Interview: Indie DaDee

Indie DaDee is an Internet personality, known for his participation in social movements and involvement in independent music circles. The following interview was conducted on September 18th, 2017.


Brian Hioe:  The first thing I want to ask is, how did you begin participating in social movements? What movements did you participate in? And for what reasons?

Indie DaDee:  Before 2008, I began participating by the keyboard, mostly because I had read some articles or posting some articles. The first I went to a protest site in person was during the Wild Strawberry Movement. There were people I knew in the Wild Strawberry Movement such as Jiho Chang and them. And I worked together with them on some matters.

The first day, to protest Chen Yunlin, I wasn’t there. But afterwards on the second day, they moved to Freedom Plaza, and I went more often then. I had work, so I didn’t stay there. After the Wild Strawberry movement, from 2008 to 2012, there weren’t as much social movements. So events happened in central and southern Taiwan. I wasn’t able to attend those. After the Wild Strawberry movement, I wasn’t able to always participate. Up until 2012, I began to more actively participate in demonstrations. It was student activist groups that led participation between 2008 and 2012, with the establishment or reorganization of different groups. These groups began to grow after 2012, with many participants playing important roles in the Sunflower Movement.

Brian Hioe:  You did music before that.

Indie DaDee:  Yeah. From 2007, I started interviewing bands on the Internet. From 2009 onwards, I began organizing events. And after 2010, I began planning music festivals. Many people involved in rock bands in Taiwan have quite a lot of feeling regarding social issues. So after I got involved in social movement groups, many people looking for performers would ask me.

Indie DaDee. Photo credit: 音地大帝 Indie DaaDee/Facebook

Brian Hioe:  For example, I know you volunteered at the 5-6 Movement.

Indie DaDee:  Yeah. From 2011 to 2012, I began to connect with some events. During 2012, the anti-nuclear movement was very strong, as a result of which, I helped them organize the 5-6 Movement from March 2013 to January 2015, in which they wanted to hold nightly rallies. So I helped them arrange performers, which I did for about two years.

Brian Hioe:  I participated quite often back then. A lot of New Bloom people are from the 5-6 Movement.

Why did you begin to participate? Ma Ying-Jeou was in power then.

Indie DaDee:  I was opposed to Ma and to China. But at the time, in social movements, independence and unification weren’t so distinct. And you can’t really say unification because those in favor of unification are quite rare. The most are somewhere in between. And the openly pro-independence people are a minority. But those who are pro-unification are very rare. But the political system causes a lot of issues, such as regarding nuclear power, or other lifestyle issues. Then you feel the threat is closer and participation increases.

Brian Hioe:  What were you doing on 318?

Indie DaDee:  I didn’t work in 2013. In 2012, after when Chen Yunlin came to Taiwan, those in favor of pro-independence gained strength. But that took place, the strength of China grew, and in society, the strength of large corporations also dramatically increased.

That’s why by 2014, things took place everywhere. In 2012, there were many protests and because I was working, I was unable to attend. Such as regarding the Shilin Wang family. I was working that day, so I was unable to go.

I thought the situation would only get more severe under Ma Ying-Jeou. And I didn’t hope to miss out on these events. And so I didn’t work continuously in 2013. In 2013, the proportion of social movements increased. There were a lot in Taipei.

Outside of Taipei, it depended on the situation. Such as Miaoli. Up to 2014, some periods were just empty, waiting for things to happen. But at the start of 2014, there was a lull. There was a large showing for demonstrations regarding the death of Hung Chun-Hsiu. After that, everyone had a sense that so many people had come onto the streets, but hadn’t accomplished anything.

There was a sense of defeat. In 2014, some demonstrations which took place at night were very small, with only a few hundred in attendance. And there were also less mobilizations. Between 2013 and 2014, there was a decline. So the mood wasn’t…I wouldn’t say despair, but there was a sense of decline. Up to 318, there wasn’t the sense that 318 would accomplish anything. There was the sense that this was just another important social issue, which required some people to go demonstrate on-site. So people went.

Brian Hioe:  So can you talk a bit about your participation in the Sunflower Movement? For example, what you’re best known for is the Big Bowel Blossom Forums. Can you explain a bit why you began that?

Indie DaDee:  The aim of the Big Bowel Blossom Forum was probably to reverse what people were used to in society. Because social movements and Taiwanese independence were stigmatized, in the media, and regarding how experts talked about issues. There wasn’t enough strength. It was a structural weakness.

But with trying this kind of thing, it was a way to feel that this wasn’t so weak. Up the Sunflower movement, even if you wanted to take this out and openly express your views, there was some difficulties. It wasn’t opposition to your personality or social background, society was opposing your political stances. Many were disguising their real views in public. So that was what social movements dealt with facing society.

Internally, participants in social movements always had a great deal of pressure, as well. Its a small group of people opposing large institutions. You see failure very often. In groups which fail often, the mood doesn’t feel great. Working in social movements is for the sake of ideals, but not everyone’s ideals are the same. And every has to hold firm. And there are also interpersonal issues, such as excluding someone from social circles. These happen in social movements, as well. There are often grudges between people in social movements. This question has to do with responsibility and privilege, as well.

