Saturday 31 December 2022

I decided to break my own tradition this year and not write a year-end piece.

Normally I feel the need to spell out that the year that’ll be over in a few hours has been good.

I also feel it necessary to say for the record (seeing that this is what this corner of the global information network is: a record of my existence) that I hope the next year will also be good.

Because I have not, as far as I can remember, publicly complained about anything this year, I cannot claim at this late hour that the year has not been good.

And because I’m optimistic by nature, I also find it unnecessary to make it clear for the record that I’m optimistic about next year.

So, because I can’t include these usual statements in my end-of-year piece, about what else can I type words to publish minutes later for people in Argentina and Siberia and Alaska and Durbanville to read?


So, stay positive. Even if it doesn’t always make sense. (Unless, of course, someone wants to kidnap you. In that case, you have to expect the worst and fight like your life depends on it.)


Two thoughts on China and Taiwan


I hope Taiwan can continue to be peaceful, prosperous, and democratic. I also hope that China can continue to be peaceful and prosperous, if not democratic.

I believe Taiwan should be officially recognised for what it has been for over seven decades: an independent country. Nevertheless, China has claims to Taiwan that must be addressed. It is my belief that this is an issue that should be worked out between Taiwan and China. The United States had a legitimate claim to a seat at the China-Taiwan table in 1945, and perhaps for some time thereafter, but that time has passed.

The independence of Taiwan or reunification with China is something that should be worked out between these two countries without interference from anyone else.


I don’t think China will attack Taiwan within the next few years – provided the international situation remains more or less as it is now.

Three reasons: 1) A Chinese invasion is the situation that the American Deep State and arms manufacturers desire the most. It would serve the American government’s geopolitical goals and ensure billions of dollars profit for the weapons manufacturers. The Russian military operation in Ukraine also served the American Deep State’s goals, yet Russia went ahead. Why wouldn’t China do the same? One reason is because Taiwan has not been bombarding ethnic Chinese people close to the Chinese Mainland but within the borders of Taiwan and destroying their homes. And at least for now, NATO is not building bases in Taiwan and is not training Taiwanese forces for a conflict with China [by December 2023 one can’t be so sure about the factual accuracy of this statement]. 2) A Chinese invasion would lead to serious disruptions for the Chinese economy and civil society. 3) A military invasion is not China’s only option for gaining control over Taiwan. Encirclement, blockades, and economic sanctions could possibly put enough pressure on the Taiwanese government to at least consider Chinese terms for negotiation.


Everyone can do better


Everyone has the ability to earn at least one million US dollars per year in ethical and legal ways. This is even more true if you live in a developed, industrialised country and have at least a high school diploma.

If you’re not making at least one million dollars a year ethically and legally, you’re not working hard or smart enough.

Of course, everyone has excuses, but the fact of the matter is, for every excuse you make, someone can stand up from the crowd and say that they were in a similar situation as you – or even worse, with fewer resources at their disposal – and they were able to achieve that type of income. (And, by the way, this wasn’t by winning the lottery either; we’re talking regular annual income.)

If, like most people, you don’t earn at least one million US dollars a year, you have no legs to stand on to criticise someone else who doesn’t either. Just because you make double, or triple, or ten times more money than your neighbour, or your brother, or your cousin, doesn’t mean you have license to criticise them for their failure to make more money. You yourself, after all, fail every year in earning the income that you are capable of!


Where I find myself on the map of ideas


[Result of my investigation: I associate strongly with aspects of Libertarianism, Conservatism, and Liberalism. Further investigation makes it clear that I am a political centrist, and can comfortably describe myself as a supporter of positive nihilism. In terms of religious beliefs, I have known for years that I can most accurately describe myself as ignostic.]

* * *

With the obsession particularly in the West with identity and labels, and groups and ideological tribes, I thought it would be a useful exercise to look at a map of ideas and plant my flag somewhere to say: “This is where I find myself.”

I’ll start with politics. A bit of research confirmed that I am not loyal to any ideology or political tribe. My values do correspond more to principles typical of certain ideologies, if one considers that political philosophies are generally broad, and that there is much debate about what Conservative or Liberal is, or what Left or Right means by the third decade of the twenty-first century.

