By Lin Chih-Chen 林致真 TAIPEI TIMES
Sunday, Jun 03, 2007, Page 8
The most common reaction to the term "third society" is one of confusion. "Does Taiwan even have a first, let alone a second society?" is a question that many would ask.
The answer to this question is a definite yes, and the chaotic political struggle we see every day is living proof.
Taiwan's first society is the one that existed prior to 1945; the indigenous society, if you will. This society experienced the colonial rule of Japan and was even at war with China and its allies during World War II.
Taiwan's second society consists of people from all over China who came and settled in Taiwan between 1945 and 1949. Members of the second society came from very diverse backgrounds, but Taiwan's foreignness at the time forced them together.
The next four to five decades saw a small minority of the second society dominating Taiwan's political and cultural spheres.
The first society was mostly suppressed in those two spheres but was quite successful in contributing to Taiwan's economic miracle.
However, with Taiwan's democratization, the first society was able to obtain political representation in the form of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), whilst the second society was continuously represented by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or other pan-blue groups.
With the DPP's victory in 2000, the political representatives of the first society took the reins of power for the first time.
However, even after seven years of DPP rule, the political power of the second society still refuses to recognize its political leadership.
At the same time, the political power of the first society sought extremism as a way of self preservation.
Thus Taiwan over the last few years degenerated into what former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) termed a "democratic civil war." Even today the two main political powers are still engaged in a fierce struggle with each other and it is severely damaging the country's democratic vitality.
What then is Taiwan's third society? To put it simply, the Third Society is all those of us who are sick and tired of the struggle between the first and second society.
To us, the two societies have many interests in common -- much more than they are aware of, in fact.
For example, many politicians from the first society highlight the bitter past experienced by many members of the public under the KMT's authoritarian rule.
However, these people often overlook the fact that the majority of the second society's members suffered even worse fates.
Members of the second society still feel a strong sense of insecurity because of their minority status. They fail, however, to see the first society's fear of a minority-rule resurgence.
To members of the Third Society, the ongoing struggle neglects the common interests of all Taiwanese and instead exaggerates the minor differences between the two old societies.
The struggle also exploits external antagonisms for internal electoral competitions, which in turn shows the outside world how polarized the nation has become. At the same time, the struggle between the two political blocs of the two old societies utterly fails to give Taiwanese any meaningful policy choices.
Instead, the two blocs present the same irresponsible fiscal and social policies made up by corruption and tax cuts that have trapped the country in an abyss of monstrous national debt.
People who are fed up with this nonsensical struggle must step forward and create the new third society. The political manifestation of this new society will promote external unity while providing a meaningful choice of social policies internally.
The members of the new society want no part in the ongoing cruel political struggle, but instead wish to be the "peacekeepers" between the two old societies.
Some might then ask, What is the position of the new society on national identity? To us, the answer cannot be clearer. The community, comprised of the 23 million people in Taiwan and its outlying islands, is an independent and sovereign nation, with the Republic of China' as its constitutional name.
The future of this independent and sovereign nation can only be decided by those 23 million inhabitants.
We believe that the above statement is the consensus for the vast majority of Taiwanese and the foundation on which national unity can be built. We also believe that the independent status of Taiwan fits the current interests of the people on this island.
Therefore we will defend Taiwan's status as an independent nation.
Taiwan is an inspiration to the rest of the world because of its democratic success. However, the ongoing "democratic civil war" is alienating more and more people.
We fear that in a not too distant future, the nation's once proud democratic achievements will wither as people's apathy to politics increases.
We therefore call for the formation of Taiwan's third society, a society that is founded on reasoning, not gimmicks or slogans; a society that has meaningful debate on social policies and not pointless arguments over dead people; a society that unites in a common hope for the betterment of this nation.
This shall be Taiwan's third society.
Lin Chih-chen is a member of Taiwan's emerging third society.