The mass shooting at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California, shows how culture shapes personality trait and life destiny.
David Wenwei Chou (周文偉) is accused of killing John Cheng (鄭達志), a prominent doctor, and injuring five other Taiwanese Americans inside the church.
Motivated by his belief not to let Taiwan separate from China, Chou reflects an immoral universe filled with hatred and prejudice.
As a former director of the US National Association for China’s Peaceful Unification, he has been associated with a culture that must be declared that of a terrorist group.
Cheng, a grand master in martial arts, sacrificed himself to save dozens of lives.
Johnna Gherardini, a medical colleague, described him as a “natural protector and healer,” while “his heroism saved so many people not only at that church, but throughout his career.”
Heroes liberate people from grave danger; evil pushes people into grave danger. The unmistakably different cultures Cheng and Chou represent are vividly recognized when this happens before our very eyes.
No country has a perfect culture. Even the US, due to polarized political divisions, has existed as a flawed democracy for six years. Gun violence, racial prejudice, wealth disparity, healthcare inequality and alternative facts only make US culture less admirable.
There are, nevertheless, distinctively strong and weak cultures.
Positive culture improves the integrity of institutions, and kindness and compassion in social policies. Conversely, institutional leadership, fairness and openness set an example to nurture better cultures.
Positive culture and institutions of integrity are the two legs a society uses to constantly move toward justice and equality.
Negative culture of hatred, superstition and violence consumes energy and resources, making progress difficult, wasting talent, spreading poverty and making life hard.
Moreover, rulers and institutions tend to be authoritarian and unreasonable. It is tough to break the vicious cycle.
China developed a great civilization with Confucianism, Taoism, legalism, Mohism and great wealth from industrial mass production. Unfortunately, ruled under a feudal system for thousands of years, China became autocratic and bureaucratic.
Lacking separation of powers to provide checks and balances leads to tyranny, cruelty and poverty, which thwarts courage, compassion and innovation.
Worse yet, disinformation and brainwashing steers people to become, for example, little red guards during the Cultural Revolution, as to inflict unimaginable cruelty to professors, generals, musicians or even their own parents.
Their zeal for national glory yielded the culture to the dark side.
Thus, it is easy to understand Chou’s action, which simply reflected the evil spirit in the Chinese Communist Party’s wish to devour Taiwan, and intimidate Taiwanese voices for democracy and freedom.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近坪) has the ambition for China to take on world leadership, but that will not happen without a strong culture.
As Northrop Frye said: “In an immature society, culture is an import; for a mature one, it is a native manufacture which eventually becomes an export.”
While China is an exporter of goods, it needs to import better culture to be mature.
A country’s membership in the world community is correlated strongly with its culture, just as Ruth Benedict described: “The crucial differences which distinguish human societies and human beings are not biological. They are cultural.”
Taiwan’s long rainy season often makes country roads muddy and slippery. Therefore, walking needs each step to be firmly pressed on the ground. Consequently, “one step, one footprint” has been the merit of Taiwanese culture, which shapes the life philosophy of common people to value honesty and truthfulness.
Moreover, the compassion from religion, the melting pot of different cultures and the long struggle against dictatorship all helped the Taiwanese cultural evolution to pursue democracy and freedom.
Then, the National Health Insurance propelled Taiwan to the top 20 of the world’s happiest countries.
It reflects the wisdom of Henry Beecher: “That is true culture which helps us to work for the social betterment of all.”
Laws and legal precedents accumulate wisdom to define proper manners. The International Court of Justice should issue restraining orders to stop China’s continual jet excursions around Taiwan. If China fails to comply, an arrest warrant for the Chinese president should be circulated for the crime of harassment.
This should press those countries still living in the wild west to abide by civilized codes and help their cultural evolution for the better.
Cheng is a shining example showing how true culture is carried forward.
James Hsu is a retired physics professor who taught at National Cheng Kung University, and is a member and former president of the North America Taiwanese Professors’ Association.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has created a dilemma that could soon cause him to be hoisted with his own petard, bringing his leadership of China to an end. His threatening rhetoric over the unification of Taiwan with China, in which he has said, “we are willing to draw blood if necessary,” has placed Xi in a corner. Xi is portrayed as a strong world leader, yet he has created a scenario for himself that most likely would have an unfavorable outcome. With the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled to convene this month, Xi cannot
I was privileged to meet with many of Taiwan’s leaders and leading thinkers during a study tour visit in August. One theme I heard several times during that trip was that bad relations between the United States and China benefit Taiwan. At first thought, I empathize with the argument. After all, there is a troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned Taiwan to China after World War II. President Richard Nixon surprised Taiwan leaders with his 1972 trip to China. President Jimmy Carter unilaterally chose to normalize
Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty issue, a US Department of State spokesperson has said. He said that this has been the principle of US policy toward Taiwan since 1979, and the policy has remained in effect. He also said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has privately made this clear to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). The US’ “one China” policy and China’s “one China” principle recognize China as the “representative of China.” The two diverge on the issue of Taiwan: Beijing asserts sovereignty
I live in Taiwan because, like many foreigners, I fell in love with and chose to align my life with a Taiwanese. In an era where personal freedoms are mandatorily ceded to government decree, I am thankful to the Taiwanese government for the spousal visa, as well as the lack of demeaning bureaucratic hoops and hurdles needed to get a work permit, residency permit and healthcare. However, if I then choose to attempt citizenship, this enlightened attitude spasms to seizure, culminating in what appears to be blatant xenophobia. In contrast to Western countries, the path to citizenship mandates a protracted period