Individual Liberty vs. Tribal Solidarity
January 24, 2006
The following letter to the editor, written by one Jonathan Hwang, self-described juris doctor candidate at Harvard Law School, illustrates what's wrong with the Taiwan independence movement. Taiwan independence True Believers refuse to distinguish between values that are primary and fundamental, and values that are secondary and derivative.
But "Taiwanese, not Chinese" Taiwan independence True Believers and white supremacist Taiwan independence fellow travelers have been busy scribbling away on the Net for years. Why have I zeroed in on Mr. Hwang?
Because in a sophomoric effort to seize the moral high ground for the Taiwan independence movement, Mr. Hwang inadvertently let the cat out of the bag, and provided us with a glimpse of the morally indefensible core value of the Taiwan independence movement.
What is the core value of the Taiwan independence movement?
No, it's not freedom.
No, it's not democracy, that False Idol despised by America's Founders yet blindly worshiped by the political mainstream today.
No, it's not human rights.
The core value of the Taiwan independence movement is none of these things. The core value of the Taiwan independence movement is its unregenerate identity politics.
The Taiwan independence movement's central concern has never been values, such as "freedom, democracy, human rights" or any other abstract value one cares to name. The Taiwan independence movement's central concern has always been identity, i.e., tribal affiliation, ethnic origin, racial background.
The overarching goal of the Taiwan independence movement has never been to unite human beings by discovering shared values. The underlying goal of the Taiwan independence movement has always been to divide human beings by inventing artificial differences.
Specifically, the Taiwan independence movement's goal is:
1. The concoction of an ahistorical "Taiwanese, not Chinese" ethnic identity.
2. The indoctrination of the Chinese people on Taiwan with a "Taiwanese, not Chinese" ethnic consciousness.
3. The founding of a separate "Taiwanese, not Chinese" nation state predicated on this "Taiwanese, not Chinese" ethnic consciousness.
Taiwan independence spin controllers who claim that what really concerns them is "freedom, democracy, and human rights" rather than tribal identity, are akin to beauty contestants who insist that what really concerns them is "world peace" rather than personal ambition.
This hypocrisy was deftly satirized in Sandra Bullock's hilarious comedy, Miss Congeniality.
Miss Congeniality (2000, directed by Donald Petrie, written by Marc Lawrence , Katie Ford & Caryn Lucas)
Stan Fields: What is the one most important thing our society needs?
Gracie Hart: That would be... harsher punishment for parole violators, Stan.
[crowd is silent]
Gracie Hart: And world peace!
[crowd cheers ecstatically]
Miss Congeniality: "And world peace!"
Why is the Taiwan independence movement obsessed with the invention of an artificial "Taiwanese, not Chinese" ethnic identity?
That is a subject unto itself.
For my take on the psychology of the Taiwan independence movement, I'm sorely tempted to say "psychopathology," see:
Taiwan Independence and the Stockholm Syndrome
Meanwhile, let's see what our budding attorney from Harvard has to say.
Forgetting Taiwan is forgetting our ideals
By Jonathan Hwang
Published on Taipei Times
Friday, Dec 22, 2006
Politics and propaganda often have the effect of obscuring why we care about things. Often we forget or cannot see what really matters to us.
Comment: No kidding, as Mr. Hwang is about to demonstrate for us through his own myopic folly.
Hwang: Whether the Taiwanese know it or not, their defiance of China's ambition to "liberate" the island symbolizes the general struggle for a world where people are free from oppression.
Comment: "The Taiwanese?" "China's ambition?"
Wow. That was quick. Mr. Hwang certainly didn't waste any time. He committed his first logical fallacy right off the starting block, specifically, the Fallacy of the Ambiguous Collective.
The Fallacy of the Ambiguous Collective, for the record, involves "using a collective term without any meaningful delimitation of the elements it subsumes."
As the online Handbook of Logical Fallacies explains:
"We" "you" "they" "the people" "the system" and "as a whole" are the most widely used examples. This fallacy is especially widespread and devastating in the realm of political discussion, where its use renders impossible the task of discriminating among distinctively different groups of people.
Just who are "The Taiwanese" Hwang is referring to?
Are "The Taiwanese" the democratic majority of Republic of China citizens who consistently vote for political parties that advocate Chinese reunification?
Are "The Taiwanese" the democratic majority of Republic of China citizens whom Taipei Times editorials periodically denounce as "tai jian" (traitors to Taiwan)?
Hwang: At the most fundamental level, the conflict between China and Taiwan is just a conflict between two groups of people.
Comment: Hwang says "two groups of people." Make a note of that.
Hwang: Forget the convoluted history and political parties for a minute. Forget the tautological cultural and ethnic theories for and against unification or independence just for a second. The story of China and Taiwan is a story about what humans value in a society and how humans resolve their differences.
Comment: I couldn't agree more. We as human beings should give the highest priority to "what humans value in a society and how humans resolve their differences."
But hold on a minute. Let's make sure we understand what Hwang means when he says "humans." Does he mean individual "humans," or does he mean groups of "humans?"
Unfortunately, just like Humpty Dumpty, when our budding young lawyer uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean.
