[ LETTER ]

Fri, Oct 06, 2017 - Page 8

A lack of moral leadership

Whenever foreigners praise Taiwanese for their friendliness and kindness, I feel like I must be living in a parallel universe (“Book review: Virtuous island,” Sept. 21, page 14).

Take, for example, the recent letter in which James Baranishyn voiced his concerns about air pollution, particularly the inconsiderate burning of joss paper (Letters, Sept. 19, page 8). His letter raised three issues for me.

First, I once confronted a neighbor who was burning joss paper, as the smoke was contaminating the entire street, including my apartment. Instead of listening to my concerns or possibly stopping what he was doing, he called the police and threatened to have me arrested for “having insulted his honor” or whatever.

I had to tell him “sorry” when inside I believed myself to be totally in the right in defending my health and the planet’s health.

I have been threatened with arrest and physical violence at least five times simply for reminding Taiwanese of their own traffic rules or of decent behavior toward fellow human beings.

So much for the supposed friendliness of Taiwanese: It vanishes into thin air, just like burned joss paper, as soon as you criticize them in any way.

Taiwanese have no culture of dealing with criticism, no matter how justified, and especially not criticism from foreigners, because then they become all emotional and irrational about losing face.

Second, most religious leaders are completely irresponsible when it comes to protecting the health of Taiwan’s residents and the environment (“Temple traditions versus environmental concerns,” Aug. 1, page 3).

Besides the toxic air pollution that religious practice produces, many temples burn their trash or throw it in a nearby river, while the idiotic release of prayer animals encourages animal cruelty and the introduction of dangerous animals, including poisonous snakes.

Most disappointing, however, is the almost total absence of moral leadership on these issues: While the Dalai Lama and the Pope are outspoken about the need to protect the environment, you almost never hear a religious leader in Taiwan speak out forcefully about the need to protect people’s health and the environment. This lack of moral leadership is pathetic.

To be fair, there are some religious groups that work on issues like recycling, but they are a minority, and they do not speak up loudly enough against the misconduct of the many (“PET bottles collected,” Sept. 6, page 4).

Third, with the effect of severe weather on an aging population (“Cancer No. 1 death cause for 35th consecutive year,” June 20, page 3) and record temperatures again in September (“Temperature in Taipei hits record high for September,” Sept. 28, page 3) and October (“Record temperatures set,” Oct. 2, page 3), the urgency of improving air quality and saving the planet from disastrous climate change should be ever more apparent.

While President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) government is moving toward some of the right solutions (e.g., a circular economy, renewable energy), although much too slowly, the so-called “moral leaders” as well as most Taiwanese should be ashamed of continuing their anachronistic, dangerous and inconsiderate behavior.

Flora Faun

Taipei