Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Two Articles of Coollouder Web (Taiwan)
[big5] 苦勞網系統管理者 on Tue, 7 Dec 1999 07:25:04 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Two Articles of Coollouder Web (Taiwan)

[this comes from the coollouder group, a taiwanese social movement
website. see also /geert]

    I'm Blackdog in Coollouder Web. I remember that our two articles
which had been translated into English by our American friend Johnason
working for Taipei Times. You can get some view points of us from these
two articles.

    1.Hello Kitty strikes out with bank workers
    Taipei Times 1999.09.05 Cool Louder Web

    While the media has been going all out to stoke Hello Kitty fever, and
so-called "culture critics" are busy debating whether the mouthless
stuffed kitty brings "true" or "false" well-being, something that cannot
be more real has quietly happened.

    Taking advantage of Hello Kitty's popularity, the bank that issues
Hello Kitty credit cards has allegedly generated deposits worth more than
NT$5.09 billion, and it has issued some 127,000 credit cards in less than
six months. Although it has been raking in all this money, the bank
reportedly has laid off more than 20 employees.

    Article 11 of the Labor Standards Law stipulates the following
conditions for terminating employment contracts: first, when the employer
closes or transfers the ownership of a business; second, when the employer
suffers a loss or business reduction; third, when the employer temporarily
stops his or her business for unavoidable reasons for more than one month;
fourth, when the employer has changed the nature of his business, and
there is a need to reduce the work force, and there are no positions
available for those workers; fifth, when the employer has been proved
unqualified for his or her job.

    This bank, while making a killing, obviously has illegally laid off
employees, falling back on the excuse of "business trimming." On one hand,
it laid off many old employees; on the other hand, it hired new employees.
It used this strategy to get rid of pensions and bonuses.

    This is an old trick that is widely employed by Taiwan's capitalists.
What this bank has done is not any different than what employers have done
countless other times. It is absurd that the bank's management has been
innovative in using of a fad to make money, but remains so traditional in
exploiting its employees and in profiteering at the expense of the public.

    According to the latest reports, the employees that are to be laid off
and their labor union are negotiating with management, which is willing to
follow the example of retirement annuities to handle the case. But no
matter what offer management puts forth, these people who had stable
incomes will have lost their jobs. So-called preferential lay-offs are
just a scheme management uses to cover the illegality of their lay-offs
and the exploitation of their employees.

    On Aug. 15, Hu Ching-fuang (胡晴舫), a culture critic, published an
article on the opinion page of the China Times, a Chinese-language
newspaper. Hu said: "If everyone is obliged to serve the colossal
ideologies of public interest and national groups at all times, then
personal freedom will suffer in proportion. People will have no time or
energy to stand in queues to purchase Hello Kitty."

    Hu's remarks are harsh to the eye. Is the innocent-looking Hello Kitty
truly free from "colossal ideologies" as this pro-pop culture critic has
said? Although the mass media have been scrambling to praise pop culture
and people have been lining up hours just for a bankbook or credit card,
what is the thinking and behavior behind Hello Kitty that dominates modern

    Hello Kitty does not have a mouth. Some said that its success lies in
this face without a mouth which allows people to project various moods
onto it. It comforts people and is everybody's friend. But when we get our
stuffed toy, bankbook or credit card, maybe we should take a closer look
at the part-time workers at the McDonald's or at the clerks at the bank.
Theirs, perhaps, are faces without a voice.


    2.No escape from forces of `progress'

    Taipei Times 1999.11.12 by Cool Louder Web

    We started our journey in Puli, crossing over range after range of
mountains. Standing on the top of one of the peaks, we finally saw our
destination: Fachih (法治村), a small village in Jenai township ringed by
steep mountains. The remoteness of the village has forced most of its
inhabitants to depend on farming and hunting for a living. The village is
located on the banks of the Chuoshui River (濁水溪) and is hemmed in by
rugged mountains. There are only two access roads to the village, and
visitors to this secluded area often feel they are entering a mystical,
lost land.

    But this isolated village is not as cut off from mainstream society as
one would suppose. It shares a fate similar to other agricultural villages
in Taiwan: bankruptcy and over-exploitation of resources. Moreover, as the
residents of the village are Aboriginies, they suffer an oppression much
more serious than that of Chinese villagers living on the plains.

    Even a small and remote village like Fachih is not immune from outside
influences. The upper reaches of Chuoshui River, where the village is
located, is the source of much of the river's abundant water resources.
During the Japanese colonial period, the Wuchie Dam (武界水壩) was built
less than 2km from the village. Water from here was piped to the Sun Moon
Lake region for use in generating hydroelectric power, and for household
and commercial use.

