The Simple Life

Questions to Ponder:
1. Why do so few people really enjoy their jobs?
2. Why is it so hard to earn money doing things you really enjoy?

3. Does our education system preclude people from finding out that they would be happy doing garbage collecting type jobs?

4. Why do we have to earn money?
5. Why do we need to own an apartment/house?
6. Why do we need a scooter or car?

7. What is the point of a college education? Does it really lead to an improved life?
8. Does the investment in bushibans and education really improve people’s lives?
Consider the difference between schooling and learning.]

9. Taiwan has entered an era of real prosperity, full of name-brand clothes and automobiles, and access to an amazing array of consumer goods, both locally made and imported.
10. Does this make Taiwan a better place?
11. Does this make Taiwan a happier place?

12. Do you agree that the more money you have, the better off you are?

Discussion Question:

Why work?

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In: A Simple Living Primer

Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Simple Life

Participants: Liyun, Kevin, Wilson, Angela

Okay, our question today is ‘Why work?’

You ask me, I’ll say, trading daily necessities, or trading value. It could be intangible.

I totally like that definition. That’s the portfolio life, totally.

My opinion is, the reason we work is not only to satisfy mandatory needs, like obligation to our children. We also have to fulfill your own goals, or enjoy some achievement.

But how does that relate to work?

Of course we want the money, but beyond the money we want to achieve something. Maybe it’s the character of my job, because I work for a research institute. Our dream is we want to establish something, or design some product. So it’s not a commercial purpose, necessarily, if we establish a product, it’s for a dream. So earning money is the mandatory purpose for our work, but beyond that we want to satisfy our dreams, or some enjoyment. It’s kind of like a portfolio life, but a little bit different.

What’s the difference?

It’s not the money, for portfolio life, you must control your needs, especially if you want to earn much more money to fulfill your needs, that’s the concept there, but for the concept, to earn money is your mandatory needs, because you have obligation to your children, so earning money is your first purpose for work, but beyond the bottom line you have another purpose.

That’s why I went into architecture. I wanted to make money and also pursue my dreams. I found it didn’t work. It wasn’t anything like pursuing my dreams, really.

But for Kevin, the key term is value?

I would say money is a kind of value, I want to get this thing, and so money is a way to do that, but I use value, as its broader than money. in ancient time, we trade thing, now we use money, but it doesn’t have to be money. So it’s trade.

Let’s exchange.

Right, so in the beginning, it’s a tiny thing, but it probably grows in to something valuable. Maybe for you it’s not very important, but maybe for your trading partner, it’s quite valuable. So it’s an intangible trading value.

What is tangible?

The thing you can touch. Let say, that’s my mobile, I trade for your watch, okay, that’s very conventional form of doing business.

So your opinion is you’re working to own something, the real something, and to include, some intangible things.

No my point is, to work, you create your own value. When you work , you have to continuously create your value, so someone can take advantage of your value, otherwise they can kick you out.

So the value is evaluated by some other people?

Could be. You could think you’re very valuable, but actually nobody want to hire you, so, you have no value.

So your opinion is like, uh, you are more concerned about the society point of view about your value. I mean, the other people make, for example, you think you are valuable, but other people don’t think your value is reasonable.

So then your position is not that reasonable, yes. You live in this society…

You need to obey the society rule.

What about if society has conflicting ideas about your value. For example, if people ask what I do, I tell them I’m an English teacher, and they go, ‘oh’, and kind of look down and away. But I know my work is valuable, because lots of people ask me to work for them, and I’m paid well. So it’s a bit difficult to determine if my skills have value. I’m paid well, but looked down on. It’s kind of interesting.

So there’s fairness and justice. You think you’re valuable, but other people don’t think. It’s a judgment, it’s an own opinion.

According to this article, it says, just as work distinguish some different types of job, like dirty work, or non-dirty work. I just interested about, just as you say, if you feel it is your…it’s your responsibility to clean up your environment, your environment surrounding your house. If you think it is your responsibility, you will make it clean.

It’s your job, right.

So you think it is your responsibility?

So yes, no one has to pay you or force you to. Some people have different standards, someone ask you to clean, but you think it’s okay. Like washing the dishes, it’s a kind of responsibility. I wouldn’t say it’s that someone has to pay you, for me it’s quite natural to do this thing.

I know that sometimes in western society, the standards or different you have to clean your house or garden, or they will fine you.

It’s a community force.

A kind of standards, yes.

I think even inside, they will check. Like when Taiwan was colonized by Japan, the authorities would go into your house to check if it’s clean. Because they thought Taiwanese are not clean, not disciplined. They think, if your house is not clean, how can your environment be clean? So they do a checkup, to see if your house clean or not. So they want to, so they try to help people have the idea, you got to keep the area good. Otherwise you go to prison.

