Tue, Jan 03, 2012 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Passe Confucian thinking

I was amused by your editorial “Clash of cultures and personalities” (Editorial, Dec. 30, 2011, page 8). You might not know this, but it’s not just “wrong” to assault someone, it’s a crime.

Your rhetoric is typical of this Confucian culture, where a rationalized system of laws and enforcement has still not taken root, despite vaunted claims of Taiwan’s “advanced democracy.” One doesn’t say it’s “wrong” to assault a woman and ponder about the clothes she wore, the way you pondered about the way the “foreigner” talked to the motorcyclist. In the US, the police just look for the person who assaulted the woman or for the man who assaulted a pedestrian.

Whether a woman foolishly walked the streets in hot pants after dark is of consequence to her, as a victim, not to the police, as law enforcers. Whether a man foolishly displayed hundred-dollar bills in Central Park might be of consequence to him, but is inconsequential to the police, who routinely file a formal report of a theft and look for the suspect.

Typical, too, is your comment that the victim deserves “sympathy.” He doesn’t deserve sympathy, he deserves justice. It’s not “unacceptable and unfortunate,” as you say; it’s a criminal act and should be editorialized as such.

Taiwanese must decide if they want a Confucian culture or a modern democracy with a rationalized system of laws and the automatic enforcement of them.

I do agree with you, however, about the generalizations Slawomir Starok made about Taiwanese society. Surely he must know these things happen all over the world — in British pubs, in US parks, on French boulevards, etc. However, in other societies, when these things do happen, as I argued above, the law is automatically enforced and the transgressions are treated as criminal acts, not as moral infractions of some social code. Social codes are great to decide what to wear at a party or formal event, but they are meaningless to decide who is right and wrong under the law.

Frankly, I would have ignored children riding without a helmet as none of my business. Perhaps some families don’t even have the money to buy helmets, but that’s beside the point. I hope you understand this was not just a physical pushing match, but a serious assault resulting in facial and head injuries, the traumatization of children and problems at the police station. Yet all your editorial focused on was not the crime, but people who “overreact,” while you indiscriminately conflate “loud screaming” and “assaults.” Loud screaming is bad manners and maybe not even that if the occasion warrants; assaults are crimes under the law.

You end by saying that, though uncommon, fights in Taiwan “are usually vicious” and your logical conclusion is to “mind one’s own business,” when the real logical conclusion is that police should enforce the law. Or is such logic wasted on what is still — despite the vaunted elections in two weeks — a Confucian society?

Richard de Canio

Greater Tainan

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