I am Conservative in the sense that I believe in the value of traditional social institutions such as family, marriage, and educational institutions that teach young people how to think. I am also Conservative because I believe in minimal government intervention in the economy, and because I believe in personal responsibility, and free market capitalism. I am opposed to rapid change in society – revolutions in France in the eighteenth century, revolutions in Russia in the twentieth century, and other examples of rapid change make it clear that reform is likely to lead to less destruction of life and property. Furthermore, I believe in the right of every country to defend itself against hostile action from another state, but I am opposed to war far from your own borders in order to carry out some policy devised behind closed doors. Patriotism and religion also both play an important role in the creation of a stable society, as long as it is perfectly acceptable if you are not patriotic or religious.

Because I believe that personal freedom and equality before the Law are important goals of society, because I believe that the government should play a role in protecting these values, and even in promoting the general welfare of the citizens of a state, I can also be considered a supporter of Liberalism – to an extent.

However, because I go beyond traditional Liberalism and believe that individuals should be free to do as they please as long as it does not harm anyone else, and because I believe that governments should be kept on a short leash when it comes to intervening in the economy and in personal behaviour, I can also be seen as a Libertarian – or a supporter of certain principles of Libertarianism. (Incidentally, Classical Liberalism is seen as the ancestor of modern-day Libertarianism.)

I can also confirm that I am not a Socialist, because I do not believe that means of production such as factories and land should be jointly owned and controlled by the community. I also do not support the creation of a planned economy, whereby the government manages the distribution of resources and services. As I have already mentioned, I also do not believe, like Socialists do, that the government should play a strong role in meeting the needs of the citizens of the state.

As I understand it, I also cannot identify myself with the Social Democrats, although the idea of a welfare state where the government provides for the basic needs of its citizens, such as health care, education, and social security, sounds pleasant enough. Problem is, can you as an individual really be free if you depend on the state for your basic care? How easy is it for the state to withhold certain services and resources because you protest too much about some government policy, or express too much criticism about some government official? How much room is provided for individual freedom and personal responsibility? Honest question. Another thing, as much as I want to claim maximum individual freedom for myself, I must acknowledge that not everyone is equally competent to look after their own welfare.

In terms of political systems, the ideal is a liberal democracy, where the government is elected in regular, free, and fair elections, and where basic rights and freedoms are guaranteed.

Speaking of rights and freedoms: You’d easily think that any decent person would be an advocate of human rights, but there is a difference between positive and negative rights. Negative rights prohibit other people or the government from taking specific actions against the holder of rights. These rights include the right to life, liberty, and property, and the prohibition of slavery and torture. These rights are called “negative” because they require other people or the state to refrain from doing certain things rather than taking certain actions. Positive rights, on the other hand, provide the holder of rights with a claim against another person or the state for goods, services, or specific treatment. It requires other people or the state to take active steps to provide certain things – therefore they are called “positive” rights. These rights include the right to education, health care, and a reasonable wage for work.

What types of rights do I support? I always thought it sounded noble and generous that everyone has a right to a proper education, health care, and other good things. The question is, how much will it cost to enforce all these positive rights, and who pays for them? Who is appointed to positions of influence over other people and who is placed in control of enormous amounts of money to fulfil these ideals?

A discussion of the management of society would not be complete without a cursory glance at Anarchism. Especially in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, anarchists campaigned for the abolition of government and the creation of a society based on voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. Anarchists believe that government and other forms of authority are unnecessary and oppressive, and that individuals and communities should be free to make their own decisions and organise themselves without interference. The idea has always appealed to me, but I believe it could only work if society consisted of millions of small communities – with probably nothing more than a few hundred members, and no central or national government. This means the world as we know it today with nations and national histories and symbols will be a thing of the past. Can it work if we start from scratch – if a comet hits the Earth again and the survivors crawl out of their hiding places after a few weeks to rebuild a society from the ground up? Possibly then.

More workable is the idea of political centrism – an ideology whose adherents believe that the best approach to solving social and economic issues is to find a balance between left and right. Political centrists generally support a moderate, pragmatic approach to governance, with a focus on finding common ground and compromises to achieve the best possible result. A balanced approach to the economy is often advocated, with a mix of government regulation and free market principles. Supporters of political centrism typically believe in individual liberty, the protection of human rights, and the rule of law.

In terms of philosophy of life, or understanding of, and outlook on, life, I associate myself quite comfortably with positive nihilism.

