Taiwan has been kicked out of the four Asian Tigers and salaries have dropped to the levels they were at 15 or 16 years ago, while the past three presidents have brought a succession of irregularities, corruption and ineptitude.
The legislature, apart from helping big business, does not know what it is doing and has been called one of the world’s worst. Despite this, the legislative speaker feels good about himself and is proud to be called fair and just. The two main political parties are engaged in a vicious struggle, with their policies of today contradicting their policies of yesterday, just as their policies of tomorrow are likely to contradict those of today, simply because they want people to vote for them. Furthermore, they do not care about living standards. Do not forget that educational reform almost destroyed a whole generation of young people.
Taiwan is probably the only nation in history where the younger generation — even without war, famine, a major epidemic or economic collapse — does not marry or have children because they have no future. Taiwanese appear to be happy as long as they can have another half day off work or earn another NT$1,000, while their goal is to strive for the small pleasures in life.
Make no mistake about it, there are two big pleasures in Taiwan and most people seem to hope for them, so they remain in Taiwan, working hard.
First, although Cheng Chieh (鄭捷) killed four people and injured 22 others in Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit system in May 2014, and 13 people died and hundreds more were injured in an explosion and fire at the Formosa Fun Coast (八仙海岸) water park in New Taipei City’s Bali District (八里) in June, Taiwan has been named the second-safest nation in the world for 2014-2015, behind Iceland. This is because of Taiwan’s low crime rate and people’s honesty, friendliness and willingness to help, which make people feel safe.
Taiwan has beautiful scenery, is a safe place to live and is an economically developed nation. When it comes to healthcare, economic freedom, education and human development, Taiwan is among the top nations in the world. In addition, ethnic groups have largely merged into one. When there are clashes, it is because politicians are trying to cheat people into voting for them, not because there are real problems that cannot be addressed. There are so many societies in which people live in fear every day; Taiwan’s peace and safety is a big advantage.
The second big pleasure in Taiwan is the respect, tolerance and acceptance people show to religions. Throughout human history, religious war and violence have caused more deaths than World War II and national revolutions together. In the second half of last century, Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland waged war for many years, only making peace in the 1990s. Israel and Arab nations have a history of conflict, while Israelis and Palestinians appear to be unable to settle their religious differences. World peace continues to be elusive, while the Islamic State group continues chopping the heads off dissidents as it attempts to establish up a Shariah state.
However, in Taiwan, Taoism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, I-Kuan Tao and Falun Gong are mutually respected and coexist peacefully. It is a good model for other nations.
Every religion respects life. It is not religion that kills people — it is people who kill people, people who think they are the true believers and have the right to interpret religious doctrine, people who are full of intolerance, lack respect and call others heretics.
Mother Teresa treated everyone who was suffering as her own family and cared for them. Fo Guang Shan Monastery is providing Aborigines from villages that were destroyed during Typhoon Morakot in August 2009 with funds to build a new church and reaching out to help people regardless of their religion. There are many similar cases. Christians say God loves everyone, while Buddhists talk about saving all living things — they never use the word “heretic.” Those who love people are happy people.
Taiwan’s second big advantage is its acceptance of diversity, as well as people’s tolerance and respect. It is this that enables people to find the small pleasures that let us live a good life amid a tanking economy, political party infighting and wicked politicians.
Yaung Chih-liang is a former Department of Health minister.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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