We must defend our society / Kang CHAO (Translated by Mon WONG)
The core meaning of this wave of Red Movement is not ¡¥Anti-Corruption or ¡¥Depose Bien¡¦, but defending our society.
From my observation on September 7 in the square, I come up with the following characteristics about this movement. Firstly, female participants far exceed their counterparts. They are more spirited, too. You can see women carrying, holding or pushing children in carts with their heads high walking into the square. Behind what can be called the struggle between ¡¥The Mother of Taiwan¡¦ and ¡¥The Son of Taiwan¡¦ is many frustrated mothers¡¦ anger and anxiety about the demoralizing society and the problem of their children¡¦s education. This is what all citizens, whether they¡¦re green or blue, must face with and understand clearly. To paint the sincere and fiery faces of these mothers blue is utterly absurd.
Secondly, this movement is not only what all people are saying a ¡¥middle-class anti-corruption¡¦ movement. Its participants actually include people from middle and lower classes of all trades. It is also a desperate self-help movement people are forced to participate due to the DDP regime¡¦s selling off national assets and collaborating with business conglomerates while facing the decrease of their fortunes, the increase of taxes, unemployment, salary cut-back and the inability to survive. (Think about the 16,000 people who committed suicide in the past six years.) Many people come to the square, wearing the wounds of falling from their middle-class status. Even aborigines who were seldom seen in social protest scenes appear in the crowds. If it wasn¡¦t because people are simply ¡¥cannot survive any longer¡¦ (this autonomous slogan are heard everyday in the square), people in Taiwan can actually tolerate a corrupt government. The most poignant meaning of this movement of which people spontaneously participate is simply the aim to collectively save the imminent breakdown of the infrastructure of Taiwan society. This is the most humble and basic collective civil action taken to defend our society. To call it a revolution is too heavy, but to call it a ¡¥Taipei¡¦ and middle-class movement is even more unfair.
Once we understand these characteristics, we can truly understand why this is not an autonomous gathering that does not need any party¡¦s mobilization as well as grasp the basic meaning of why this movement could ¡¥transcend the labels of green and blue¡¦. For people who used to belong to either the blue or the green camps are converging in this place with the intent of defending themselves, putting their past animosities behind them with a laugh. To everyone¡¦s surprise, ¡¥A-Bien¡¦ becomes the catalyst for the ¡¥big reconciliation¡¦. Therefore, we can understand why red is the color people can all accept, because it symbolizes the hot-blooded resistance, the indomitable sense of justice and the people¡¦s desire not to engage in the green and blue dog fight but to work together to defend the society. While most college students are absent in this movement, many high school students are joining this red wave, showing their sense of justice not yet numbed by the scheming adult world. They are indeed Taiwan¡¦s future, although we shouldn¡¦t give up on college students just yet.
The demonstrators in the square cannot be pigeon-holed by the phrase ¡¥middle-class¡¦; however, the political relationship between headquarter and demonstrators is no doubt a middle-class model. This is understandable. In reality, a million people must work together to accomplish the simple and clear purpose of deposing Chen Shui Bien. Under Taiwan¡¦s existing culture, demonstrators must abide by the ways of classical contract theory, give up certain rights to a ¡¥temporarily agreed (anti) state¡¦ (i.e. the headquarter led by Shih Ming-teh). People are willing to be sands and stones and let themselves to be made into concrete.
However, with the movement picking up momentum and the siege being a resounding success, individuals with sound and fury must quickly evolve themselves and start to come up with critical public discourse, exposing the various pains of survival, wrongful polices and social injustice hidden behind the ¡¥personification¡¦ of ¡¥A-Bien¡¦. Otherwise, even if Chen Shui Bien is gone, people who are lost in the dizzying euphoria of victory will forget the root of their pains personified by A-Bien. After all, the first step is to depose Chen Shui Bien, but an autonomous citizen must start to ask, ¡§What will happen after he steps down?¡¨
Public discourse is inseparable with the even more complex strategies after the ¡¥siege¡¦ of the city. If a movement needs to ask workers to go on strike, students to boycott classes, people to refuse paying taxes, draftees to throw away their draft cards, participants need to be able to join in the discussion. Other than critical intellectuals taking on more discursive responsibility, the ¡¥headquarter¡¦ also need to become a real democratic body, being a democratic forum instead of a shadow state.
This movement¡¦s next step and the biggest challenge are to allow critical discourse into the future movement structure effectively, fulfilling the strictest meaning of an ¡¥autonomous citizen¡¦. That is, if our goal is to defend and allow our society to evolve and advance rather than to depose one person or reorganize the government¡¦s power structure.
 The article was published in United Daily, 18 September 2006
Kang CHAO is a member of Taiwan Radical Quarterly and a professor at Sociology Department, Tunghai University.
Contact address: P.O. Box 853, Sociology Department, Tunghai University, Taichung, Taiwan