Tue, May 13, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan needs public consciousness

By Wang Tuoh 王拓

Besides the fear of epidemic spread when we read about SARS in the newspapers, I believe everyone must have secretly cursed those people under quarantine for going to work and attending classes. Is it possible that they have no ethics or morals? Or do they lack public consciousness?

These criticisms and questions revolve around one basic issue. As society faces such a serious epidemic, is it human nature or a problematic establishment that accounts for the gradual loss of social order?

The answer is both. More often than not, the loss of social order happens when human nature becomes fragile in the wake of a spreading epidemic. What comes next is distrust among social groups, which leads to the estrangement between people. Such a mentality has been repeatedly proved in all of the world's previous major epidemics.

In recent years, Taiwan has continuously promoted democracy but has not progressively moved toward a civil society. On the contrary, self-consciousness overrides public-consciousness. The educational system has not taught students in a timely manner how to fulfill civic duties. Political figures in the legislature care about party platforms, not the public interests, not to mention the fact that they are no role models for fulfilling civic duties.

Singapore is seen by many people as an authoritarian country and Taiwan considers itself doing better than Singapore on the issue of human rights. However, Singapore has been able to control the epidemic and prevent the loss of social order. Is it because Singapore's epidemic situation is less serious than Taiwan's?

Absolutely not. The answer is the Singaporeans are far better than the Taiwanese in their public-consciousness and in fulfilling civic duties. Their crisis management system is prompt, conclusive and does not hesitate to punish those who do not comply with the law.

Singapore's achievements in epidemic prevention are decided by their system in which people are taught to have public consciousness from childhood.

SARS is not frightening. What is frightening is the emergence of many crises that we are not aware of. Perhaps the loss of social order is partly due to human nature, but a major cause is the lack of public consciousness in our society everywhere. Deepening people's public consciousness and thorough, systemic reforms against SARS the key to ensure our victory.

Wang Tuoh is a DPP legislator.

Translated by Grace Shaw

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