Tuesday, June 17, 2008


So earlier this year I went to the yearly "Chinese New Year" celebration that is put on by the Taiwanese Association of Greater Seattle. There was a Taiwanese law professor that came from California that spoke on an important issue of today's young generation. Whether you are interested in politics in Taiwan or not, I recommend you read this illustration as it applies to many things, not just the situation that the professor applied this to at the end. I know it is long, but, honestly, it was a really good illustration.


I will say first, that his speech was probably 90% Taiwanese, 5% Mandarin, 5% English, so if it seems like theres some holes or confusion in the illustration, it may have been lost in translation. Although I think my Taiwanese is not bad, I lack some vocabulary... anyways here is the illustration he gave:
There are three monkeys that are locked in an cage, sitting on a table. The cage is large, with a farily tall ceiling. At the top of the cage hangs a rope on which a banana is hanged from. Naturally, the three monkeys want to get the banana. So, the first one goes and tries to get it. As he is climbing up, just as he is about to get to the banana, the owner pours a bucket of water right onto the monkey. The monkey loses grasp and slips down the rope back to the floor. The other two monkeys laugh at the first monkey because he could not get the banana. The first monkey tries again; getting half way up before again, getting pushed back down because the owner pours water down on the monkey. The other two monkeys are now laughing and telling the first monkey to let them try. Finally, after the failed attempt by the first monkey, the first monkey gives up and sits down on the table in the middle of the cage. The second monkey now gives it a try. Just as the first monkey, he goes up and as he reaches the banana, the owner pours a bucket of water right above the monkey; and once again the monkey falls to the ground. The second monkey gives it another two goes as he still believes he can get it before giving up, just as the first monkey did. The third monkey, waiting for his chance to get the monkey, finally gets his chance. Just as the first two monkeys, he fails because of the water coming down on them as soon as they get close to the banana. Finally, all three monkeys are left sitting on the table, with the banana still hanging at the top of the cage.

The owner, then opens up the cage, and brings a new monkey into the cage, and takes one of the original monkeys out. The new monkey sees the other two sitting on the table, and looking at the banana, asks why they are just sitting there. "What are you waiting for?" The two monkeys reply saying, "Don't try, you won't be able to get it." The new monkey, not understanding why, goes for the rope to start climbing. The two monkeys from the original three start to pull on the new monkey to tell him to come down and stop him from climbing because they know its impossible. He tries again, with the other two monkeys once again pulling on him to just sit down because its not possible. After many failed attempts to get on the rope, he sits down as two monkeys are able to stop him from going up.

The owner, then opens up the cage, and brings a new monkey into the cage, and takes one of the two original monkeys remaining, out. The new monkey, again, looks at the two monkeys on the table and at the banana, and instantly laughs at them for not getting the banana. He tries to go for the rope, but the two monkeys stop him and pull on him, telling him that it's not worth his time, that it's impossible. Everytime the new monkey tries to reach for the rope, they stop him. After trying to get up the rope many times and failling because of the two monkeys pulling on him, he simply sits down on the table with the other two monkeys.

Finally, the owner opens up the cage, and brings in a new monkey, and takes out the final last original monkey. Just as the new monkeys previously, he goes for the rope, but is once again stopped by the two monkeys already in the cage. Not understanding why, but just that the other two monkeys keep saying not to do it, he finally takes a seat on the table.

The result? The three monkeys in the cage are left miserable, and on the table, with a banana within reach above them- but no one dares to go for it. And the sad thing is, they have no idea why. The original three knew why- water was being poured on them to stop them from reaching the banana. But the new three monkeys have no idea why, just that they were told by the previous monkeys, and stopped by them, to not attempt to go for the banana. And that is how the three monkeys, sitting on a table and staring at the banana, come to be.


So what does this have to do with the current situation in Taiwan and why was I reminded of this when I talked with my friend? The issue that the professor brought up was that the current generation of Taiwanese (my generation), has an apathy towards politics in Taiwan. Part of it, he says, stems from the past where parents may have discouraged their kids to not pursue and become involved in things such as politics because of the KMT in power. In the past, when the KMT was in power, although not as extreme as China, opposition to the KMT government was often put down and dissidents were placed into jail on absurd political charges. The illustration is that, the monkey owner could be likened to parents of one-two generations ago. The three monkeys are successive generation of kids. Parents discouraging their kids from pursuing and engaging in political discussion because of the possible failures and dangers of pursuing a career in politics that differs from KMT (the bucket of water), over time, became parents discouraging kids from pursuing law and politics because, well, we really don't know. The monkeys sitting on the table at the end of the story, are our young generation of Taiwanese. We just have an apathy towards it, which I believe is partially because of the previous "noes" to politics that have been handed down by our older generations. And now, the reason has been lost in time- and we simply don't get involved with politics because our parents said to not to, whose parents also said not to, and their parents, and so on.

So, the law professor said that the young generation of Taiwanese needs to wake up, and see the reason why. At the same time, called on the parents there to teach their kids about what happened in the past. Because not doing so, will result in a vicious cycle in which the future of Taiwan where the young generation will decide the vote, will actually be unable to have the knowledge to say, this is what happened in the past, but this is what it is now, and things have changed, so we can do this. The point is not to highlight the sins of the past of KMT, but to underline the current problem of apathy in our generation.

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