Sat, Jan 08, 2005 - Page 8 News List

No gains allowed from suffering

By Chiting Serena Chuang 莊紀婷

How much ignorance and selfishness does it take to regard the suffering of others as an opportunity for one's personal gain?

We cannot do much but accept the fact that many innocent lives were claimed by the natural tsunamis on Dec. 26, while countless others lost their homes and are suffering from a shortage of supplies. In this light, it is very difficult for anyone with human feelings not to feel angry and upset about the selfishness and cold attitudes shown by some Taiwanese people and media outlets toward those suffering as a result of this disaster.

Control Yuan President Fredrick Chien (錢復) insisted on traveling to Phuket, Thailand to play golf with his son after the resort was hit by a tsunami.

According to the media, after confirming that "the golf court is located in the mountains, and that the hotel to stay next to the court has remained unaffected" and "his personal safety, transportation, food and accommodation is not a problem," Chien went to Phuket to "make his wish come true."

There is nothing wrong with playing golf. But why play it now, while victims and rescuers are in need of food and drinkable water? How can Chien think only about his pleasure when others in the same area are working so desperately to deal with the tragic aftermath of the tsunami? As a very high-level government official, how does he intend to lead Taiwanese society with the kind of "courage and insistence" he shows in this matter?

Prior to the disaster, hardly any Taiwanese media outlets bothered to station reporters in Southeast Asia. I have not seen any particularly valuable news stories filed by Taiwanese reporters who have recently entered Sri Lanka, India, Thailand or Indonesia in order to capture the "usual" tragic disaster scenes.

The "best" bits of information they have offered thus far -- compared to the international media -- was in ruthlessly forcing Taiwanese victims and their families to speak on camera.

Take the senseless reporter who asked a tearful old man who'd lost his son "How will your family carry on with their lives?" knowing full well that the deceased was the main income earner in the family.

Another reporter went to disturb a six-year-old girl who was just rescued from a coconut tree with the question: "How many days has it been since you've had breakfast?" Worse still was the reporter who insisted on asking a husband whose wife remains missing, "how do you feel now?"

Anyone with a heart would know how these people feel. Who needs cold-blooded reporters to raise such cruel questions?

The tourism sector in southern Taiwan came out and said bluntly that Kenting could "seize the opportunity" of attracting tourists who would otherwise vacation in tsunami-affected areas.

Then on Dec. 30, a major Taiwanese daily published a criticism of the nation's failed diplomatic strategy. Instead of insisting that Taiwan should quickly join the international rescue efforts based on humanitarian concerns, it asked, "how can Taiwan's aid involvement be a positive engagement of the Thai and Indonesian governments," thus equating humanitarian concerns with potential diplomatic gain.

It is worrisome that some businessmen and opinion leaders are either ignorant, aloof to the suffering of others, or are so selfish that they will try every possible way to gain from others' pain. How can Taiwan claim that it is ready to join the international community -- and expect others to help it with humanitarian or human rights concerns when this country is in need of support?

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