It’s like the Japanese cultural approach to discipline, they like to have a regular life.

I was taught in Netherlands, there’s something like this, they will check your garden.

In the US, it’s property owner’s associations. I heard that in the US, in 90% of suburbs, the property associations have a regulation that you can’t hang your laundry outside. All that sunshine, and you have to use a dryer, which destroys your clothes, dryers do, really, and all because someone’s afraid of seeing your underwear?

[general laughter and discussion about whether or not it’s okay to see others’ underwear]

So what’s your opinion?

My simple life opinion, is earn money is okay, and spend other time on things you like to do. Because I have been working for almost 33 years, because I was working since I was 16 years old. I worked all day, and went to school, and my, so one year ago, I stopped my work, the routine work. I didn’t get the pay from that time, take a rest and to maintain my health. So, that’s why I’m learning English in here. That’s my hobby, and my, I was major in management, so I think I will find a job like our teacher, in my near future. That’s my opinion of the simple life, because I’m still simple too, also. I’m not married before, so I think one person living alone is simple.

I really agree with you.

I don’t have obligation to next generation, and my parents died 10 and 4 years ago, and so yesterday I went to the Hualien tower mausoleum, to see my father and mother. I went to there for worshipping them yesterday afternoon. I asked the management of the tower, a middle aged lady, asked do they have somebody here, and she said, already there were 4 people here, because the doors were open, because it’s ghost month.

Oh, ghost month! I always have so many accidents in ghost month! I’m starting to believe in it for real.

So anyway, for me, everything for me. I don’t have any responsibility.

No, you have responsibility for yourself, and for your life!

Of course, for your life!

So you have no burdens.

For money, like our teacher told us, she lost money on the stock market because she didn’t take it out in time. For me, the same. I had the chance to earn a lot of money, but I lost it. We had money in the science park, and should have sold it when it was high, for about 10 years, but I didn’t. Now I can tell myself, that’s how it is, because I didn’t handle my money well. I don’t want to think it over again, so I just deal with what’s in front of me. So I just want to take a rest, and maybe next year find a job. Still in preparation for myself.

That’s brave, though, that’s a brave thing to do.

But it’s good. In this year, I do exercise, chi gong, almost every day. This is helping me to recover my physical condition. And I eat right. Everything is not more than what I do to recover myself. In my old job, had a lot of pressure, and I like to do everything perfect, and so I did things on my work very careful, and I did a lot of good job, very good job. TSMC, I was the assistant of General Affairs, and I got prize in the company internal contest. In 30 years I got 8 promotions, and, I design, you know one furniture, and got the designer prize. That’s not my main job, but I think there is some room for improvement. That’s why I stop my job, the environment, the people was not good, and not made us feel comfortable.

It’s interesting, for a young man, if you ask the question, why do you work, the standard answer is to earn money. but for middle age worker, if you as the same question, they say, to earn money, but I want to get something else.


As the article mentioned, the simple life represent the less needs, so you need to control the needs, so the needs include the money, and include some necessary you want to get.

Good question. For my part, I think I need to prepare if someday, I lost everything, property, without a place to live in, and how to survive. That’s what I always ask myself, these years, the idea is stronger than before. I think, if I can overpass the challenge, then I will be a happy person. I know what the really value in my life.

Can I ask, what kind of challenge?

If you have the opportunity to start over your life, what kind of work you want to do?

The work where people need me.

Like you said, if you have value for others, then you are valuable.

It's like service, there's two sides. You think about other side, other side think about us. What we think about ourself, where is our value, what is value to us. So, I would say, I do…yesterday and before, is for the future. I don’t want to ask someone borrow me money, or give me something else, so my ideal would be healthy and simple life, and I can do something for others, and enough money, not too much money, and I just think if money is enough, don’t eat too much, don’t wear too beautiful. Don’t spend too much. That’s the simple life. And the value others think about us, we need to create or that’s…potential. We need to calculate really our daily life to make strong our mind than before. Do not be hurt by others anymore. I think we all nice people, we don’t want to hurt others, but daily life, another people want to make money, but don’t care honest, so maybe they hurt honest people.

In some cases yes.

But although the simple life is want to reduce your needs, less needs, I would say it is difficult. For example, for money, you want to get enough money, but I would say it depends on what is your needs. If you ask young people, they say they want to earn more money. But the same question to middle age workers, they would say just a little money, but they want to get other money from other side. So it's difficult to control enough, to be satisfied for enough money. It’s difficult to identify or achieve.

