In every society are leaders, followers and those who oppose. Opinions are conveyed in every manner possible, and from this stemmed the Chinese saying, "the same rice raised a hundred kinds of people," as well as the age-old cry for us to respect conflicting voices. We're sure these sayings were taken to heart.
In light of the controversial approval of the Cross-Strait Services in Trade Agreement in a Legislative Yuan committee to be put to a vote, tens of thousands of students and activists have taken to the streets after a group of students seized the Legislative Yuan. The act, and the hours-long occupation of the Executive Yuan that followed, were blasted by many who declared that the students were trampling the concept of democracy and abusing the nation's laws, while Premier Jiang Yi-huah claimed again and again that the riot police drove the students away by patting their shoulders.
Apparently, students are categorized by many as minors who are not fully able to think independently and are easily persuaded to participate in the ongoing "riots," at the same time wasting police and medical manpower. The mad rush for the Executive Yuan only escalated these heated-whispers. After all, the students were practically begging to be clubbed on the head and struck with police shields when they had the gall to barge into the Cabinet; what was a little hosing-down compared to the trouble the police had to go through when they were suddenly summoned to Taipei at midnight?
It has never occurred to the people that they have set comparatively high standards for university students. They should be able to think for themselves and stay rational and firm at the same time; display remarkable maturity and extreme politeness during public speeches (but bear criticism immediately afterwards for speaking their minds); rapidly come up with logical and well-rounded announcements in a limited time period and in the end, propose constructive means to end the disputes. As for our elected leader of the nation, an acceptable speech is one in which he promises to "think of a solution." Our elected lawmakers, the representatives of people's voices? Only if they make it through a session without brawling ridiculously.
Having occupied the Legislature, the students' every move and every public statement is blown up and scrutinized as they "rudely" stop the Legislature from operating; yet the cries of outrage at this unprecedented halt are oddly hypocritical. Our political leaders and legislators somehow regard the majority votes they received as public approval to forego their promises, ignore public outrage and turn the political scene into a means to vent hatred passed down from the last generation of blues and greens. Despite the slogan cliches that inevitably arise in every protest, it would be wrong to portray the students as martyrs who "sacrificed" anything for democracy. Simply disappointed with the government's unvarying responses and the backroom deals they would never get to the bottom of, the students took matters into their own hands if in a somewhat rash manner, and yet only a few outbreaks of violence dotted the well-organised protests.
Although capable of ridding their paths with litter and mob-violence, the students were unable to control Taiwan's "fourth power," the media. The helping force behind the already bipolarized society of political preferences, some local media outlets have been labeling the students blue or green in accordance with apparent orders from their superiors, or they have pointed out that most students participated without a full understanding of the pact, at the same time neglecting the "adults" who were short of the same knowledge. Frankly, the labels are feeble and lack legitimacy in their attempt to label the entire student body.
Where were most of us in our early 20s? The students have stirred in many their teenage hopes to change the dominating system and rigid laws; their bravery and still-untainted aspirations should be recognised.
In a young democracy like Taiwan's, a bigger threat is a generation of cold and indifferent youngsters.