United Daily News: 'Generational justice' now generational hatred

2017/04/25 16:22:36
Protest in front of Legislature

Protest in front of Legislature

Since the Democratic Progressive Party took the reins of government in May 2016, it has launched a series of reforms in the name of "justice."

But whatever they have described as "transitional justice" or "generational justice" has gradually degenerated into something else, and the schism between generations has deepened.

Among them, the most worrisome trend has been generational justice turning into generational hatred.

The idea of generational justice has derived from the concept of "sustainable development," with the focus being on a just distribution of resources.

But Taiwan's economic development over the past two decades has brought a series of problems, including uneven wealth distribution, a widening urban-rural divide, clashes between environmental protection and economic development, and others.

The DPP administration has targeted "pension reform" as the first move toward generational justice.

At a time when young people are receiving low salaries, the comparatively generous pensions for civil servants, teachers and military personnel do seem more obvious in contrast.

But the design of the pension system has its historical context, with the unjust allocation of resources generally resulting from the government's financial woes or globalization. This should not be seen as the deliberate exploitation of the younger generation by the older generation, let alone the original sin of civil servants, teachers and military personnel.

In recent comments on the protests against pension reform outside the Legislature, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) continued to evoke the theme of "generational conflict."

Tsai stressed that reforms were being undertaken out of consideration for younger civil servants, teachers and military personnel, and she described the protesters as "resisting reforms" and "deliberately creating clashes."

At the same time, however, the president has not addressed the labor pension system, which faces even bigger problems than pension systems for public employees. The political gamesmanship is quite obvious.

Calls for generational justice have also created divisions of different "economic classes" between generations.

The uneven distribution of income is derived mainly from Taiwan's sluggish economic development, stagnant salaries as well as the lack of competitiveness of Taiwan's old-economy sector in the face of the emerging high-tech sector.

People living on the island have gone through different stages of economic development, but they are now divided into different "castes."

The advocacy of "generational justice" by the DPP has also affected its concepts of history and values.

Due to the total rejection of decades of Kuomintang rule, removing any vestiges of China and the late President Chiang Kai-shek has become the vogue of the new generation.

The total rejection of the values and history of the "previous generation" has inevitably brought social clashes. The "statue battle" involving the "beheading" of statues of the late President Chiang and Japanese hydraulic engineer Yoichi Hatta has just begun, but the seeds of hatred have already been sown.

The DPP is basically an exclusive and authoritarian party, and those who do not obey it will be deemed "opponents of justice."

Under such circumstances, Taiwan cannot avoid clashes. No wonder a Japanese reporter has warned that "Taiwan is at risk of disintegrating itself."

Politicians' advocacy of "generational justice" is driven by reasonable motivations. For one, sustainable development is the task of every government. Second, young people are indeed an economically disadvantaged group.

Third, youth represent votes and guarantee future "political power."

But is it necessary for the government, while calling for

"generational justice," to reject and trample on the values of other generations and ethnic groups?

The government should see clearly that no matter how legitimate it is to advocate "generational justice," it should mean that no generation will be smeared or sacrificed and that all generations should be accorded "equal respect."

Otherwise, "generational justice" is simply a euphemism for "generational discrimination."

(Editorial abstract - April 25, 2017) (Summarized by Lilian Wu)

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