Okay, my major in management in financial, I work a long time in financial before. Recently I read some of financial articles, just like a review, and how can in the future I can manage my money, better than before, because in Chinese, there’s a saying, money have four legs, and people just two legs, we don’t care money, and money don’t care us. So I don’t worry for money since I have some passive income.

Some people say, they want more money so they want to help other people, so they want to have more money.

Yes, I do some charity.

Yes, so they want the satisfaction so that they can help people and from the engineering side, if you can earn enough money, you can plan the efficient good way to earn the money, so you can do well plan. That’s the engineers aspect. If I need 10000 dollars, I can achieve the enough level. I can use one year to achieve 10000 level, then I can use the other time to do something else. That’s young people thinking logic.

I think the young people, it’s better they save money than spend, that’s important.

You know, I didn’t start saving money till I was 34. But I know how much I need, how much is ‘enough’ for me.

So if you know what’s enough, then you can make a plan to earn that money.

I always though if I just work hard, just study hard, then I will get what I worked for. And I think a money plan, I can make money again, don’t give myself too much pressure.

Yes, if you worry about money, you might as well go back to work.

During my career, I had a lot of pressure, because I had a mortgage on my house, and I was very nervous, and I sold my stock very low, and paid down the mortgage, and that was a release for me, because we have a loading. Someone said to me, you are so young to be tired! Someone asked me, why you just stay at home? I was very shy about this question, I was worried about a lot of things. After a year, everything is okay.

So you have retired? You retired 2 years ago.


So you have fixed income?

She said, she sold her stock to pay off her morgage.

But stock is not fixed, you said fixed income?

Passive income, not fixed income. I have a house I rent to others. So I have a simple life.

But renting out property is not simple!

It’s simpler than running a business!

Yah, true.

But now she has free time.

But now I have adventures in learning. Before I have an MBA degree, but I never used it, so I think that’s a pity. So now I think I study hard, I can learn till I understand. Life is harder than before, for everybody, so we need to be a commercial animal.


Because money has four legs? So we have to get four legs like money?


We have to use all four limbs!

Actually I have a question. When we say career, just like she was retired. So she finish a career, and started another career.

So living the simple life is really like a trade off. I need a 30 ping house, but I don’t want a car.

But you live in Taipei city, so you don’t need one.

Exactly, that’s why I live in Taipei city, so I don’t have to have a car. If I lived in Hsinchu, I would have to have a car, and that would make me really unhappy, and I know that, so I would never live in Hsinchu.

You know, before, I was afraid to die, but now I’m not. That’s one kind of value. If you’re a good heart person, you care about when you die, or waste your life. But if we do something worth in our life…. That’s one kind of concept, in such a complicated society, it’s very strong and big challenge, how to manage ourself, especially in my experience. Not only money. Just for money, just earning money, I think both of you, you get salary, fixed salary, because you got salary…if I pass through this kind of life, I just continue the way as before. I have pressure, but I adjusted myself. Now, I feel peaceful than before. It was very hard way to go, because lonely.

Actually I know an organization, they set up, like, a house, and this is for older people, it’s set up by private company.

Retirement community.

Each day they have a program, and each person, you can stay there, and you don’t feel lonely.

There is one in Zhubei.

I go to a class, in such a community, I learn drawing. Some of my classmates from EMBA travel abroad. But I don’t like that, I think that’s a very simple life. 2 or three times, just go overseas and take a trip.

But some people they just stay at home and play mahjong everyday.

It’s their lifestyle.

But I don’t want to live like that. You said, retirement community, some of them, they don’t really know what they want, they just spend their time, and what do they think about? The meaning? Why do they go to that place?

The company of others!

But the company is for what? It depends on who your company is?

They do that for what? They don’t really know why they are here? Doing what? They don’t really have one self thinking or opinion. I should say, thinking by themselves, independent.

That’s the point of community. You don’t have to think.

Sure, but that way you don’t have to stay with your children. You could be a public volunteer, you could find some activity to do, instead of sitting at home, watch TV every day, because your life gets more and more boring that way.

So retirement community is to establish environment to have friends, so you don’t feel lonely.

You could do that a different way, just get involved in things to find friends.

I think every character is different. When they retire from their career, they stop growing. They did the same thing for 30 years, they always do the same thing to organize their life, and so that’s why the talking would be boring. So I like to spend alone, and I could think something by myself, not around people, and I don’t want to care my time in such place.

It’s just an option.

That’s my option, yes.

