Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Cultural and Linguistic Gypsy

【comment / English】

A friend mentioned a story he read on a newspaper column. A Roma man (popularly called the Gypsy) was asked by the columnist that why you don’t allow your children to go to local schools. The man replied: “No way. The schools teach our kids to become some other kind of people else. They don’t want them to be Roma.” He’s a proud Roma father.

To spare the discussion about the conflict between their drifting-around life style and the current social scheme with sovereign borders, I felt just as shocked as my friend who shared the story with us. The idea behind it is such a metaphor and reflection of our island.

We are sino-educated Taiwanese. The once ruling Chinese government in exile, KMT (Kuomintang) set up the schools to transform our children to become Chinese self-identifying. No matter what’s your ethnic origin is, Holo, Hakka, Pangcah, Puyuma, Cou, Bunun, Kavalan, Taokas...and so on, your kids go to the schools in where the teachers teach them Chinese history and geography several times than the content beloging to this island. For decades the teaching language has been Madarin Chinese instead of the children’s mother tongues. Notwithstanding Unesco called on the application of mother tongues as the teaching languages more than 50 years ago, in 1953. KMT has lost it power, however the incumbent educational system has cultivated so many sino-identifying people who are today’s legislators, teachers and parents. They’ve been turned into the stubborn advocates of the twisting system. It’s so miserable that we’re brainwashed so thoroughly that we can watch our beautiful cultures and languages dying without a frown.

It’s ridiculous that the Chinese government (PRC) attachs much more importance to mother tongues of different ethnic groups than us in their schools. How come the democratic Taiwanese goverment responds Unesco’s appeal worse than its autocratic foe even Taiwan itself has been listed among territories of mother tongues being endangered? How come there is a state that wants to convert its people into Chinese-like than China itself?

Still Taiwanese parents send their children to schools without further consideration. The modern educational process and credentials play such a role in our career and life. It’s pretty hard to require an overall rejection to it.

I just pray my dear countrymen who have begot kids not to forget their responsibility upon cultures and their mother tongues. Nor one day we, the people of a colorful island once with more than 20 languages and racial groups, will become just pure Chinese, purer than the real ones.

We are cultural and lingustic Gypsy. It seems we’ve got everything but the gem of pride kept by the Roma father.