Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: policy
Tuesday, 30 October 2012 17:39

Kalih Didiyun: Relationship between Indigenous and Indo-Fijians

The idea of International exchange programs is not foreign to us. However, when you add life experiences and tribal sensations, it seems like a much more foreign term. I think back to my remote ancestors, who struggled and created fixed hunting grounds, with well-defined limits. Should another tribe cross over these boundaries, war would surely ensue; there were also some tribes that were good at social contact, which, by means of friendly mutual exchange, would swap goods or offer information, giving rise to stable alliances which lasted for hundreds or even thousands of years. These exchanges, full of friendly intentions, are probably no different from our modern concept of international exchange programs. Hundreds and thousands of years after our ancestors, we too are going to engage in what they did, an exchange of information to strengthen our common culture, and to find a “new understanding” of ourselves.

This time the exchange was focused on international interaction. Different from past experiences, in which both sides shared a common tongue, this time the exchange was between people from different countries and with different languages. Before the flight to Fiji I had expectations of “the indigenous people of two countries” engaging in an investigation of similarities and differences. After the plane landed, however, I discovered that my previous attitude of superficially observing and understanding any single ethnic group’s culture meant that I ignored the interactions between different ethnic groups within society as a whole, as well as how they are affected by global political and economic factors. If these “environmental” factors are put to one side, and only the individual characteristics of the single ethnic group in question are discussed, this kind of exchange trip can be of little value.

Generally speaking, the population of Fiji is composed of about 57% indigenous Fijians, and 37% Fijians of Indian descent. The former are classified as part of the Melanesian people, and speak Fijian; the latter are the descendants of the workers who came to work in sugar factories during the English colonial period of the 19th century, and then decided to stay. Because of Fiji’s colonial past, the locals often use English.

From a political point of view, indigenous Fijians are the majority. Because of the 2009 coup d’etat by the military, and the subsequent abolishment of the constitution 4 months after, Fiji is now ruled by a military junta, of which most of the members are indigenous Fijians. In addition, because of the fact that the deposed government was largely of Indo-Fijian origin, this caused friction between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians, which caused a large amount of Indo-Fijians to migrate overseas. After going to Fiji and interacting with the locals, I found that, even though there is no direct conflict, misunderstandings and discrimination still exist amongst different ethnic groups. For example, our indigenous Fijian tour guide Julia felt a little out of place when, during our trip, we paid a quick visit to a Hindu temple. Even though indigenous and Indo-Fijians are the two largest ethnic groups in the island, after chatting to the locals I found out that it is fairly uncommon for them to intermarry.

In economic terms, the Indo-Fijians have the upper hand. As well as some major domestic large scale industry companies, the Indo-Fijians have connections with international business. Currently the most important domestic industries including tourism (comprising over 21% of the GDP) and sugar are in the vast majority of cases in Indo-Fijian hands. However, the majority of the land (more than 80%) of Fiji is owned by indigenous Fijians, and this severely limits the potential for the economic development of Indo-Fijians. Throughout the military junta period, there have been several instances of indigenous Fijians raising the rent on the land in order to discriminate against Indo-Fijians.

***

Muaivuso village was very different to others we had visited previously. This village has avoided developing its tourist industry, instead focusing on working together with academic institutions to continue developing itself. I really admire this village, because the tribe has left behind the typical focus on tourism, and has chosen an academic route. Apart from the opportunity to advocate the integration of indigenous culture and modern knowledge, and the chance to promote the power of learning, it helps to share a traditional cultural standpoint with the wide world. As well as culture, another important aspect of the collaboration with the universities is ecology, preserving the indigenous people’s relationship with the earth through the concept of sustainable development. Amongst all of this there was a moment that moved me. When I was taking pictures to record the interior design of a house, a grandmother thought I wanted to take pictures of her grandsons, and pushed the two roughly two-year-old kids so that they were facing my camera, despite the fact that the children were busy tasting candy we had brought for them from Taiwan. The language may be different but a smiling grandmother probably has the same meaning anywhere; maybe she just wanted to cater to us “tourists” with a friendly gesture, but, if this kind of interaction springs from a “gaining more benefits” kind of mindset, it would inevitably leave a sour taste in my mouth, in the same way that the exploitation of the Orchid Islands for tourism does.