Positive nihilism recognises the inherent meaninglessness of life, but instead of falling into despair or finding solace in this state of affairs, positive nihilists seek to create their own meaning and value in life. Positive nihilism is said to involve the rejection of traditional sources of meaning and value, such as established religion and societal norms, and is often associated with a focus on personal freedom and autonomy, as well as a rejection of dogmatic beliefs. The bottom line – for me: Life may be inherently meaningless, but that’s no excuse to waste your time on Earth and create no value in your own life and the lives of other people.

If you ask about religion and faith, my position is between that of the theist – who argues that God exists, and the atheist – who argues that God does not exist. Ignosticism is described as a philosophical position which holds that the concept of “God” is so ill-defined and vague that it is impossible to say whether God exists or not, and that rational inquiry or debate is therefore not possible. As such, ignostics do not take a stand on the existence or non-existence of God. Ignosticism is often seen as a form of agnosticism, as both philosophies reject the possibility of knowing whether God exists or not. The difference is that agnostics believe that the existence of God is unknowable, while ignostics, as mentioned, argue that the concept of “God” itself is too vague and poorly defined to take the question further.

Another issue that has heated up to a feverish temperature in the last decade or so is that of transgenderism, and specifically the question of how to define “man” and “woman”. In this regard, I believe the following:

1. There are two sexes, male and female. Primary differences include chromosomes and reproductive cells – female bodies have the ability to produce large gametes (egg cells), and male bodies have the ability to produce small gametes (sperm cells).

2. Gender is not blindly assigned to babies after birth but observed in the genitals.

3. No child or adult is born in the wrong body – a “mistake”, so many people believe, that must then be “corrected” with puberty blockers, hormone treatment and operations.

4. In free, liberal democracies, the expression of personality is not limited to gender stereotypes. Frequently cited examples include that girls may prefer short hair and climb trees without identifying as boys, and boys may like playing with dolls without identifying as girls. Grown women can fix motorcycles and pump their muscles, and men can wear make-up and speak in a high voice, without the man or the woman having to identify as the other sex.

Finally, in terms of origin of the universe and life on Earth my mind is open to three possibilities:

First possibility: Giant explosion billions of years ago that eventually led to the formation of planets and stars, and the development of life on at least our planet, but probably on other planets as well.

Second possibility: As in the first possibility, but beings from outer space at one point visited Earth and shared some of their technological know-how with Earthlings.

Third possibility: The reality we perceive with our senses is a computer simulation created by a highly developed society or beings that exist outside the simulation.

As a non-scientist, I’d have to say that the first possibility is more likely to be correct, but who knows?

This then, in sufficient detail but still broadly outlined, is where I currently find myself on the wide landscape of beliefs and political affiliations.


A solution to the Taiwan issue


The pro-Taiwan independence argument:

1. According to the UN Charter, all nations have a right to self-determination. The population of Taiwan represents a nation different from that of Mainland China – different history, different values. The fact that Taiwan and China share the same ethnic group doesn’t matter – Canada and the United States, New Zealand and Australia, Germany and Austria are all examples of countries where large parts of the population at one point shared common roots, or still do.

2. The Qing government ceded Taiwan and other islands to the Empire of Japan in 1895. After World War Two Japan renounced their claim to Taiwan but did not specify to whom Taiwan belonged, or who should take over the administration.

3. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has never controlled Taiwan.

4. The PRC was not a signatory to the Treaty of Taipei in 1952.

The argument for reunification with China:

1. The People’s Republic of China is the successor state to the Qing government, as well as to the KMT government that had ruled China until 1949 and has inherited control of all areas previously under the control of those states or governments.

2. Yes, the Qing government ceded Taiwan, but the Treaty of Taipei in 1952 nullified all previous treaties signed by Imperial Japan with regards to China, including the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki.

3. Yes, Taiwan has had de facto independence for seven decades, but the PRC has tolerated this for the sake of peace as long as no de jure independence is declared.

4. Yes, the PRC was not a signatory to the Treaty of Taipei in 1952, but the Republic of China has since seized to be the legitimate government of China and is not recognised anymore as the legitimate government of China by the vast majority of countries in the world. See Point #1.

* * *

I have come up with a solution to the Taiwan issue that should make everyone reasonably happy, except maybe the arms manufacturers and the aggressive faction of the Deep State in America.

The solution is as follows:

Taiwan and China agree to forge closer economic and other ties for a ten-year period – things like re-admitting tour groups, exchange students, cooperation in academic and other scientific fields, music and theatre groups from both sides of the Straits of Taiwan holding performances on the other side.

