Exile thirteen

Let it be said, as I mentioned earlier, that one gets tired, not old. And so it happened to me in Taiwan. For four years I’ve been writing “exile” essays, and until recently I even considered changing the title. Because – am I really still in self-imposed exile after 47 months? Why did I not, after coming to the realisation in ’95 that I couldn’t stand the smell of academic books any longer, start looking for a job like many of my contemporaries, and busied myself with what could be described as a more conventional post-university existence? Why did I go to a land I couldn’t even initially find on a map, to do a job for which I had no experience, to lay my head – who knew where?

* * *

For weeks, the rebels battled against the government forces, against the status quo. Documents were shredded one evening on a massive scale in dimly lit offices in the capital. There were rumours of rebels in the suburbs, of heavily armed men having barbeques in the front gardens of frightened citizens.

Then came a counterattack, on Monday morning, on a flank of the rebel army. Two groups that had to support one another started bickering amongst themselves, and the government cleverly exploited the situation. A ceasefire was called, and the government and the rebels talked. The government explained that the two sides were fighting for the same ideal. They should work together, was the often-repeated sentiment.

By the weekend there was renewed fighting in the gardens. By Sunday, the government was virtually on its knees.

Late Sunday night the government launched a desperate propaganda attack. They let the people know if they accepted the current system for the time being the government was prepared to make a concession: the temporary reunion of relatives who became separated during the Exile.

The rebels lost support, for the first time in three weeks. The government talked with the rebel leaders again. The latter insisted they had enough supplies and ammunition to continue the struggle indefinitely but conceded that the men were tired. And, they let it be known, if the people wanted things that way, there probably should be more talking, for now. From their side, the government acknowledged that there was support for the ideology of the rebels even in the government’s own ranks.

It was decided that things could be reformed in such a way – if the rebels were to retreat – that society would look quite different in the near future.

That was Monday afternoon. Tuesday people went back to work, children returned to school, and money changed hands in the market again.

By Wednesday, there was uneasiness in the air. A large group of people began camping out at the government offices Wednesday night. The government had announced the conclusion of the talks to the people, who – to the government’s disappointment – only accepted the results half-heartedly.

By Thursday morning there was enough of a commotion that the rebel leaders reloaded the guns. Again, both sides put the matter to the people. Manifests and plans were explained, reformulated, and changed in places so that the people could decide once and for all.

The people were tired. On the one hand there was the very real desire for change, and the attractive humanistic ideology of the rebels. The people were nevertheless well aware of the problems that revolution would bring – of this the rebel leaders made sure with clear examples from history. Sacrifices would have to be made – about this the people never had any doubt. They also remembered the previous attempt at change that collapsed after six months. But the harsh reality of the current system could not be ignored.

Likewise, the rebel leaders could not write off the troubles of their current campaign as easily surmountable barriers. They were indeed at a crossroads.

By Friday the rebel leaders explained to their fighters and to the people that the full implementation of their ideology would be impossible if the revolution were carried out at the present time, considering a) limited funds, which would have to be stretched to overthrow the status quo, and b) the decision of the leadership that long-term ideals should not be jeopardised for the sake of short-term benefits.

The heroic efforts of the rebels have shaken the government, and the people are restless. The government leaders know that their firm intention to reform the current system was an important factor in the outcome of this final battle.

The people are restless, and winds of change are blowing. Although the rebels will retreat for now, although the leaders and the foot soldiers will rest for the time being, the guns remain aimed at the institutions of government. Shimmering. Ready. The current system has been given notice.

(Saturday, 4 January 2003)

A comparison of Reformed Plans 1 & 2


(Tuesday, 7 January 2003)

Factor four, and the implications

Then I thought, okay, I’m a bit calmer now about the whole “plan” issue. On the way home a few days ago – as I was passing a man selling fresh orange juice from the back of a truck – I thought, actually, this place isn’t so bad. The sky is blue, the women good-looking, and you can buy fresh orange juice off a truck on the way home.

That afternoon on the way to the tennis court I took the idea further. I thought back to the whole story of a week ago when I thought if a man had arrived here with a four-year plan four years ago … and that it would be good, and that it’s not impossible to carry out my current plans, and in a way be executing a three-to-five-year plan. And then I thought of vacation, and of making a pilgrimage to the battlefields of the First World War.

Soon I was thinking again of my ideas for next year, and that I guess I should … uhm … and it’s already Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, 14/15 January 2003. Nice.