Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well, that was immensely depressing…

I saw Formosa Betrayed tonight. And it left me profoundly depressed. I have a feeling the claim that the KMT killed 20,000 people in one day (February 28, 1947) is a bit inflated, but, even so––seeing a movie about how the foundation of Taiwan, the country I've called home for about seven years, was built on a military occupation… and that my own government abetted it all to go on… well, it's just depressing, even if a melodramatic depiction. My only "consolation" is that it just confirms my––our––pilgrim-status on earth. As Hebrews 11 says:

[13]These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
[14] For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
[15] If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.
[16] But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

13 這 些 人 都 是 存 著 信 心 死 的 , 並 沒 有 得 著 所 應 許 的 ; 卻 從 遠 處 望 見 , 且 歡 喜 迎 接 , 又 承 認 自 己 在 世 上 是 客 旅 , 是 寄 居 的 。
14 說 這 樣 話 的 人 是 表 明 自 己 要 找 一 個 家 鄉 。
15 他 們 若 想 念 所 離 開 的 家 鄉 , 還 有 可 以 回 去 的 機 會 。
16 他 們 卻 羨 慕 一 個 更 美 的 家 鄉 , 就 是 在 天 上 的 。 所 以 神 被 稱 為 他 們 的 神 , 並 不 以 為 恥 , 因 為 他 已 經 給 他 們 預 備 了 一 座 城 。

A few other things are weighing on me as well––some translations and essays I have failed to complete for too long, some echoes of a past I said I would not revisit, general existential angst, etc.––so the movie only added to my transient melancholy. All I want to do is serve at St. Coletta's, study, write, and workout.

Part of the problem with "Taiwan and me" is that, while I "know" I "must" support Taiwan's independence––"democracy" is a demanding buzz word––, I don't have a clear idea of what Taiwanese independence would mean, functionally speaking. If it were granted complete diplomatic autonomy tomorrow, would this necessarily mean life here would get better? What if that just led to more machinations by the PRC to sabotage relations between Taiwan and others? Or to outright war? Or what if it led to a regime that expunged all non-Taiwanese elements and thus led to a culturally anemic and xenophobic island? Presumably, the idea of "freedom" is so noble in its own right that the Taiwanese, like all people, deserve to enjoy it, even if it entails pragmatic difficulties and woes. But that just assumes a lot of classic values which I don't think many advocates of Taiwanese independence are willing to grant in a different context. Specifically, and in a typically metaphysical vein, if determinism is true and "freedom" is an illusion for humans, why should I fight for it on behalf of these agents called nations? Divorced from a robust conception of human freedom as an irreducible good, much of the activism for "independence" boils down to politics and hedonism: "We don't like how Those Guys run things, because they run things, so we want to run things. And we don't like not being able to buy what we want, so we want to get what we want."

Maybe I feel like the protagonist in the movie: having never thought of coming to, or caring about, Taiwan, there came a point when he saw things, lived things, loved things, and lost things which he can never forget. Taiwan is a tainted place for him, like a giant haunted house. Maybe I feel the same way about Taiwan sometimes: having seen, lived, loved, lost––now what does going forward mean? At least Agent Kelly could quit the FBI; I can't quit myself. Like Agent Kelly, I find myself devastated by what I've lived, learned, loved, and lost in this country, and I can only wonder what the road ahead holds. Much to ponder.

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