Photo credit: 音地大帝 Indie DaaDee/Facebook

This was magnified hundreds of times over in the Sunflower Movement. The interaction of social sentiment and what goes on within social movement circles leads to a decline in performance. The more people participate, the more disappointing one feels towards one’s self and the movement as a whole. And I felt that if there wasn’t a way to resolve this, this would have a negative effect on participants and the social movement overall. Not to mention 324 and the unresolved situation of that. I know that some of the people who were hit by police during 324 didn’t appear after that during the Sunflower Movement. So I would want to hold an event to relieve stress.

Brian Hioe:  What about the fact that after the Big Bowel Blossom Forum, that’s when when people began to openly discuss Taiwanese independence in the movement? Or that people expressed criticisms towards the core decision making group through the Big Bowel Blossom Forum? Some people say that a lot of people began discussing Taiwanese independence much more after that.

Indie DaDee:  I think that’s because Taiwanese independence is often stigmatized, there is a large difference in proportion between who advocate independence and those openly express advocacy for Taiwanese independence. If you openly express Taiwanese independence in a social movement, the media will be after you.  So even if people that support Taiwanese independence participate in social movements, they don’t openly say. If it’s just a social issue, then fine.

But if it’s something related to China and you can’t discuss Taiwanese independence? It was like that with the Wild Strawberry movement. Maybe 70% to 80% of the participants supported Taiwanese independence. However, the mechanisms for discourse in society are all controlled by those in support of unification. So you need to create your own channel in order to get things noticed.

This oppression has existed for a long time, including in the Wild Strawberry movement and in the Sunflower movement. It’s very clear that many of the participants are pro-independence but because of their stance in favor of independence that they participate in the movement. But they won’t openly say it. This is a strange phenomenon. So during the Sunflower Movement, I felt that there was a need to break through this. I did this in the most improbable situation. In the beginning, I originally just wanted to protest in a more individualistic way.   But people had too much stress for too long and this became a means for everyone to vent.

Brian Hioe:  So, again, you would say its a way to release stress.

Indie DaDee:  It was a way to resolve the problems that the Sunflower Movement was unable to resolve. The Sunflower Movement didn’t resolve this. But these problems were originally such that you didn’t know anyone to talk about them. If you speak out about it during the Sunflower Movement, people would feel that there are these issues and problems. And everyone can see more real participation.

Brian Hioe:  How do you understand Taiwanese identity and your participation in the Sunflower Movement?

Indie DaDee:  I feel that its only if you have concern with this land and this place that you would participate in social movements, to allow this become better. And because Taiwan has a divide in national identity. It’s not only those in favor of independence that participate in social movements, there are also those who are pro-unification, but 90% of them wouldn’t participate in social movements.

Because probably national identity issues also has a class aspect. Those who identify with China probably have a wealthier economic background.  So social movements aren’t something which would allow society to become better for them, but rather something which opposes them. A minority of pro-unification left participate in social movements. In terms of proportion, they are very small, but they are very loud.

Taiwanese identification and participation in social movements are not inherently related. But if you have identification towards this country, then you have identification with changing this society. Some people may have a sense of Taiwanese identity, but are not enthusiastic about participating in social movements.

Big Bowel Blossom Forum in session. Photo credit: Indie DaDee/YouTube

Brian Hioe:  What would you say the Sunflower movement was opposed to? Maybe the most people were opposed to the black box, and people may have otherwise opposed it because of opposition to China or the KMT. And some people may have opposed it because of opposition towards free trade.

Indie DaDee:  Before the Sunflower Movement, every social movement would have its mainstream. But, of course, there were differences in thinking, even in small movements. Even small movements are not so homogeneous.

But this was magnified for the Sunflower movement. The CSSTA as an issue already incorporates a lot of issues within it. It’s using economic issues to package a ploy for unification. So opposing the CSSTA would also oppose the black box and CSSTA. I think the most probably would not oppose exchanges with China. What people was opposed to were threats to sovereignty or unilateral exchanges with China. It also depends on whether they spoke up as to the different reasons why they were opposed to China.

Brian Hioe:  What do you think are the political views of Taiwanese social movements? Because it seems to me that Taiwanese social movements still lean further left and are progressive on a number of issues, ranging from opposition to the death penalty to support for gay marriage.

Indie DaDee:  I think social movements concern themselves with a large variety of issues, which maybe concern themselves with values regarding the identity of a lot of people, and perhaps reducing the power of the government. People may lean more towards that.

Brian Hioe:  Three years later, how do you think the Sunflower Movement has influenced Taiwanese politics? For example, regarding the election victory of Tsai Ing-wen, or Ko P?

Indie DaDee:  I think the movement’s greatest effect on Taiwan is that the change in political participation is quite large. Ko P is in between. Because I think he would have had a chance to get elected even without the Sunflower Movement taking place. After the Sunflower Movement, it was for one’s own home. And after the Sunflower Movement, there’s also the appearance of the New Power Party and shaking up politics.

