New words by Stuart Hill. Drawings by Yu Sha, taken without permission from “Across the Taiwan Strait” published by the Mainland Affairs Council, Executive Yuan, ROC, June 2004.
Once upon a time there were two families living on either side of a river. The father of one family, Little Brother was now living in Minorland. He left home decades earlier after a huge fight with this older brother, Big Brother.
They shared a common family history, language, and heritage. But after so many years they had grown apart and many of their similarities had evolved into significant differences of opinion. In fact, while they agreed they needed to talk to each other at times, and other members of their extended families got on much better, they couldn’t bring themselves to deal with each other too often and too directly. It was hard for them to be friendly for more than a few minutes at a time.
What made things hard was that the Big Brother from Mainland always thought he was right, no matter what Little Brother from Minorland had to say.
Of course there was always hope that one day the two brothers would resolve their arguments, and that both brothers could be closer to each other. In fact many extended family members were hoping that day would come sooner than later.
The biggest problem between the two was that their life experiences had become very different. Even their lifestyles and values had developed over the years in strikingly different directions.
As a result, each of the brothers’ families had also grown up with differing ways of seeing the world. They seemed to have fundamentally opposing views on a whole range of sensitive issues. This atmosphere made it hard for the brothers to reconcile, and in turn their problems had a negative impact on those of their other family members.
Big Brother from Mainland was always the bully, acting aggressively ever time the two brothers had a disagreement over something; even a trivial issue. Over the years an acute level of competition had grown between the two. There were even times when Big Brother used his influence outside the family to prevent Little Brother from attending events and travelling. Of course, this made Little Brother very unhappy, but he felt powerless to respond or resist, especially when Big Brother would say: “Nobody cares about you!”
Sometimes it was hard for Little Brother to believe otherwise.
After many years of anger and animosity, Little Brother decided to improve his relations with Big Brother. He proposed an ongoing conversation in the hope that Big Brother could be persuaded to see things from his point of view.
Big Brother was open to a new conversation. He believed that any chance to talk would bring Little Brother one step closer to following Big Brother’s direction. Little Brother was confident that his views were right, but not very confident that Big Brother would listen.
When they finally started talking Big Brother seemed to be willing to listen. Little Brother also said he was prepared to listen. For a while there was a lot of goodwill between the two. Big Brother felt his decision to talk to Little Brother had been justified, even though he still disagreed with the lifestyle and attitudes of Little Brother’s Minorland family.
Big Brother explained that other families from Minorland had returned to Mainland, and they were living happily ever after. Big Brother explained that as long as he followed his house rules, Little Brother could still have his own lifestyle if he wanted to return home.
Although Little Brother had a lot of sympathy for Big Brother’s ideas, he understood that deep down Big Brother would find it hard to keep his side of the bargain. He’d seen other families in similar situations start off well, but eventually both sides felt frustrated and annoyed, and arguments would quickly erupt.
In the end Little Brother said he would agree to disagree. He hoped that Big Brother would start to see things his way a bit more, and that he was optimistic that over time, Big Brother would understand why Little Brother was the way he was, and why he preferred to keep the lifestyle that he had built with his family over all these years.
Big Brother lost his patience. He couldn’t understand why Little Brother was so belligerent. He pleaded and threatened, pronounced terrible things would happen to Little Brother and his home on Minorland.
While he could see that Big Brother was unable to accept this position, Little Brother still held out the hope that one day they would again be better off – and that eventually the old disagreements would be forgotten.
Little Brother could see a time when the conflict between each side of the family was resolved. He only had to wait…