Then, the big thing: After ten years, a referendum is held in Taiwan with two options: reunification with China, or independence.

Taiwanese who dedicate themselves to independence will have ten years to convince the population that independence, and looser ties with China, is the best option for Taiwan.

China will also have ten years to invest in Taiwan and use the proverbial carrot to cultivate the Taiwanese population for the idea of reunification.

This should lead to a flourishing of cooperation in scientific, medical, technological, and cultural fields. Small-business owners and big companies will all make money. New economic opportunities would benefit workers in China and Taiwan.

If things go well for the pro-reunification faction, Taiwanese would not be willing to give up all the advantages they had accrued over the preceding decade. More than 51% of the adult population would vote for Taiwan to become a province of China with certain special benefits, such as its own flag (which will hang together with the flag of the People’s Republic), as well as its own monetary unit.

On the other hand, if things go right for the pro-independence faction, Taiwan can get its de jure independence after almost a hundred years, minus of course certain advantages that had accumulated in the previous ten years.

Problem is convincing China to accept the possibility that the majority of Taiwanese would choose independence. The question can also be asked what guarantee Taiwan would have that China won’t still attempt to incorporate Taiwan by force if the majority of Taiwanese reject reunification. Would America stand on the side-lines for ten years only to suddenly be Taiwan’s friend again?

If after ten years the majority of Taiwanese adults decide it would be more beneficial to re-join the Motherland, the case would be closed for Taiwanese independence. They would then have had their opportunity to state their case, and the people would have decided otherwise.

This also applies to the other side. If China could give Taiwan an idea of the benefits of a closer relationship for ten years, but the majority of Taiwanese still choose to have their independent state – which they would by then have enjoyed in practice for almost a hundred years anyway, then China must simply give up on the idea of reunification. Just ask Germany, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, France, Spain, Portugal, Indonesia, Serbia, and Britain, who have all had to cede territory at some point in their histories. All survived and thrived afterwards. It’s not the end of the world.

For the process to work, rules would need to be laid down, and guarantees would need to be given. Taiwan and China can negotiate the rules, but who would ensure compliance? Who would ensure that guarantees are honoured?


Fact of the matter is that Taiwan has a dual identity – the anachronistic identity of Republic of China, and the de facto but not de jure identity of Republic of Taiwan. Only time will tell if the latter would eventually replace the former, or whether both would be swept away in a wave rolling in from the People’s Republic of China.


It is not difficult to see that China is the party with the most to lose. As things stand now, Taiwan is independent in practical terms, but there is a possibility that China could regain control of the island. If such a referendum goes against reunification, China loses, as does perhaps one-fifth of Taiwanese who support the idea of reunification.

If the numbers are against Beijing from the start, why would they participate in such an exercise in democracy, and undertake to accept the results?

Would it work if Taiwan is willing to pay a price for formal independence?

In the Taiwan Strait, between the Chinese coast and Taiwan, lie a number of pieces of valuable property. About 10 kilometres east of the Chinese city of Xiamen, and more than 180 kilometres from the island of Taiwan, lies the group of islands known as Jinmen (lower red arrow). The Matsu archipelago (top red arrow) is about 190 kilometres from Taipei, and about 20 kilometres from the Chinese coast. The Penghu Islands (blue arrow) are just 50 kilometres away from Taiwan, and 150 kilometres east of the Chinese mainland. Would the government in Taipei be willing to give up these island groups in order to gain formal independence for Taiwan, and other smaller islands on its west and east coasts? Will Taiwan further pledge not to host any US or NATO bases? (They would, of course, be free to forge defensive alliances with Japan and the Philippines.)

Or – and we’re just playing around with possibilities here – Taipei keeps the islands in the Taiwan Strait, but Beijing takes control of two islands on the east coast of Taiwan, namely Green Island and Orchid Island (top and bottom green arrows, respectively).

Another possibility: Taiwan gives up control over the two islands in the Philippine Sea and the two island groups closest to the Chinese coast but retains control over the Penghu Island group. In this way, China gets precious pieces of land where they have not had land in more than a hundred years, but they lose any possibility of gaining control over Taiwan; and Taiwan loses a degree of security, but gains formal independence, and all the benefits that go with it. Would the Taiwanese public be in favour of such a settlement? Would the government in Beijing find this acceptable?

Whatever the details, the bottom line is that Taiwan would pay for a referendum that is likely to end in formal independence by giving up several strategically valuable pieces of land, and with that a degree of security.