Seven days after a killing spree on the Taipei MRT system on May 21, in which four commuters were killed and 22 injured, the suspect’s parents appeared in public, kneeling down and apologizing to the victim’s families.
However, expressions of forgiveness are not very common in our society, while assigning blame is. Indeed, when this kind of incident takes place, most victims’ families find it unacceptable and will neither forgive the culprit nor the culprit’s parents.
The behavior of adults still involves their parents. For example, during the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic in 2003, one hospital banned fifth to seventh-year medical students from working as interns in the hospital unless they had permission from their parents. The hospital had come under pressure from parents wondering what would happen if their children were infected by SARS during their internship and if the hospital would, and could, take responsibility if that happened.
One female student in her sixth year thought the announcement must be wrong and went to the hospital wearing her intern’s uniform, only to be stopped at the entrance by the guard. When she asked why he would not let her in, he said it was a school regulation and that she would need her parents’ consent to get in.
Her answer was: “I am past the age of 20, I can marry without my parents’ consent. I don’t have to get my parents’ permission even for such an important event. I can decide for myself. Why do I need their permission to work as an intern? I’m studying medicine and are we not supposed to save people? Now that I want to take part and learn how to treat people, I need my parents’ permission? What is this? I’m making my own decisions, I don’t need my parents’ permission.”
Just like that, she walked into the hospital as the guard looked on, helplessly.
When a few of the other women in her class heard what she did, they followed her, and when the male students heard about it, they felt a bit stupid, so the next day most of the men went to the hospital, too. Three days later, the whole class went there.
According to Taiwanese law, a person reaches the age of majority when they turn 18 and are given their full civic rights when they turn 20. Many young people have spoken up lately to demand that the law be amended to make 18 both the age of majority and when they acquire full civic rights.
The law also specifies that no one who is 18 years or older and commits an offense can be treated as a minor or a child.
Think about it. If people who have reached the age of 21 commit a crime, we still blame their parents for not bringing them up properly and even demand that they share responsibility for the crime. This is a sign of a very undemocratic and very unsound civic society, which does not differ much from ancient societies and notions about guilt by association.
This situation also highlights how our education system places too much emphasis on hatred — “hate the communist party” — and slaughter — “kill the Zhu [De (朱德)] and Mao [Zedong (毛澤東)] gang.”
Rarely does our education system mention forgiveness and mercy.
After apartheid was ended in South Africa, former South African president Nelson Mandela and then-archbishop Desmond Tutu told South Africans that “without forgiveness, there is no future.”
Perhaps we should reconsider the nature of our education system and needs, based on this concept.
Lu Chun-yi is a pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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