Taiwan's Place in an Expanding Vast Universe

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Tuesday July 2, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

The universe is vast. In it, our solar system is but a dot in our galaxy and our galaxy is but a dot among the many, many galaxies. Scientists currently speculate that there are more than 100 billion of them, but even if that figure were to be totally low-balled into just 1 billion galaxies, it boggles the mind.

In April, astronomers achieved a new milestone when they captured the first image of a black hole. That black hole was in Messier 87 (M87), a giant galaxy over 54 million light years away from earth, and it is larger than the sun in our solar system. Such is the vastness out there and such is our reach.

This macro level perspective constantly challenges the micro perspectives found on earth and raises innumerable questions. One pragmatic one that is close to home is how does this vastness relate to Taiwan with its 23 million people? How does this macro level perspective highlight the need for a new global paradigm among nations, Taiwan included?

Humans have always looked at the stars, but it was only after the achievements of the 1960s that this helped effect the paradigm shift to a global village, a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan.

In 1961, Yuri Gargarin became the first man in space to orbit the Earth. In 1969, Apollo 11 landed two men on the moon. These accomplishments framed the significant decade of Earthlings going into space and along with other advances in communications and technology, solidified McLuhan's "global village."

Half a century later, with these latest achievements in exploring the enormity of the universe, mankind is being pushed again to adapt, this time from a global village to a global home paradigm.

What does that mean?

In the vastness of the universe, our "blue marble" has become a minute home and this directs us to begin to refocus on what it means to belong more to the family of man on Earth and not just to the family of any one of the imagined communities of a particular nation, culture or religion.

However, where is the leadership in this? The three of the biggest nations, China, Russia and the US, which should be leading the way in developing a global consciousness, are not.

Despite their size or perhaps because of it, these three major powers have become part of the problem and not the solution. Each seeks to recapture a mythical past greatness and expand its borders and influence. Instead of looking to the future of the planet, they compete. And in their competition they remain mired in zero sum games.

It is the mid-sized nations that have taken the lead in planet consciousness. And this returns us to the anomaly of Taiwan. Taiwan's population is larger than 70 per cent of the nations in the UN, and in GDP it is better than 80 per cent. Yet it is not in the world body.

In a global home paradigm, all nations, big and small, will have to work together as a family. None could be excluded. In families, members do not play zero sum games. The development of a global home consciousness and perspective affects everything--environment, economics and more; and it includes all nations.

National size creates problems here. The US, China, and Russia have no sense of the noblesse oblige that their size should bring with it. They fail their own citizens and feed their national oligarchs as they try to expand their national influence and seek past glory.

The US will never regain its post World War II luxury. China will not achieve its storied Middle Kingdom glory with tributary states; and Russia even with fake socialism will not achieve the past Empire of the Czars.

However, each—like an amoeba tries to absorb all in its path with a "me first" attitude while shunning transparency.

Size does create problems and men are fallible. The larger the nation the greater the chances of the Peter Principle (a concept developed by educator Laurence Peter that says people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their level of incompetence) coming into effect as well as a fostered and promoted cult of leaders.

It is the mid-sized nations that will lead the way. They have a sanity of give and take and can think in terms of the whole; they do not need to dominate world space; and they are not embarrassed if they do not.

However, among these mid-sized nations, Taiwan, which is strategic, does not have a place at the table.

Taiwan has and knows the value of a hard won democracy. It leads the way in Asia in granting same-sex marriage rights; it has a superb universal health care, and it ranks among all nations in the top percentiles of GDP. It puts satellites in space. Yet it is not at the table.

This problem is not just Taiwan's problem; it is symptomatic of the problem that a changing world must face if a true global and environmental consciousness is to develop to match humankind's sense of place in the universe.

Russia and the US in their own ways hinder world advancement. In Taiwan's case, the chief enemy to its democracy and freedom is China.

Yes, that is the same China that brought the world Tiananmen Square, the SARS epidemic; the ruin of Tibetan culture, Uighur concentration camps, the obstruction of Taiwan from being part of the WHO and its World Health Assembly, swine fever, and broken promises of democracy for Hong Kong to name a few.

Instead of solving its internal problems, China focuses on expanding its territory by claiming nearby Taiwan.

This illustrates why Taiwan remains an outlier, midsized nation; it is needed and full of potential but kept from making its full contribution to the developing goal of a global home consciousness.

Many nations exist with innumerable internal problems that keep them from participating in global consciousness, but Taiwan's case is different. It is not a matter of Taiwan not being up to snuff; instead it is that of a key player being held back. Put bluntly from a global perspective, if the exclusion of Taiwan is what happens in the greenwood of new consciousness, what will happen in the dry?

More people are becoming aware of the growing world problems that spread and cross borders with impunity such as crime, disease, global warming, pollution, and human trafficking. In solving them, the world will need all contributors.

Taiwan therefore cannot be hidden in the attic of this global home. It is a standout mid-sized nation and its exclusion is symptomatic of the cancer that continually eats at the ineffective abilities of the UN.

If the other nations cannot solve the Taiwan problem, they will never foster sustainable development and in turn never face the challenges of a growing consciousness of our galaxy and the expanding universe.