Saturday, February 11, 2006

'Spirit of colonisalism'

An thought-provoking commentary in Liberty Times today, titled ‘Spirit of colonialism in Taiwan’ (translation mine). The author made the point that in order to demonstrate the prowess and supremacy of the colonising power, it has to change the name of the colonised subject. So the fact that New York is named after the English town of York is a reflection of the pride of the coloniser to create a ‘new and great’ land in the perceived barrenness and undeveloped territory.
And so it is here in Taiwan. Many cities and towns around the island has had its name changed, first by the Japanese, then by the Chinese Nationalists regime when it established itself on Taiwan. Names such as Takau (‘bamboo wood’ in the Pingpu aborigines language, but in the Japanese/Mandarin transliteration Takau 打狗 it literally means ‘hit dog’), were altered so that it sounds less ‘barbaric’ and more ‘civilised’ in the ears of the colonisers. Eventually Takau became the city known as Kaoshiung高雄. Today, in every city and town, you come across streets and roads named after cities and famous people in China. ‘Shanghai Road’, ‘Chonqing Road’, ‘Peiping Street’, Tianjin Street’ (all named after cities in China), ‘Zhong Zheng Road’ (after Chiang-Kai Shek) etc, etc. Again, a heritage from the Kuomintang period when ‘sinification’ was the word, and when anything related to China was awed and revered.
Was the Chinese Nationalist tyranny trying to recreate a ‘Chinese’ here in Taiwan environment to prolong its lost cause after its humiliating defeat and retreat? Shame that those names still mark almost every inch of Taiwan today. And who is complaining? No one it seems. Again, this underlines the tragedy of the Taiwanese people, in that having experienced decades of terror and indoctrination and being told of the myth that China is our home, few have the urge to resist, and less have the desire to change. This is a nation with an identity crisis. A couple of days ago, the Minister of Education visited a primary school and was disappointed to find that young children seem to know the geography and great rivers of China, but have no clue what the creek down the road is called.
Understanding and recognising this very piece of land Taiwanese people live on as their own is an important lesson that should not be neglected. And in the last few years of this government much has been down to emphasise Taiwan and its rich culture and history. But a few years is not yet enough to clean out the dirt of decades of myth-spreading and propaganda.

So imagine my disbelieve and indignation whenever I hear the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party call for such nonsense as “eventual unification” with China. Wake up people!

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