After two elections, people in social movements realize that if they want to advance their political advocacy, they also means participating in politics or running for election one’s self. In the past, it wasn’t so clear. People talked a lot about it, but those who actually ran for office were fewer. A lot of DPP legislators that took power in 2012 started off as district representatives. The New Power Party may also aim for that now.

So now there’s a shift in terrain and some political issues to fight over. There is some space for both the NPP and DPP to play for votes. Because I think to seize the day, there will be some shake-ups. Social movements ultimate need to take control of the state apparatus in order to have resources and use of the state to carry out things. Otherwise, you’ll always be outside of the system. Outside of the system, that can allow for preservation of values and oversight. After the Wild Lily movement, there were also a lot of people that ran for office. It’s related to past history.

Brian Hioe:  I feel that there are less people active in social movements now. Do you think that’s because people have entered into the political system?

Indie DaDee:  I think partly. Because the strength of social movement fluctuates. Because people gathered because of political issues, but these have been partly resolved. As a person, you have to take time out to participate in or be concerned with a cause, so not everyone is there. A significant enemies of social movements have disappeared or have weakened. And also many have entered into the DPP and NPP.

Like the NPP has some votes, but hasn’t won, so it’s still trying. The DPP is the ruling power, so they have many vacancies. And if there are many vacancies, its easy to absorb social movement participants. So if you have are thinking about the point of view of the public, if there are so many vacancies, putting someone into those places that is progressive is beneficial. But from the point of view of social movements, you’ll feel that people have been co-opted.

Photo credit: Indie DaDee/Google+

Brian Hioe:  What do you think the effect of the Third Force’s appearance in Taiwanese politics has been?

Indie DaDee:  Taiwan isn’t a country with two party politics. Because Taiwan has a very sharp divide in terms of national identity and class. But this is something that existed for a long time. Before their individual political stances or personal views, there are some people that will simply never vote for the DPP, even during the period of rule by the KMT.

The DPP also has some people that only entered it because of personal interest. So in the space created by this, a third party may appear. And the clash between the two pan-Green parties may actually have benefit for the public, since this leads to more openness and discussion of 2018 elections. This is also true regarding political issues. It gives voters a choice besides just voting for the DPP.

Brian Hioe:  How do you think China looks at the current political situation in Taiwan?

Indie DaDee:  I think China will realize that the current pro-unification party in Taiwan is ineffective. Actually, under Ma Ying-Jeou, they started to establish local organizations in Taiwan. But in terms of larger trends, it is hard for China to put people favorable to them in power. So they might continue to block the DPP and attempt to continue to use economic means to win over local areas in Taiwan.

For example, I live in Banqiao. The Mazu temple there is now organizing something like a “Mazu visits Taiwan from China” event, which happens once every twenty years or something like that. It’s quite large. That’s an example as to what China does to try and attract more supporters. Still, it is still hard for this to become real political influence. China can still try and buy people up, but there are limits on this. It may be either buying people up or attempting to intimidate, as with Lee Ming-Che. Or trying to attract young start-up entrepreneurs to China. But

Taiwan may not be China’s biggest problem. Their biggest issue many be maintaining domestic stability and their own internal power struggles. Taiwan is part of their internal power struggles. If you manage to do well in terms of winning Taiwan over, that increases your standing a little bit in internal power struggles in China.

But it’s not the most important factor. Even so, China has already decided to use force to try and intimidate Taiwan, as we see with them sending planes near Taiwanese airspace. They’re continuing with United Front tactics, but I think that Taiwan is not more important their own domestic issues. There may continue to be individual incidents such as the Lee Ming-Che incident, though, and these may even increase in number, but their domestic issues will take precedent.

Brian Hioe:  Do you think that there could be another social movement in Taiwan as large as the Sunflower Movement?

Indie DaDee:  In the short-term, for a social movement to take place, there needs to be stimulus. And there needs to be a stimulus as strong as with the Sunflower Movement. Up to now, everyone still places their hopes on the government, and that the government can resolve these problems. Under the conditions of the Sunflower Movement, there weren’t any expectations of the government, and the wrongdoings of the Ma administration built up anger against it—which is something that accumulated over time and led to the Sunflower movement.

It’s hard to see on what issue that the Tsai administration could cause such anger, because right now, it’s different protests of varying sizes. Some events, such as the indigenous traditional land rights issue, there isn’t consensus internally among participants so it’s not able to influence politics overall and to build up the strength to grow larger.

Photo credit: Indie DaDee/YouTube

Brian Hioe:  So the last question is, do you think the Sunflower Movement could influence international social movements? Many people would talk about Hong Kong.

Of course, the influence on Hong Kong would be larger, because its closer and because of the shared language. Because the enemy is close, its easier for people to interact. And Hong Kong has a shared enemy. Its very direct.

As for other countries, its very hard to say that one country will influence another country’s social movement. Because every movement takes place at a certain time, at a certain place.

The Sunflower Movement is raised in connection to the Jasmine Revolution or Occupy Wall Street, and there is some aspect of shared influence. But if there’s something that needs to be protested, it will produce enough opposition on its own. What happens externally may be have some effect, but strength still needs to come internally.