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Scholar advises Taiwanese to study 'Democracy in America'

2012/07/02 23:13:41

Taipei, July 2 (CNA) A well-known academician said Monday Taiwan's democracy has been "turning around at the same place" because Taiwanese are very unfamiliar with democracy, and even their politicians do not know what democracy is.

Lin Yu-sheng used what he called "immodest" terms to describe how democracy is being practiced in Taiwan: it's just a slogan, opposition for opposition's sake, talking non-sense in the Legislature and being impolite to officials.

"Is this democracy?" Lin asked. "I believe anyone in Taiwan would agree that this is not democracy. But then what is democracy?"

He said Taiwanese democracy has not make any progress because from their education they have not learned its concrete content, "just like someone riding a horse in a circle, the horse is tired and the rider is tired, but they just keep turning in a circle without going anywhere."

He suggested that Taiwanese take a good look at the classic writing of French scholar Alexis de Toqueville -- "Democracy in America" which explains in great details different operating mechanisms of American democracy and its cultural backgrounds.

"You've got to understand the complexity and the depth of its content, and the reflections on the future," he said.

But that's not enough. "You've got to have a good education system in which teachers and students are interested in studying this book. Particularly, students must be interested. Otherwise, it's useless."

He pointed out a problem with Taiwan's education -- that it does not encourage students to have a good memory of history. "If you do not know your own past, how can you face your future?"

He explained that by "memory of history" he meant an understanding of the meaning implied in history.

"If you do not know where your problems lie, how can you have a proper understanding of the future?" he said.

Many people say they want "good democracy with good contents," but they don't know how to get it, he said.

Seek answers from "Democracy in America," he advised. Taiwanese would benefit a lot from reading and understanding the book, he said.

Lin made his remarks and suggestions during a meeting of academicians of Academia Sinica, the highest academic institution in Taiwan.

(By Hsu Hsiang-hsin and S.C. Chang)