In 1978, a mysterious figure who eventually came to be known as the university and airline bomber, or Unabomber, came into the spotlight in the US. This person initiated a bombing campaign by sending an intentionally wrongly addressed parcel bomb to Northwestern University that exploded and wounded the university police officer who opened it.
Between 1978 and 1995, a number of universities, airlines and other businesses across the US received a total of 16 bombs, which left three people dead and injured more than 20 others.
The search for this clandestine bomber was one of the most costly investigations in FBI history. In the end the culprit turned out to be Theodore Kaczynski, who had been a highly gifted student at Harvard University’s department of mathematics.
Kaczynski, who had an IQ of 167, finished his doctoral studies in a few months and went on teach at the University of California, Berkeley for two years.
He targeted his bombing campaign at scientists, engineers and other high-technology personnel, hoping to achieve human freedom and liberation by reversing scientific and technological progress.
On Monday last week, another bomb attack took place in the US, this time at the Boston Marathon. The explosions killed at least three people and injured more than 170, shattering limbs in a cloud of smoke.
At present, it seems that the bombing was the action of two individuals, and the tragedy has re-ignited long-term social tensions and caused a new wave of fear in US society.
By coincidence, Taiwan witnessed a bomb scare on a High Speed Rail train just three days before the Boston Marathon bombing. Police have arrested two suspects, but regardless of whether they are responsible, this is not the first such incident in Taiwan.
In 1992, bombs exploded at branches of McDonald’s. The culprit, Chen Hsi-chieh (陳希杰), used dynamite in a attempt to extort money from the company.
From 2003 to 2004, Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), known as the “rice bomber,” planted explosives in various locations around Taipei on 17 occasions. His campaign was meant to highlight his demand for the government to pay more attention to the impact that deregulated rice imports were having on Taiwanese farmers.
No matter whether they were motivated by personal profit or social justice, what these bombers represent is the way in which discontent acts as a fuse that can ignite distorted social values. Besides causing injuries and deaths, bombs have an impact on basic social values and trust.
Recently, the gap between rich and poor in Taiwan has been widening. The government has failed to propose an effective welfare system to redistribute income, or to reduce the gap between the pensions for military personnel, civil servants and state school teachers on the one hand, and farmers and private sector workers on the other.
It has also failed to come up with effective social policies to stabilize surging housing and commodity prices.
While flaunting slogans about bringing house prices under control, the government hands over choice plots of state-owned land for speculation by big business. On the one hand it preaches about how education gives people a chance to change their social status, but on the other it quietly raises the economic threshold for entry into education, thus blocking students from equal access to learning.