The nation’s armed forces, which count hundreds of thousands of people in their ranks, represent a sizable constituency in Taiwan, and as such should be called upon to help the nation in whatever way they can in times of need.
Already, many of the men and women who serve in the military put their lives at risk, whether it is during training, in the wake of natural catastrophes, or — and let us hope it never comes to this — in time of war. Far too often their efforts and dedication are taken for granted or made the object of ridicule.
Facing such odds, soldiers’ morale understandably suffers. What’s more, bad press makes the goal of creating a fully professional military even less attainable, as young people would rather turn to the private sector than join an organization that is constantly under fire. A country need not be martial or fascistic to accord its armed forces the respect they deserve. Just like politicians, business owners, nurses, academics or farmers, soldiers and military officers are an integral part of society.
Which brings us to the habit of using soldiers whenever large quantities of agricultural products need to be disposed of or their prices stabilized. In recent years, hundreds of tonnes of oranges and bananas have been purchased by the military and “force-fed” to soldiers amid efforts to help farmers. More recently, it was proposed that the Ministry of National Defense purchase large quantities of pork to serve a similar objective.
This is grotesque. While there is no doubt that soldiers want to contribute to society like everybody else — and they do, every single day they put on the uniform — it is difficult to imagine that proposals by politicians to bloat soldiers’ stomachs with whatever produce needs stock reduction or price adjustment makes them feel that their sacrifices are fully acknowledged. Quite the opposite, it probably makes them feel used, and we can be assured that this is of no benefit to morale.
As has been the case almost every year, the nation faces surfeits of products or price destabilization. Quick fixes, such as those used for oranges, bananas and now perhaps pork, will always fail to address a problem that is structural rather than seasonal. Rather than proposing to dump unwanted produce on soldiers, legislators and government officials should put their minds together to identify the underlying causes of what are recurring problems and, once those have been understood, come up with long-term solutions to fix them. Doing so would not only be of great service to the nation as a whole, but would also avoid alienating a sector that is already doing more than its share of heavy lifting.
Relations between the military and civilians, especially in democracies, are inherently tense. However, that relationship can be enhanced when proper respect is paid to both sides. Civilians should show respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line to ensure they can continue their way of life; it is just as essential that soldiers and officers regard society with equal justness, while remembering that the powers given them — force of arms — is a great responsibility and must only be wielded at the service of society.
Should that respect be lost, we cannot expect soldiers to fight and lay down their lives for a society that treats them like second-rate citizens. Using them as garbage dumps does just that.
Since COVID-19 broke out in Taiwan, there has been a fair amount of news regarding discrimination and “witch hunts” against medical personnel, people under self-quarantine and other targets, such as the students of a school where an infection was discovered. Quarantine breakers are almost certainly on the loose and it is only natural for people to be vigilant. One in Chiayi was found by accident at a traffic stop because his helmet was not fastened. However, those who follow the rules by quarantining themselves should be encouraged to keep up the good work in a difficult situation, instead of being
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator-at-large Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷) has said that there is a huge difference between Chinese military aircraft circling Taiwan along the edges of its airspace and invading Taiwan’s airspace. He also said that whether it is US or Chinese aircraft flying along or encircling Taiwan’s airspace, there is no legal basis to say that such actions imply a clear provocation of Taiwan, and asked the Ministry of National Defense not to mislead the public. People who hear this might think that it is not a very Taiwanese thing to say. US military activity in the vicinity of Taiwan
As the nation welcomes home Taiwanese who had been stranded in China’s Hubei Province — arguably one of the most dangerous places on Earth since the novel coronavirus outbreak began in its capital, Wuhan, late last year — problems surrounding the “quasi-charter flights” that brought them back have been largely overlooked. The media used the term to describe the two flights dispatched by Taiwan’s state-run China Airlines because they do not count as charter flights. Taiwanese wanting to board those flights had to travel — most likely by train — more than 1,000km from Hubei to Shanghai Pudong International Airport
As the COVID-19 pandemic spins out of control, many parts of the world are experiencing shortages of medical masks and other protective equipment. I am studying in Washington state, which at the time of writing is the US state that has suffered the largest number of deaths from the novel coronavirus. The week before last, UW Medicine — an organization that includes the University of Washington School of Medicine and associated medical centers and clinics — sent its volunteers an e-mail asking the public to make masks and donate them to hospitals. Attached to the message was a mask donation