Thursday, July 7, 2011

Taiwan's Jezebels and Naboth's Vineyard

     (I had not intended to write another American Action Report article. My purpose for starting the blog, above all, was to provide action-minded individuals with a framework for understanding today’s events—as a framework for action. Many of my articles have titles like “How Such-and-such Really Works.” Feeling that the blog had fulfilled that purpose, I turned my attention to making a living and various unpleasant chores that have nothing to do with my job, though my job expects them.
     (I must now make an exception and break my silence. The lands of hundreds of poor farmers here in Taiwan are subject to legalized theft for the benefit of large, polluting corporations, some of which—or all of which—are major supporters of powerful politicians who are abetting this injustice. The farmers will lose their land in just a few months unless action is taken to turn things around.)
     Many of you have read the Biblical story of Naboth, Ahab, and Jezebel. Naboth was a poor farmer who owned a small vineyard. King Ahab saw the vineyard and wanted it; but, since the land was Naboth’s inheritance from his father, Naboth refused to sell it. King Ahab was distraught over the refusal. Enter Jezebel. Jezebel was King Ahab’s thoroughly evil Phoenician wife, who had already made a name for herself by having the Lord’s prophets killed and encouraging Israel to descend into idolotry. Jezebel contrived to have Naboth condemned in a sham trial, upon which his land was forcibly taken from him, Naboth was killed, and King Ahab took possession as the “legal owner” of the vineyard. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Jezebel and Ahab were diabolically evil or, in more secular terms, criminal psychopaths.
     Now picture this evil being replayed hundreds of times, all at once. From my perspective, that's the moral equivalent of what is happening today, right here in Taiwan.  I'm not saying that the people mentioned in this article are diabolically evil or criminal psychopaths; you'll have to decide that one for yourself.
     Many of us take for granted the constitutional guarantee that no one should be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. In Taiwan, however, land can be seized “for the general good.” Politicians and bureaucrats have the power to define “general good.”
     I addressed this issue once before, in the American Action Report article “Formosa Betrayed Again.” (link) For background information, I urge you to give the article a quick read.
     Here are a few highlights:
     In Miaoli County, one of many areas where these travesties are taking place, 24 farm families were officially informed that their land would be taken from them for the construction of a “science park.” No, that’s not an educational facility; science park is a euphemism for a high-polluting factory belonging to a large corporation. The farmers would be paid what the politicians thought the land was worth—the value of an inheritance that had been in their families for centuries was not a consideration, nor was any loss of future earning ability—or land of comparative value (according to the value systems of the Jezebels in question) would be given them.
     The farmers refused to give up their inheritances and, along with them, their sources of livelihood; but Premier Wu Den-yih didn’t see that as a problem. The land was condemned anyway, and the money was made available for the modern-day Naboths to collect if they were inclined to do so. Like Jezebel, Wu later claimed to the news media that the procedure was all perfectly legal.  According to laws made by the Chinese Nationalist Party, that's correct; but what about Natural Law, international standards, or, if you will, civilized norms?
     The farmers took their case to Quasi-president Ma Ying-jeou (Officially, he’s president of a huge empire extending from Taiwan to the Kashmir Valley in India, except when a lower-level Chinese bureaucrat comes to town. On these occasions, all indications of the existence of his government disappear, and he becomes just plain old Mr. Ma, subservient to a Chinese master.) President (or Mr. or whatever) Ma promised that they’d get a response within a week.
     True to Ma’s promise, backhoes soon appeared at the farmers’ fields and ripped them up, only two weeks before the rice harvest would have taken place. In the ensuing publicity backlash, Premier Wu said that he didn’t know that there were farms on the land. (The fact that farm families were living there should have been a clue.) One farmer, having seen all his hopes ripped apart by the backhoes of  these Jezebels, committed suicide.
     Don't be surprised at Wu's lack of brilliance in failing to realize that farm families farm, or that they do their farming on land, or that the lands on which farm families farm are called farms.  There are a lot of things that the gaffe-prone Wu is slow to find out. He didn’t know that the endangered Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin wasn’t a fish, that “fish” can’t quickly recognize water pollution and avoid it as they would a solid object; or that in order to eat rice you must have rice. (That’s right. The guy on whose watch hundreds of rice farmers are losing their lands to major polluters is the same guy who says that Taiwan should become “food independent.” According to him, Taiwanese should eat more rice. What rice does he mean? The rice that was plowed under and no longer exists or the rice that’s laced with toxic chemicals?) These are only a few samplings from Wu’s fountain of idiotic remarks. By comparison, Wu Den-yih makes Ma Ying-jeou look smart.
     Taiwan’s farmland is rapidly disappearing, gobbled up by corporate polluters. Remaining farmland is threatened by toxic chemicals. Cancer is the number one cause of death in Taiwan. Not surprisingly, the highest rates of cancer are reportedly found near the sites of major corporate polluters.
     The Ma administration promised that they would revise the Land Expropriation Act. The pan-blue camp (the ruling elite, their local henchmen, and their lackeys) has held both the presidency and the national legislature for three years, and the law hasn't been changed.  (Remember, though, that Ma Ying-jeou is the guy who once told a group of aborigines, "I see you as human," as he was trying to justify the demolition of their homes.  For a beautification project to go forward, he saw it as necessary to clear away all unsightly homes and aborigines.  Being seen as "human" doesn't necessarily light the spark of humanity.)
     The plight of Taiwan’s farmers (who, no doubt, are also seen as humans) at the hands of these exploiters has drawn the attention of several international human rights groups. These groups include such farming rights advocacy groups as Brazil’s Movemento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (Landless Farmers’ Movement, MST) and India’s Navdanya Foundation.
     It’s too late to save the farms that were ravaged in Miaoli County a few months ago, but it’s not too late to save the farmers who are threatened today.
     For more information, see the Taipei Times article “Rights groups protest against expropriation.” (link)


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