2013年11月30日 星期六

Chiang Kai-shek memorial hall: What are you thinking about, Taiwanese people?

Figure 1 

As could be seen in figure 1, there is a tube station called "Chiang Kai-she Memorial Hall." What is it? Well, it is one of Taipei's most famous tourist site noted for ...well, actually I have no clue regarding why people would like to come. Seriously, I don't think any single person with social conscious should go there for whatever the reason he or she harbors in mind. Why? Because this place is  built in honor of the dictator that had ravaged the island for decays. 

So why does Taiwan as an allegedly amazing example of newly democratized country in East Asia have such a thing that poses paradox here? The answer is very simple; because we don't deal with the dark side of the history soundly and comprehensively. Namely, we did not undergo the process of the so called "transitional justice." Of course the country has confessed that how hideously and brutally the wrongdoings had been conducted by the then official. Every year the president or some other politicians would attend one ceremony or another to memorize the 228 massacre. There are also a bunch of lawful measures and actions done by civil groups aimed for compensating the traumas and mars caused by the totalitarian regime. Researchers and activists have also engaged with putting together all the jigsaws to make historical landscapes clearer.

However, all these works only identify the events and the victims. Who had conducted the crimes were dismissed and forgotten. People supposedly know that Chiang's regime and the party he belonged to, Kuomintang (KMT), should be blamed for. But people seem to stay apathetic about  the transitional justice thing. Partly due to how economy had rocketed from 70s through 80s under KMT's office, partly due to the democratization was hatched on the basis of KMT's compromise (well partly), anyway, the works of transitional justice has staggered over twenty something years. In addition, the lack of lustration law makes the political landscapes; KMT can take the office again by democratic election, and its politicians, who had played important part during totalitarian era, still occupied the top these days. 


Figure 2

Under this situation, it is not surprising to see this mammoth standing in the city, nor is to see the exhibition that displays creepy nostalgia as figure  2 shows. (In figure 2, the Chinese name of the exhibition hall does not get translated. It literally means "the exhibition halls 'items of the forever-recalled leader'") It would less so when you get to know that the island is actually like a macro Chiang Kai-she Memorial Hall; There are a myriad of roads/streets as well as schools across all over the  whole island are named after Chiang's another name "Zhongzheng." 

Well, all these facts and landscapes do not imply that Taiwanese people would like to go back to totalitarian rule. Some people are merely apolitical and not sensitive of the totalitarian roots. Or, they just do not associate those things with the legacy that connotes to the Holocaust. So, Nazi salute can be seen on and off, the chants related to Ustase movement were echoed in Croatia, and Stalin statue is still enshrined in Georgia




To look on the bright side, you might say, Chiang Kai-she Memorial Hall has become is now attracting tourists and making money for the country. The spacious plaza ahead of the hall is used not only tourists but also dancers, students, social movement activists, and so forth. In other words, the landscapes or the legacies have been translated into the things that carry different meanings. Therefore, collections of buildings dating back to communist era are still being used in Central and Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, you are not going to see any single road named after Hitler or Goebbles. You won't see a monument build in honor of Nicolae Ceausescu either (am I right about this...?).

I believe that there must be a number of people who did have good days during the totalitarian era and therefore have got good reasons to have nostalgia. To put it differently, justice is contested, multifaceted, and constructed. Human right, democracy, justice, whatsoever, can be called into question as with the authoritarian rule. So, if we take the concept "transitional justice" extremely further, we have to tear down our president palace and other Japanese-style buildings because they concisely point to the colonialism. And we have to displace at least ten million Taiwanese people because they reside in the places where aborigines had thrived and prospered long long time ago. 

So, how should we perceive and deal with Chiang Kai-she Memorial Hall provided that the concept "justice" is so controversial? Well, since many parts of the world see "justice" as something metaphysical and should be abode by, we can simply preserve this place. Keep Chiang Kai-she Memorial Hall and Chiang Kai-she Memorial Hall tube station, and exhibit how humorous it is that so many Taiwanese like to claim how liberal, democratic, civilized, and accommodating they are.