IMG_5960kalih

Right then, I heard one of my companions shouting: “Come get the candy so you can share it!”, and at once I found myself in a strange emotional predicament. Since arriving at Fiji, we have been to two or three villages, giving them candy, taking photos together, and giving out gifts. In these situations, my actions and attitudes have seemed to express the arrogance of someone who comes from a place he mistakenly believes to be more advanced. Giving candy or gifts is usually probably just an act of courtesy or an expression of friendliness, but, if you don’t spend time to consider the motive, you might not realise that in fact, you might be implying an act of “giving charity”. Even though locals don’t have access to modern factory-made candy, in no way does this mean that they need your candy to survive! A lot of Taiwanese tribal villages have also suffered this fate, but the experience of going from victim to perpetrator has made me reflect on my own behaviour and reproach myself. I hope that in the future I will be able to lead by example.

***

In Fiji, there are two main types of handcraft stores: Indigenous and Indo-Fijian. The reason we separate them like this is because they are both different in the way they do business. Instead of focusing on selling products, indigenous people will try to make friends with you; when they saw we were foreign, they asked us all sorts of everyday questions, and didn’t even particularly market their product. Indo-Fijians, on the other hand, proactively engage in business, and when they come in contact with foreigners, they give it their all; they say of every product that you will regret it later if you don’t buy it now! The initial price offered by the Indo-Fijians is higher, so people often pay a higher price than at the indigenous stores. However, if you bargain, you can often get things for a lower price than you would at the indigenous stores. I assume it’s because indigenous Fijians might be relatively worse at business, so if the price goes below a certain number they won’t accept the offer. Indo-Fijians always aspire to reach an agreement when doing business, even if they occasionally lose some money in a transaction.

The thing that I was most concerned about in Fiji was actually the relationship between indigenous and Indo-Fijians. Living together in the same island is just a consequence of history, but being able to interact with each other hand in hand and harmoniously, is the true road to happiness. Despite being an indigenous Taiwanese myself, I found myself sympathising more with the Indo-Fijians, who don’t have land to the point that they are often penniless, and lack support resources, in contrast with the indigenous Fijians, who have the majority of the land and benefit from welfare policies and insurance. Even though they constitute almost half of the total population, in the period of the military government some Indo-Fijian stores were destroyed, leaving the people homeless and destitute. Those that left the country and live abroad as political refugees still consider themselves Fijian above Indian, and still care about Fijian affairs. Thinking about this makes me feel sad.

In Fiji, indigenous and Indo-Fijians used to deal with each other in a harmonious way, but later the political propaganda caused problems between the two ethnic groups, including opposition for the sake of opposition. Taiwan is the same, first separating between Benshengren (those descended from people who arrived from China before Chiang Kai-Shek) and Waishengren (those who came after), and later on making distinctions between South East Asian immigrants and aborigines. There are also the current issues over unification and independence, which are all part of this political language. After this bickering, society becomes full of unrest and instability. We separate people this way and that, but are we not all just trying to grow on this land? We can be confident and proud when emphasizing our aborigine culture, but to sink to ignorant bickering, to isolating ourselves, will just cause more issues. As far as I know, the meaning of the word “yuanzhumin”(aborigine) in Taiwan is in constant evolution; it is not only defined by mainstream society, or the so-called “9 tribes” or the current “14 tribes”, how far can we keep going until we stop separating into groups? In the end, it is all to no avail.

One of the reason why culture is to be treasured lies in the fact that when you conduct cultural exchanges, you can learn the strong and beautiful aspects of each other’s culture, allowing for the culture to grow in charm and power. This process can be big or small in its scope, like when I assimilated my Fiji experiences to make them a part of me. I discovered an optimistic and leisurely people, and understood that living in this way is living a blessed and beautiful life. If, one day in the future, I become someone who can exert influence, I hope to be able to bring the charm of these people to our own culture. My ideal of culture is one that is compatible with others and grows, a heterogeneous culture. Rather than worrying about being assimilated into the mainstream majority culture, it is better to strive to develop the truth, goodness and beauty in one’s own culture, in order to influence the mainstream train of thought.

 

Translated from the Chinese by Daniel Pagan Murphy


Thursday, 26 July 2012 00:00

Gaël Giraud's Proposals for Capitalism

Gaël Giraud, Economic Researcher at the CNRS, tells us about his book "20 proposals to reform Capitalism"(20 propositions pour réformer le capitalisme) and discusses topics ranging from the economic crisis to green development.


Thursday, 01 March 2012 16:27

Youth Design a New Future for Themselves.

‘Youth Design’ is a project of the Taiwan Alliance for Advancement of Youth Rights and Welfare (TAAYRW), set up to provide foundational work skills and professional design training, allowing young people to familiarize themselves with design related jobs, and helping them to accumulate work experience, to successfully orientate themselves in the job market, and to develop their skills.

