Wed, Jan 17, 2007 - Page 8 News List

National spirit is an important ingredient

By Lee Yung-ming 李永明

In late 2005, Masahiko Fujiwara, a Japanese mathematician, published a book titled Dignity of a Nation. Despite a strong grounding in logic, Fujiwara felt that logic and reason cannot solve social problems and gave four reasons for this view: Logic is limited, the most important issues cannot be explained by logic, logic requires a starting point and the chain of logical reasoning cannot be very long.

This led him to claim that the concepts of freedom and equality were Western illusions and that communism, realism and democracy -- as products of logic -- were the real reasons behind the world's problems.

His motive for writing the book stemmed from his belief that Japanese had lost pride and belief in themselves as well as in the national soul and dignity.

Fujiwara argued that these could be restored by a return to traditional Japanese values, such as respect for nature, aesthetics, Shintoism and bushido, the way of the samurai.

The book sold 3 million copies, making it one of last year's biggest sellers in Japan.

For Fujiwara, bushido is to Japan what the pioneering spirit is to the US. In other words, it represents the soul of the nation.

In his view, bushido encompasses benevolence, honesty, patience, justice, bravery and compassion. As someone born and raised in Taiwan, I cannot help but wonder what makes up the spirit of Taiwan.

Last year, Ye Hai-yen (葉海煙), a professor in the philosophy department at Soochow University, published a book titled The Taiwanese Spirit (台灣人的精神).

Ye discussed Taiwanese spirit from the points of view of history, culture, philosophy, symbolism and new thought.

Sweet potatoes, water lilies, buffalos and whales symbolize that spirit, he wrote. He also mentioned 16 individuals who he claimed embodied that spirit.

The book never caught on, which raises the question whether this is because Taiwanese do not care about the Taiwanese spirit or because there simply is no such spirit.

A friend once said that Taiwanese unknowingly became mentally passive as a result of long-term colonization. Somewhere deep inside, Taiwanese feel they are incapable of being their own masters and are also afraid of claiming that they are. This is the reason for the lack of a Taiwanese spirit.

The Taiwanese spirit should include the following elements.

An independent mind is required to build a national spirit.

An unbending mind is required in the face of China's "Anti-Secession" Law and the 800 or so missiles it aims at Taiwan. Taiwanese should not give in to China's hegemonic ambitions.

A tolerant mind is required in that different ideas should be tolerated. Ethnic groups should work together and different political opinions should be respected in the same way we respect people's religious beliefs.

Sympathy and care for disadvantaged groups are required. Corporate leaders should not leave their debt and move all their investment to China, disregarding their employees.

Given the effects of globalization, government and industry should increase their investments in the nation and show concern for workers and farmers. Media outlets have social responsibility to show concern for disadvantaged groups in society. Taiwanese should distance themselves from anyone who bullies the weak.

Honesty, justice, and order are required. We should treat each other with sincerity, be honest and sincere in what we do, foster a universal sense of justice, and abide by the law.

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