    Water usage at Sun Moon Lake is nearing capacity now, leading Taipower
to draw up plans to channel water from the Chingshui River (清水溪) to the
area. The bulk of construction for the Chingshui River project is taking
place in Fachih, seriously impacting on the surrounding area. Taipower and
its subcontractors have dug a huge hole in the ground for the project,
built a concrete-mixing plant, cleared areas for storing construction
materials and waste materials, and constructed an access bridge to the

    Authorities have used a mixture of force and trickery on residents --
who rely on their land to survive -- into selling or renting their land
for the project. Work has already begun, but more than half of those who
gave up their land for the project have not yet received payment. Those
farmers who did receive money have pretty much used up what funds they
were given these past few years.

    More seriously, the authorities have not yet announced to the village
the result of the environmental impact assessment. Taipower and
subcontracted companies say they are not clear on the status of the
report. Many of the construction companies have carelessly dumped oil,
scrap metal and other rubbish on land taken from the farmers. Moreover, no
one is certain what effect the release of waste from cement mixing will
have on the farmland. Taipower has promised to "return the land in its
original state" to farmers after its five-year lease expires, but no one
is sure if this is even possible.

    Problems facing residents of Fachih did not start with the Chingshui
River project. During the Japanese colonial era, the colonial government
demanded that the village, like all other villages in Taiwan, deliver a
portion of their grain harvest to government warehouses. This is when
monoculture production began in the village, slowly overtaking the
sustainable production that was previously its mainstay. The shift away
from self-sufficient production increased after the KMT took over Taiwan,
and the process is now virtually complete.

    Villagers are now dependent on cash crops for their survival, yet
agricultural prices have continued to decline under a policy that is
attempting to drive agriculturalists bankrupt. At the same time, land
quality in the village is being degraded by the Chingshui River project.

    These two forces have led to a host of problems in Fachih, including a
drop in agricultural production, a lack of money, the loss of young people
to urban areas and the disappearance of aboriginal culture.

    These problems are not limited to Fachih, of course, but can be seen
in villages throughout Taiwan. The 921 earthquake merely brought these
problems to our attention.

    Looking over the Wuchie Dam, which is now cracked and only a half of
its original thickness as a result of the earthquake, it is infuriating to
think of the lack of care shown to villagers, cut off from the outside
world after the quake, and already the victims of the Taipower water
project. Their beautiful home has been destroyed, and they are left with
piles of crops they are unable to get to market.

    Unfortunately, soon even the government may not be able to help them.
International competition is growing in intensity, and the government will
be helpless to change policy once Taiwan enters the WTO. The trade
agreement is built around full trade liberalization. It does not allow
industrialized countries to subsidize or protect their agricultural
sector, even though Taiwan's development relied on heavy subsidies and
tariffs. The numerous subsidies the government has established to
ameliorate deteriorating conditions in rural communities must be
dismantled once Taiwan becomes a member of the WTO.

    With increased industrial development, Taiwan's agriculture is fated
to continue its decline. Once subsidies are removed, the government must
also lower infrastructural costs to maintain the competitiveness of
Taiwan's industrial goods on the world market. This will probably be done
by lowering the price of water, electricity, land and labor in Taiwan.

    This is the logic behind the government's efforts to build the Fourth
Nuclear Power Plant, allow private operators to construct power plants and
permit the construction of dams in Meinung (美 {AT} ) and Paoer (寶二).

    By tearing down nearly all restrictions on the import of agricultural
products, liberalizing the sale of land zoned for agricultural purposes
and importing foreign labor, the government has continued to force farmers
to leave their land and shift to industry or the service sector. We
believe this is a trend that will not change because of the 921
earthquake, but will grow in intensity.

    The remoteness of Fachih -- and the fact that it is populated by
indigenous people -- has meant that the public in Taiwan has never been
much interested in the conditions of the 900 Bunung villagers living
there, either before or after the 921 quake.

    Perhaps the tall mountains have blocked the public's view, but they
have not stopped outside interests from invading the village in search of

    In response, people in Fachih have now organized a Disaster
Reconstruction Committee and are preparing to use their combined strength
to resist the forces that are encroaching on their village.

    After so many years of being sacrificed by the government, the
residents of Fachih have every right to resist and protect the survival of
their village. In all likelihood, however, the government will use all the
methods at its disposal to suppress the village, in the hope of retaining
high rates of capitalist development. When the villagers fight for their
rights, they are portrayed in the media as irrational protesters. We hope
the public does not forget the treatment of these villagers over the past

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net