Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Comment On Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) Speech Republished In "Thinking Taiwan"

"However, setbacks have never deterred us. In the years after I transformed into a career politician, I have made a profound realization: What is truly amazing about this country is that the more difficult the times get, the more unstoppable the flame of hope within us becomes."

It may only be a bog-standard rhetorical passage, but as much as it is set in the context of Taiwanese people struggling against the odds to thrive, it may actually describe the fault of dogmatism as much as it describes the admirable quality of perseverance. It is commonplace for people to enter into university courses and low-paid or low-margin occupations in which there is considerable competition in numbers - no doubt partly due to the validating function of social comparison.

Arguably what Taiwan lacks the most is people with the creativity and complementary courage to buck the social conventions and social norms that govern them and to actually start new ideas that will inevitably be regarded by their peers as "odd". I regularly tell students that if they believe they have what it takes, they should eschew university and spend their four years doing something unusual that they find interesting. Nobody ever takes me up on my advice, and instead they go along with the crowd and the expectations / demands of their parents and end up, after four years of pointless university indoctrination, in low-paid, long-hour jobs with little prospects.

Taiwanese are always in the position of looking for and following international trends, and seldom in the position of starting new ones because of the cultural and psychological restraint of conformity. A brave politician would not praise or even just ignore this tendency, but actually challenge the very same Taiwanese electorate they are so used to paying "face" to.

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