To solidify the nation’s culture, Taiwanese must recognize the languages and cultures of Taiwan’s various ethnic groups, learn about local customs, and understand the nation’s history.
Taiwanese need to build a common historical memory so that Taiwan can become a confident and humanistic nation with citizens who identify with their homeland.
Only then can Taiwan become a normal nation and “Taiwan Culture Day”, celebrated on October 17, will become truly meaningful.
However, at present, two distinct modes of cultural identification prevail in Taiwan.
I was chatting with a friend the other day. According to him, Taiwan has no culture. I was shocked by his comment. How could our understandings be so different?
I believe this is because, through education, he was heavily influenced and indoctrinated by the party-state remnants of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
His cram school business has been profitable, but he doesn’t care about Taiwanese society. He gave his students what he accepted in his school days: a mindset to keep himself.
In Taiwanese society, especially in the education system, there are many people of his kind, which makes many others worry about the next generations of Taiwanese and how many of them may be affected by such short-sighted attitudes.
Fortunately, I have another group of friends who care about society and the nation. They spend their money and go to great lengths to organize events and activities for everyone to learn more about Taiwan and the world. Participating in their clubs is like a treasure hunt. I always learn from them and follow what they do with great interest.
Taiwan’s culture can be traced beyond the modern era to ancient civilizations. Today, Taiwan is renowned for its prowess in science and technology. The world depends on chips made in Taiwan. The nation is internationally admired for this achievement.
In recent years, the Ministry of Culture has devoted itself to governance and nation-building through culture. It makes every effort to preserve and recreate Taiwanese culture, and promote it to the international community.
Every year, non-governmental organizations based in Taiwan organize all kinds of cultural forums focusing on academic discussions.
Music parties and fairs are also held to entertain Taiwanese and introduce them to the arts of Taiwanese ethnic groups, such as native dance, Hakka music, and Taiwanese folklore. Participants can experience the diversity of Taiwanese culture and be artistically inspired on how to think about being Taiwanese with dignity.
Untold Herstory (流麻溝十五號), a film to be released this month and based on real events from the White Terror era in 1950s Taiwan, is the country’s first docu-drama about the political prisoners. This is a milestone for Taiwan’s creative industries.
Southern Taiwan Society President Tseng Kuei-hai (曾貴海), physician, activist and poet, recently published two books of poetry: Eyes of Four Seasons (四季的眼神) and Farewell, Waiting for Freedom (再見等待碰見自由).
At three book launch conferences – in Taipei, Taichung, and Kaohsiung – his profound thoughts were on full display.
Meanwhile, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was preceded by linguistic and cultural infiltration. The “same script, same race” discourse is also prevalent in Taiwan.
As Taiwanese look at others, we have to think about ourselves. Only by consolidating our cultural autonomy and confidence can Taiwan be truly at peace.
Ng Siu-lin is deputy director of the Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Liu Yi-hung
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