Tue, Feb 15, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Letter: Response to Medvedovsky

By George Thompson

I feel compelled to respond to K. Avrom Medvedovsky's opinion piece (Letter, Feb. 4, page 8) which was a response to my opinion piece ("Little Sister Chiu Case Typical of Taiwan," Feb. 1, page 8). I can appreciate Medvedovsky's response to my piece. However, as much as I can applaud his willingness to come to the defense of what appears to be his adopted home, let me offer a bit of advice as to how said defense could have been more effective and productive.

First, Medvedovsky might have benefited from a more complete and accurate reading of the article in question. Contrary to Medvedovsky's interpretation, at no point in my piece did I use the words "unique" or "blame." My intention was to comment on an incident here in Taiwan, and thus, my comments rested on the conditions in Taiwan. Also, my suggestion of an overall attitude of responsibility is not by definition an assertion of blame, but rather a call to awareness.

Moreover, my examples were designed to make a simple point that apparently was not simple enough for Medvedovsky; certain dynamics manifest in "everyday life" and should not only come to light in the wake of a tragedy. To assume the tragedy to be an isolated event that is explained by a deficiency in ethics courses in medical school is to miss the greater social and yes, cultural, implications of the tragedy.

Second, I completely agree with Medvedovsky in that Taiwan is not unique. However, I disagree with the notion that one should not use the word culture as a source of social norms and practices. Enron and pedophile priests are as much a product of American "culture" as honor killings are to Indian or Pakistani culture or tribalism is to many cultures on the African continent. The unwillingness to see "culture" as a fundamental source of social behavior is to fall into the trap of "relativism" which in the end divorces individual societies and cultures from the very responsibility and accountability I was suggesting in my piece.

Perhaps if Medvedovsky believes I have somehow erroneously used the term his point could have been better made by offering his definition rather than simply being dismissive of my usage.

Third, if Medvedovsky's true purpose was to argue that Taiwan is not unique, his point could have been adequately made without the scathing personal attacks that say more about him than they do about me. What I choose to do in my personal time, whether watch television or visit a park, is not in the least germane to the point I attempted to make.

To assume that I have not driven in places other than Taiwan is sophomoric. To claim that I have a general lack of understanding of the term "culture" because I criticize aspects of this one is spurious. To make the claim that I am stupid and arrogant for stating observable, qualifiable and quantitatible conditions expresses an unwillingness to be open to the reality of the world around him.

Fourth, Medvedovsky could find many ways to defend Taiwan without defending those aspects that I chose to point out in my piece. Doing so gives the erroneous impression that my observations are somehow fundamentally flawed, which is far from true. To shy away from seeing what needs to be seen or saying what needs to be said, to deny the veracity of one's own experience and vision, is to fall into that very same trap of irresponsibility I argue against in my piece.

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