The Grandmother Factor

Discussion Question:
Are old women important?
Choose a side:
Team A) No. If you look at it in economic terms, they can’t have children any more, and they’re too old to have jobs, so they’re not economically useful at all. Old people are just a burden on society.
Team B) Yes. They play an important role in child raising, and strongly influence the quality of the people around them, both economically and spiritually.
Team C) Moderator.
Team D) No. Old women shouldn’t raise children, because they’re not modern enough. They don’t understand what a modern society needs, and they’ll teach the child all wrong.
Team E) Yes. Old women have a lot of life experience, and they’ve seen a lot more children than a young woman. So they know what to expect from a child, and will have a lot more mature of a response when difficult situations arise.

Taipei Discussion Transcript: Grandmothers

Participants: Mary, Maggie, Willie, Fanny, Angela

So it’s really common for Taiwan?


You mentioned grandfathers in Taiwan really like getting involved in raising children.

Yes, because they’re retired, and watching TV is boring, and they want to get involved.

I think that’s amazing, that’s not something you think of.

Okay, shall we start?


I’m team b, because I think that old people they have their, like, life experience about different things, and they know better than young people, and because they are grandmothers, and they love their grandkids, and so they want to take care of them. Maybe not just grandmom, just someone they are close to, and they will play that kind of role to them.

I also choose team b, because I think grandma play an important role of child-raising and they also contribute to the housework, and share the burden from mothers in each family. So I choose team b. Oh, they also have a lot experience in life.

Well, I’m not pretty sure if my grandmother have a lot of experiences in life, but grandmothers are the best of taking care of children, basically, the most important reason, basically, it’s kind of that they’ve learned a lot from raising our mother or father. I don’t know why, probably because those grandmothers, when mothers turn to grandmothers, they have lots of chances to exchange experiences with other mothers and grandmothers, makes them more knowledgeable, so this makes them better. Children brought up by grandmothers are ‘white and fat’. Like they say.

I agree with the article, that they have better survival.

Basically I think grandmothers know lots of details that mothers don’t know. And the mothers learn this 30 years later, for their grandkids.

So are you team b or team e?

I’m team b. I think the important part is not teaching children things. Usually that is affected by their traditional values, not pretty sure, it’s not all positive from the educational side, but they’re simply the best for taking care, on the survival side, to promote the probability of survival.

I’m also team b. And they all…the answer of team b, is just like you, because the grandmother has lots of information and knowledge about life and survival, and so, I think team b. Thank you! Thank you!

So we’re all team B. What do we talk about

Maybe I can provide an example with my grandma and me. Most grandmother only focus on raising their grandchildren, but I learned a lot of discipline from my daily life with my grandma. She asked me to make my bed when I get up, and also asked me to clean the table when I finished eating. So I learned a lot. What she taught me had a great influence on my personality.

Your mother didn’t make you do that?

My mother only focus on my homework, and how I behave in school.


Yeah yeah yeah, but not about…

…daily life!

Yeah. And also I like my grandma, because she help me a lot in some kind of home work, like sewing clothes or dolls, like that.

My grandma always gave us ice cream, cookies and soda, all at the same time. We could have as much as we wanted. That was so not what we were allowed at home! It’s how I learned that ice cream and cookies are good, and soda and ice cream is good, and cookies and soda are good, but all three together will make you sick.
But you know, I could have learned that as an adult, too, because if I wanted now to eat all three at the same time, I still could.

Isn’t it great to be an adult?

But I like being a child better. I’m under their protection, and I don’t have to earn money.

But I like being an adult, so I can spend money on whatever I want, because I earned it myself.

So it’s the opposite. Sometimes I think, yeah, I’m an adult, and I can buy whatever I want, so it’s a…



A little I want to grow up, and I don’t want to grow up.

That’s because you’re still in school and people still can tell you what to do or not.

I think you’re right. I’m so used obeying criteria, so I’m a little afraid of making my own decisions.

Yeah, you know when I got my first job, I just thought, oh my god, I’m free now. I make my own money, I pay my own way, I’m free!

Is that because you didn’t live with your parents? Because I have my own job…

Yes. Moving out is a wonderful thing.

Exactly. My dad is always complaining that I’m watching TV. I thought about getting a TV for my room, but there’s no cable line. Ugh! You need cable!

I think that you can watch cable TV on the internet right now. The resolution is a little bad though.

Yes, but if your ADSL speed is too slow, though…

I think the point is that if there’s a lot more people watching with you, it’s faster.

Faster? Why?

Because they’re sharing the bandwidth.

So you do that a lot?

I watch live sports events. But actually I don’t watch a lot of TV lately.


I think I’m just tired of watching TV.

Well, the internet is a worse timewaster. In TV, you have to wait for your program to come on, but…

But going back, I think that for parents, they always think you’re their kids, even if you’re 40.

It’s so true.