Senior project manager Hong Xiaoping explained, "It’s mostly design classes, for one hundred hours, work ethics, financial management and work shadow, to understand the nature of the work in the design and printing industries. Including classes on CV writing and team-work, allowing students to understand that having talent alone is not enough.

Opportunities for internships are also available depending on your CV and on mock interviews, as a means of pairing off placements and interns. Students submit their CV themselves, and have a choice of 2 or 3 companies. The internship allowance is provided my TAAYRW."

Hong Xiaoping told us that often companies question the value of having young people who have given up on their studies and have no professional background interning at their workplaces.Many firms discover that these young people have a lot more potential than they had imagined, although they often find they have to adjust their methods and preconceived ideas when dealing with them. Young people nowadays tend to question everything, and don’t like being bossed about. Once they are clear on the purpose of what they are doing, and they know its significance, they are willing to go and do it.

LIDAHUA_S

We also interviewed the Secretary General of the TAAYRW, Yeh Dahwa, and asked her to explain the idea behind the ‘YouthDesign’ project.

TAAYRW was founded eight and a half years ago, with the primary aim of changing the stereotypical idea within society that the youth are ‘dependent’, and instead to portray them as ‘citizens-in-the-making’. We promote rights including for welfare protection, public participation, recreation, health, education, and employment.

Society needs to see the changes that ordinary young people are going through, on the cusp of becoming mature citizens of society, and this needs to be supported by society, in terms of families, communities and educational institutions, and foster an atmosphere of social participation, citizenship and a safety net for those who fall into poverty.

When looking at the development of young people, you can’t just look at the situation from one angle, like focusing on those who come from under privileged backgrounds, or on the school entry system

The mainstream test-focused system.

Approximately 90% of young people make their life choices within the frame of the test-focused system, they are restricted by this system of values. If they don’t get into a good school or get good grades, their value to society diminishes, to the point that some of them might not even be considered people. Moreover, whenever there is any activity that contradicts this mainstream ideology appears, it is quickly blown out of proportion by the media, and becomes so-called deviant or antisocial behavior.

The question is, are the resources and choices offered by society enough? Everybody is forced to take the same path, but some people from different backgrounds are not suitable to follow this mainstream path, yet they are still constrained by it.

If the mainstream education system continues to bread people who are just good at pursuing good grades, then it will suppress the emergence of many kinds of creative talent, who will have to rely solely on their own effort, without support. For example a lot of people only have the chance to realize their talent abroad, why don’t we cultivate this kind of talent in Taiwan? The education policy focuses on collecting what is already a finished product, instead of nurturing new talent, it is very short-sighted.

There needs to be some planning ahead when it comes to policy. For example, if someone enjoys painting and creative work, how can we help them become a designer or someone involved in creative activities. This process cannot be achieved in one go, but rather needs to be cumulative. With this in mind, we hope that through or training project “Good Design”, we can let people know that the talent training that the Taiwanese government often mentions needs to be a cumulative, top-bottom process. It requires consideration from the business point of view, and investment from the education aspect. Moreover, it should support people before they have made a name for themselves.

Shattering some myths

A lot of people believe young people are part of “The strawberry generation” (Taiwanese term for those born between 1980-90, that were raised well off), that they are not good at dealing with pressure, that they are cold towards society. But why do people have to use this label? If people did a bit of research and widened their horizons before attaching these kind of labels, then these kinds of terms wouldn’t even exist.

We have seen a lot of employers who are interested in making use of young people’s energy, passion, and creativity. But they are scared because of the stereotypes they often see in the media, such as young people being hard to control or egocentric, so the first time they employ a young person they are usually wary. We feel that our organizations activities and accomplishments have become very important. We have invited a careers coach to serve as a bridge, helping companies and employers understand how to interact with young people. We hope that through these training activities, we can make people understand a lot of these young people are not “strawberries”; they work very hard and very seriously at their jobs, but this hard effort is not reported by the media.

Translated from the Chinese by Daniel Pagan Murphy, Conor Stuart

Chen Jiajun, the girl who participated in "Youth design" program tells us her story...

Li Xin, one of the participants of "Youth Design" shares her experiences studying in Taiwan and Denmark, and her determination to work in the art field, and how the project enabled her in this goal:

 


Wednesday, 18 January 2012 17:43

A Not So Imminent Crisis: Taiwan's Aging Population


News reports abound about Taiwan's aging population problem, many emphasizing the imminence of this impending doom, but is Taiwan really as far down this path as eye-grabbing headlines wish to suggest? eRenlai talked to government minister Cheng-Tay James Hsueh about the realities of the aging population problem in Taiwan and what the government is doing about it and to a young woman who talks about her decision to have children in the near future.


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