Monday, November 30, 2009

County Elections: The lack of 'green' candidates

A shot from elections past: Getting an campaign van ready to hit the streets. Note the size of the speakers.

A shot from elections past: A drum on the back of a campaign van.

It's almost midnight in Taiwan and tomorrow's on-line edition of the Taipei Times is up. An article titled Vote for 'green' candidates, activists say caught my attention.

On Saturday 5Th December, county elections will take place for the election of city mayors and county commissioners and for the past few weeks, all across Taiwan, we've been subjected to the deafening racket of campaigning 'a la Taiwan' style.

Campaigning in Taiwan involves fleets of noisy election vans roaming the streets broadcasting their candidate's propaganda at ear-shattering volumes that are well in excess of noise pollution laws. Often candidates will stand on a rickety platform atop a van screaming into a microphone and subjecting all and sundry to their views of the world, the alleged shortcomings and vices of their opposition, and strings of promises of what they will do if elected.

The candidate's van is usually followed by several other vans and cars. The other vans will be broadcasting prerecorded political propaganda while the candidate is still screaming into the microphone. While this is going on, folks perched atop another van will be letting off firecrackers. Sometimes gongs, drums and flutes accompany the din of the firecrackers. Bear in mind that this often goes on late into the night and resumes first thing in the morning. Several different motorcades launch simultaneous attacks on the same areas resulting in the most unbelievable noise levels and disruptions to the flow of traffic. These motorcades are followed by legions of campaign workers that chant and cheer while accosting locals and thrusting little packets of tissues and pamphlets into the hands of anyone they can lay their hands on. Enthusiastic campaign workers are not above entering any shop or house that has an open door. Often the cheering campaign workers are supported by a speaker van broadcasting the cheers of a prerecorded crowd. Also, every available lamppost, pole and wall are covered in election posters, banners and flags.

Most people one speaks to loath the noise of elections but would never consider banding together and trying to do something about it. This so often is the case in Taiwan. The people just shut up and don't speak out. People are angry about the noise. They are angry about pollution. They are angry about corruption and mismanagement but they tolerate it all. They never appose the system. Is this the legacy of almost forty years of Marshal law and the product of an education system that discourages individual thinking and the questioning of authority?

Taiwan has a tragic legacy of greedy and corrupt politicians that lack moral accountability and responsibility. Global warming and combating the effects of climate change feature highly on the political agenda in most parts of the free world now. Taiwan's lack of commitment to sustainable economics and the reduction of emissions is in direct contrast to that of most other democratic free nations. This lack of commitment to doing anything about the environment and sustainable economics is evident in the lack of any stand on these issues for almost all candidates. In the present legislature many feel there is only one legislator that has any credible track record of really standing up for the environment. Reality on the ground in Taiwan is that the politicians feel no pressure at all to have to start considering the environment and sustainable economics and until they do, nothing is going to change.

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