Sat, Jul 28, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Free Taipei from ‘celestial dragons’

By Chiao Chung 鍾喬

Inspired by Japanese comic book and animated movie One Piece, Taipei has been compared to the notorious “kingdom of the celestial dragons” (天龍國), a kingdom for nobles only, in the controversy over a temporary home for sick children.

The label has been turned into a negative symbol for the city’s Da-an District (大安) and its residents as an example of how the cultural and creativity industry can help us see things in a different light. Taking this view helps us to stop thinking about this industry only in terms of production value and economic terms, and it helps us avoid the idea that cultural creativity should be measured by whether it creates business.

The comics and animation industry has always had the potential to make the city reconsider its desire for modernization and that is something it should take pride in.

There is a reason why the desires of the city can be transformed into a shared sense of crisis. In the 1960s, a time when Western capitalism dominated the world, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an inspiring passage in his book Invisible Cities, in which he argued that it was pointless to try to decide whether a city should be classified among happy cities or among unhappy cities.

“It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, but rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give their form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it,” Calvino wrote.

The way of thinking about urban modernization driven by capitalism has become a bad example for urban development. The time has come for us to reconsider urban values.

Let us take real-estate speculation as an example, which is driven by market competition. Some people actually treat it as an ethical way of protecting communities. They claim that they want to maintain a clean and safe environment, but in fact their only concern is whether the price of their home is rising or falling. This is not only an attempt to exclude new or unfamiliar things from their communities, it is also a sense of urban self-righteousness created by the opportunist speculative economy.

Naturally, this has caused a strong protest from the members of the urban middle class who live in these communities and disagree with these values.

In other words, the wealthy are pushing up market prices because they want to protect the value of their property by excluding sick children from their community. Such behavior is of course unacceptable to anyone who is willing to work together with others to safeguard shared urban values. No wonder many Taipei residents were ashamed when their city was called the “kingdom of the celestial dragons.”

The discussion triggered by the comparison of the city to the “kingdom of the celestial dragons” is quite unique because it allows us to observe the greater picture from a small detail.

Indeed, crises are often seen in the city, but as Chinese tourists often say after a visit, Taiwan’s greatest asset is its people.

Frankly speaking, an immigrant society must be tolerant, but it could also easily lose its own identity as a result of external influences.

Still, we should embrace newcomers regardless of their social standing and avoid any analysis based on class differences. In addition, the people’s warmth is the most valuable spiritual resource in daily life. Taipei, as the nation’s capital, has always been praised for the warmth of its people.

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