Sun, Dec 31, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Taiwan has traditional values, but lacks order

By Lee Min-yung 李敏勇

Illegal buildings are structures that were built in ways that disregard the law. They can be found in the city as well as the countryside, and are often an eyesore — especially in urban areas. Illegal buildings are often involved in fires and as they also often have barred windows, which are technically legal, there continue to be tragic stories about people dying because they could not escape.

Car accidents are another problem. Every day there are reports about deaths from car accidents due to people disobeying traffic rules or driving drunk, both on freeways and regular roads.

Such accidents are clearly a result of human error. Although they might be unintentional, they still pose a great danger. For the victims of car accidents, who did nothing wrong, it is extremely unfair and sad.

All of these problems can be attributed to a lack of order. Unlike traditional order, the modern order is based on law.

Take traffic rules for example. In the past, on small roads and bridges in rural areas, the rule was to let older people pass first, but now that tradition has been replaced by the traffic light: a symbol of law and order. The new standard is the traffic light and order will only be restored if it is obeyed.

Freeways are the best example of modern orderly traffic. Every driver is responsible for making sure that their car is in good condition and that they obey traffic rules, including maintaining the right speed and following standard procedures when switching lanes or overtaking other cars. In Europe, Germany has autobahns. Although there are no speed limits on autobahns, they are nevertheless quite safe thanks to their well-established modern order.

Modern order is typically better established in advanced nations; in other words, their legal system is better enforced. Their buildings are designed and constructed in accordance with the law and are not modified at will after a permit for using the property has been granted by the government. Everything from the building coverage ratio and floor area ratio, to fire safety requirements and landscaping regulations are clearly specified and strictly enforced.

In Taiwan, even government buildings often do not conform to the law, not to mention buildings in which ordinary people live. While many of them might never get caught or reported, when they do get found out, it is usually because of an accident that had severe consequences.

The problem lies in how Taiwan after World War II never had a chance to develop a solid legal system that could serve as foundation for a new modern order. Leaving aside comments on the legality of the party-state system, martial law was used to control people’s thoughts and spirit, while accepting that they broke the law in their physical activities.

In a way, the party-state controlled the mind while encouraging bodily indulgence, and suppressed the development of culture while keeping the economy free. This strategy helped ensure that there would be no major resistance and enabled the government to maintain the Martial Law era for a long time.

It is due to the accumulative result of this approach that Taiwanese society has become materialistic and utilitarian, habitually ignoring spiritual meaning and values.

While its emphasis on traditional moral values has recieved much praise — it is well-known that Taiwanese in general are kind to strangers — the lack of a well-established modern order based on the law means that Taiwan still cannot call itself an advanced nation.

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