once been a PhD student in Edinburgh - I've been trying to make up for this disgrace for the past five years.

    "Sometimes, I can picture some of these expats with a maniacal glee in their eyes as they enter Taiwan..."

    I wouldn't go that far, and I don't hold other expats in contempt for ignorance or for mistakes, or for anything in their background - but only for deliberate stupidity or abandonment of intellectual integrity or some other monstrousness. So I don't know about you, but I insist on distinguishing between people with the intellectual virtue to listen and argue in kind especially when they don't agree with me (there are such people and I hold them in some esteem, despite any thoughts they may have to the contrary) - from people like Patrick Cowsill who simply will not do so. Also: I make it a point of principle to refuse such bastards as him the term "Liberal" because I will not be a willing party to their ongoing murder of this word.

    Any help?


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