Stagnation of social mobility stifles youth

When looking at Yushan (玉山), the scenery differs depending on whether one is seeing it from an airplane or gazing up at it at from a valley. In the same way, different perspectives to the recent string of student protests and social movements arise depending on the standpoint of the observer.
Therefore, before a situation is assessed, people should reflect on their own world-views, for this is the only way to see where blind spots lie.
I am a lawyer of a certain social status and have some economic power. It is not hard to predict that a person like me does not want to see total anarchy because I hope that society will continue to be stable. However, while I do not advocate destroying the current system, this does not mean that I do not want to make some adjustments to it.
In the same vein, the political views of the leaders of the Sunflower movement should not be the main focus. Of more importance is the socio-economic status of the tens of thousands of young people and students who took part in the movement’s related protests. Those who have not yet entered the workforce or have only just entered it still need to increase their economic power and it is not hard to see that they are more tranquil about the destruction of the current system.
So, has the system really reached the point at which it is necessary to occupy government organs and paralyze them?
Consider it from the point of view of the protesters. If social resources are quantified, it can be seen that a person with a resource value of 100 units and a person who has only one unit will naturally have different hopes and expectations when it comes to changing society’s rules.
The former will be more inclined to cherish the resources they have and will be more likely to resist change.
As for the latter, what possible losses could they incur if the rules were broken? Even if the real outcome was that they stood to lose even that one unit, this person might believe that they could turn their one unit into two, three or even 100.
Also, for the latter, a motivating factor when considering breaking established rules, despite the possibility that they will lose their only resource, is if the current rules give them the opportunity to increase their resources. This is what is referred to as social mobility.
Consider the current state of democratic countries around the globe. They all face a common problem: an ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. This has not only greatly decreased social mobility, it has also started to decrease the “aspiration” that society at large and especially young people, have for social mobility.
This is an important psychological factor behind all of the social movements the nation has seen recently.
Given the situation of the nation’s political system, it would be an overstatement to say that Taiwan is a dictatorship. The nation is still a democracy. However, even if the system is stable, it must be pointed out that all democracies must face up to the fact that social mobility is decreasing, both in a practical sense and in people’s hope for mobility. This is eroding the legitimacy of democratic systems.
If those in power do not face up to this fact, increasingly serious protests will come next. It would be incorrect to think that such protests would only be aimed at the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
They will be aimed at any government in power, because — while on the surface it may seem that these protests are aimed at a particular leader — in reality, these protests are a warning to representative democracy.
C.V. Chen is a managing partner at Lee and Li Attorneys-at-law.
Translated by Drew Cameron

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2014/05/15/2003590366/2

【20140508 Taipei Times 1030508】

貧富差距 正在腐蝕民主根基

當我們看玉山風景,搭機從雲端平望,和徒步從山谷眺望,看到的風景會極不相同。同樣的,對於最近一波波的學生運動與社會抗爭。以不同身分立場來看,也會得到很不相同的答案。
所以,也許在做出評價前,應該先檢視自己的立足點,才能知道看問題的盲點。
先看我的立足點:一個律師,有一定的社會基礎與經濟條件。這樣的我,對體制不要被完全打破,以求社會能持續安定的有較高的期待,是不難猜測的。當然,我不傾向打破體制,不代表我不贊成調整體制。
同樣的。先不管太陽花學運領頭羊的政治立場,先把目光放在坐在台下成千上萬的青年學子,看看他們的立足點:還沒出社會或者初出社會,經濟條件還有待累積。這群年輕學子如果擁有比我更強烈的傾向去打破體制,也是不難理解的。
那麼,到底現在的體制,真的到了以占據機構、癱瘓系統的程度了嗎?
我們試著站在抗議者的角度去理解。
把擁有的社會資源量化,一個手上有一百分資源的人,和一個手上有一分資源的人,他們對改變社會運作規則的期待,會是很不相同的。前者會較珍惜擁有的資源,也相對較抗拒改變。
而對後者言,打破規則有什麼損失呢?即便,「現實結果」可能連那一分的資源都失去,變成零分。但在「想像上」他可能覺得自己可以變成二分、三分,甚至變成一百分。
對後者來說,要不要冒失去僅有一分的風險去打破規則,其實關鍵在,現在運作的規則,有沒有可能讓他有從一分變成二分、三分乃至於一百分的機會?這叫做「社會階級流動的可能性」。
讓我們來看民主國家的現況,不只台灣,所有民主國家都遇到一個困境,貧富差距持續擴大,不但嚴重降低社會階級流動的可能性,也開始降低社會大眾,尤其是年輕人對這個流動可能性的「想像」。
這或許是這一波又一波社會運動,背後重要的心理能量。
以台灣的制度現狀論,說「獨裁」是太過,台灣還是個民主國家。但即便擁有對體制安定的傾向,還是必須指出,所有民主國家,都應該正視「流動可能性」從現實端到想像端都全面下降,對民主制度正當性的腐蝕。
否則,即便這一波的學運平息,下一波的海嘯還是會來臨,而且,不要以為這樣的海嘯是衝著馬政府而來,他也衝著下一個張三政府或李四政府。因為,表象上是針對個別領導人的不滿,實象是,那是對代議民主的警鐘。


 【2014/05/08 聯合報 1030508】