Thu, May 29, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Actions speak louder than words

By Ku Er-teh 顧爾德

PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) has criticized the epidemic prevention measures implemented by President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government as inappropriate. He says that rather than going on like this, "it would be better to just hand over power sooner rather than later. We would be happy to take over and help the public solve their problems."

These are powerful words. They carry the compassion of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha, who promised to save all sentient beings, and the lofty sentiment of Hsiangyu the Conqueror, who proudly said he would "take anything that could be taken." It is like saying that "the people's wishes are always in my heart" and promising to bring the people of Taiwan out of Egypt, like a modern Moses.

If a leader can come forward and settle the chaos, I am certain that a majority of the Taiwanese people, now suffering from the physical threat and mental panic brought by the SARS virus, is willing to follow him, her, it or Him. We will all follow a mighty leader, be it Soong, Wu Yi (吳儀), isatis root or the Prince of the Hills. Only by following can we continue to scrape along -- if we don't, we will be unable to keep on arguing about left or right, unification or independence.

The question is if any one of all these bad apples, sages and heroes have the intelligence and abilities required to take on the responsibility of telling the public in simple, straightforward language that "I can lead you out of this misery, and this is how I'll do it." Over the last month, we've seen far too many people brave enough to say the first part of this sentence, or the second part, but very few people dare connect the two. Why? Because very few people dare utter such irresponsible words.

The PFP's medical authority, Chang Chao-hsiung (張昭雄), has suggested turning Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital into a SARS-only hospital. In response, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jiou (馬英九) said, "It's not that the city government won't do it, but rather that it can't be done, objectively speaking." Chang made the suggestion based on his medical expertise, even though a consensus remains elusive even within his own blue camp.

We shouldn't comment on Chang's and Ma's differences of opinion based on political motives, since both of them probably have their professional reasons. But unless someone is able to resolve this difference, no politician will be qualified to say that he would be "happy to take over sooner rather than later and help the public solve their problems."

In a praiseworthy effort, Chang has introduced an enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) reagent from China to his old hospital, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, for use in SARS screening tests. Chang then held a news conference together with the superintendent of the Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital to explain how the hospital adopted high-quality measures in its battle against SARS.

Just a few days later, however, that quality image was ruined by reports about an outbreak of SARS within the hospital.

Would it be right to say that Chang has been covering up the shortcomings of his old hospital? Maybe an even more important lesson is that there are limitations to our abilities and knowledge and that no one is omniscient and omnipotent.

People are neither omniscient nor omnipotent. Because we will make mistakes, social regulation and criticism is necessary. Those providing this regulation and criticism should also reflect on the fact that they are neither omniscient nor omnipotent.

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