Hwang: From this untangled perspective, people should ask themselves, what do we as humans -- not Taiwanese or Chinese, just humans -- value? Do we particularly value joining another's society or forming our own independent society? Both of these choices are neutral absent qualifications on what these societies are like.
Comment: Did you get that? "what do we as humans -- not Taiwanese or Chinese, just humans -- value?"
The clear implication is that "Humans" denotes individual human beings, not collectives.
I'm in even closer agreement with this statement.
But wait. Didn't Hwang just say that at the most fundamental level, the conflict is between "two groups of people?" Between "The Taiwanese" and "The Chinese?"
So which is it?
Is it "humans -- not Taiwanese or Chinese, just humans?" or is it "a conflict between two groups of people?"
If you're confused, you're not alone. If you're confused, don't blame yourself. If you're confused, it's because Hwang flip-flops back and forth between the collective and the individual.
Understanding Hwang's deliberate obfuscation is the key to understanding Taiwan independence movement hypocrisy and deceit.
For a revealing insight into the Taiwan independence movement's flagrant double standards when it comes to the right of secession, see:
Independence for Me, but not for Thee
Hwang: Here, we realize what we truly value as humans: freedom. That is the freedom to choose how we live and attain happiness in peace with fellow humans.
The struggle for freedom is being played out between China and Taiwan.
In the end, it doesn't matter if Taiwan is independent or unified with China. What matters is how the outcome is reached. Is unification imposed on the people of Taiwan through threats of violence? Or is unification decided by the freewill of the Taiwanese?
Comment: Finally. Now we know what Hwang means when he says "humans."
We know because Hwang has reverted to collectivist Taiwan independence terminology, to "the people of Taiwan" and "the Taiwanese."
Hwang means what Taiwan independence apologists always mean when they talk about "human beings."
He means groups of "humans." He means collectives of "humans." He means tribes of "humans." He means angelic "Taiwanese, not Chinese humans" vs. demonic "Chinese, not Taiwanese humans." He means "zheng gang de tai wan ren" (authentic Taiwanese) vs. "zhong guo zhu" (Chinese pigs).
After insincere nods to humanism and individualism, Hwang abruptly reverts to form, and reasserts the Taiwan independence movement's core value -- collective identity.
When Taiwan independence apologists such as Hwang say "humans," they want the international community to hear "individual human beings." They want the international community to hear "citizens of the global village." They want the international community to hear choruses of "We are the world! We are the children!"
In short, they want to use high-minded humanism as window dressing for their narrow -minded "Taiwanese, not Chinese" petty tribalism.
They want to use humanism to smuggle their Taiwanese version of racist Apartheid past the court of world opinion, the way drug smugglers use ground coffee to smuggle heroin past customs officials.
Hwang: In humanity's shared appreciation for individual freedom, we must respect each other's exercise and enjoyment of it. This means the people of China must respect the idea of a politically independent Taiwan, if an independent country is what the people of Taiwan desire.
Comment: Notice Hwang's wording, "the people of China" and "the people of Taiwan."
What happened to Hwang's concern for "humanity's shared appreciation for individual freedom" and "respect [for] each other's exercise and enjoyment of it?"
Hwang reminds me of nothing so much as a clumsy amateur who fumbles while attempting to perform a magic trick, and instead winds up revealing how it's done.
Hwang: The Chinese are free to disagree with such an outcome, but they must respect it or risk violating the freedom of the Taiwanese to choose their destiny.
Comment: "The Chinese" are free to disagree? "The Taiwanese" are free to choose "their destiny?"
How are "The Chinese" free to disagree?
Hasn't Hwang already predefined 1.3 billion human beings as "the Chinese" and predefined another 23 million human beings as "the Taiwanese," without bothering to consult them?
How are "The Taiwanese" free to choose their destiny?
Hasn't Hwang already chosen their destiny for them? Hasn't Hwang already decided that their destiny is to be "Taiwanese, not Chinese," again without bothering to consult them?
Hwang: At the heart of it all, Taiwan should matter because freedom matters -- not because unification or independence per se matters. Humanity has seen enough of authoritarianism, where oppressive governments choke the free spirit of humanity.
Let's not forget just how much we value freedom. This is why Taiwan matters and why free countries and free peoples should not turn a blind eye towards China's aggression.
Comment: Hwang insists that "Taiwan should matter." He then repeats himself, saying "This is why Taiwan matters."
Gone is the hypocritical lip service to "humans" i.e., individuals, choosing their own destiny.
Back is the unilateral, non-negotiable demand for "Taiwanese, not Chinese" tribal solidarity.
Back is the demand for an ethnic Apartheid, "tai wan ben tu" (Taiwanese nativist) political entity.
As you can see, dealing with Taiwan independence duplicity can be a frustrating ordeal.
In case you thought I derived any pleasure from demolishing Mr. Hwang's inept sophistry, think again.
I am not triumphant. I am not smug. On this Christmas Eve, 2006, I am weary, beyond words.
Like millions of other members of the Pan Blue Camp/Red Shirt Army on Taiwan, I am weary of the Quixotic, unwinnable war against democracy, that congenitally defective political system so deeply detested by America's Founders, that encourages ruthless demagogues to seize political office by promoting tribal solidarity and subverting individual liberty.
Democracy, the Worst Form of Government ever Tried