I hope the day comes in Taiwan when equality and sustainability prevail, when we no longer need pro-bono lawyers, or give out pro-bono awards. I don’t know whether such a day will ever come to any society, but as activists, we consciously and constantly take actions towards the direction of our dream. (Pictured: packaging area for lilies and other flowers in Houli Township where the Central Taiwan Science Park Phase 3 is based and prime farmland for flowers and other agricultural products. Courtesy of Chen Kai-mei)
*Acceptance note of the CSP Litigation Team After Being Awarded the Best Pro-Bono Lawyer Team 2011
If the Annual Best Pro-Bono Lawyer Award represents recognition and honor, I would like to dedicate this award to the six litigants of the Central Taiwan Science Park Phase 3 case, the other tireless farmers of Houli district, and our partners who have provided unwavering support over the years. They are the people whom the award truly recognizes. Every time there was a court trial, they would put aside their work at the farm and traverse long distances to attend. Faced with the dominance of legal jargon, they were forced into silence in court, their real life experiences buried under various laws and legal debates used as substitutes. Even their mother tongue was not the language used for the battles fought in court. But it was their formidable inner strength that was the real pushing force for the entire Central Taiwan Science Park Phase 3 movement. Today, we are the ones standing on the stage, but I hope everyone else can see them, and know that without them, we would not be here.
Taiwanese society is still in the process of consolidating its transition into democracy, and it is the very acts of expropriation and other abuses faced by these farmers that distort and undermine democracy, and that are the remnants of authoritarianism and bureaucracy from the era of martial law. The words of those officials naturally make people view them as sad and despicable, but for these cogs and screws of the machine that runs the country, following protocol and obedience to authority is but second nature. Contrasting them with the beaten and battered land and its people, I am reminded of Hannah Arendt’s observation of the Nazi devil Eichmann – so evil, but also so banal that he is numb to the pain of others, viewing all these as a matter of course.
It is the very fact that obedience to state authority and following protocols are such easy things to do that the value of objecting can be made evident. All of us, me, you, or anyone else can use their own position and methods to object against the reality that one finds unsatisfactory. Regardless of whether it is the farmer who stepped out to file a lawsuit, the professor writing a commentary, students taking into the streets to help the villagers, a judge making an unbiased decision, or even a civil servant agreeing to serve the people rather than corporations, they are all actions that can serve to reinforce the values of democracy. One or two lawsuits that last a year or two might not amount to much, but look at how much Taiwanese society has changed over the past 50 years, and consider how much of these changes are the results of people’s selfless sacrifice and unrelenting struggle.
I am 28 years old this year, and I have a dream.
I dream there will come a day in Taiwan’s future when our society will be equal and sustainable, when we no longer need any pro-bono lawyers, or give it out any pro-bono lawyer awards. I am not sure whether such a day will ever come to human society, but as activists, we have to ensure that we are consciously and constantly taking action towards the direction of our dream.