Is it true that in the US, 18 year olds hate to be told to be careful?

Not just 18 year olds—anybody. Even a six year old hates that.

You know, when a mom says that, it’s a little like, they don’t trust me. Just like once I wanted to invest in stock market, but my mother turned to very angry, and she just said, I have invest for you, so why do want to invest by yourself?

Well, that’s different from my mom, that my mom push me to invest. I think the main reason is that she doesn’t trust my dad.

(Everyone laughs)

She doesn’t trust your dad what?

Well, he reads a lot of Warren Buffet stuff, but he’s terrible! When I started understanding what he was doing, I was like, what are you doing wasting your time reading those books?

So your dad invests?

Well, my mom is busier than my dad, so my dad helps her with the family finances, but he’s terrible.

So your mom encourage you to do it?

Yeah, because she thought I would be more reasonable. But I still think that, when we grow older, parents just look like distractions. Just like you say, when you grow older you want to fly high and do bigger things, and your parents become kind of a distraction. Or even kind of a big stone stop you. I just hope if I become a parent some day, I won’t control them too much. Because I think that when people protect their kids too much, it makes them mediocre. Usually I told my mom, that you guys were great parents and good educators before we were 15, but not anymore, because if my brother and I take your suggestions now, we won’t be able to completely show our talents. So I think kids should leave their family earlier, before 25. If you leave too late, after 30, it’s no good. That’s why I said that from the educational side, grandmothers, it’s good for the kids, they don’t know much about the world, and they have to learn discipline and stuff. But when you grow older, just like it said, it’s modern society, they’re not equipped with the knowledge or tools which is for this century. If you can learn all their tools, which they could use to survive in the 70s, or 80s, that’s a different story.

But sometimes, grandmothers might know how children might behave in certain cases. For example, one of my neighbors, she is a grandmother, she recently complained how her son educate her grandson. Because her son likes to ride motorcycle very fast. And will bring his grandson with.

Oh, dangerous!

So one day, she found her grandson ride his bike very fast, and jump down and said, “I win”. But she’s so opposed in the first place.

So probably she can buy him a helmet.


The kid.

But both think she or her son should teach her grandson you shouldn’t ride so fast, even she put on the helmet.

But my point is, the kid could ride fast, but it depends on the occasion. Just that it’s not appropriate for him to ride fast on the road or sidewalk, but if there are specific roads for bicycles, it’s okay.

If he’s careful of the other people ion the road.

My advice is, send him to motor GP, and he will know how dangerous.

What’s motor GP?

It’s like formula 500 for motorcycles, so he can see how dangerous it is.

But her son is only 4 or 5 years old.

I really think it’s just location dependent. I think you can’t really tell him you should not ride it fast on the sidewalk or road. But if there are other places, like motor gp, then he can.

Getting back to our discussion, I think that there’s something interesting, that a mother’s mother…

Yeah yeah yeah, that was an interesting point.

The mother’s mother was better at helping the kids survive.

Why not the father's mother?

Well, it’s in the article.


Well, I’m not pretty sure, because the coincidence was that I’m raised by my maternal grandmother, I didn’t know my paternal grandmother.

Is that true for anyone else?

Well, my mother’s mother died pretty early, so I have no memories of her.

But it sounds like your father’s mother took really good care of you.

Yes, I respect her, and I want to be like her. Because she travel almost the whole Taiwan. And when she lived with us, she can take care of her self, wash her clothes, etc, and she never intervene the affairs between the family

Oh, smart of her!


I’m also raised by father’s mother. The paternal grandmother. The reason that my paternal grandmother raise me is my maternal grandmother think I am too annoying for my second uncle. Because he is studying, and I’m crying, because I’m a baby. And my maternal grandmother think I’m too annoying, so she told my mother to send me to my grandmother. And from I am a one-years baby, my grandmother raise me till I am 12.

How far away did she live from your family?

My paternal grandmother live in Chaiyi, and my maternal grandmother live in Kaoshiung.

Where did your family live?

Taipei! So I am running around between three cities. But for a child, I think it’s fun.

Probably because you were loved in all three places.

But when I grew up, I think my maternal grandmother’s treat me nice, better than when I was a baby.

Are you the oldest child?

Did she raise anybody after you?

Yes, my sister is raised by her. Because she said my mother want to send my sister to my paternal grandmother, but she said she had no energy to raise the second child, so my maternal grandmother have to raise my sister.

So is there a great difference between you and your sister?

No, we have almost the same character.

And the same behavior? And values?

Behavior, yes, values, not exactly the same, but similar. The thinking mode of my sister and I is very similar, even the voice. We have similar character. It’s very interesting, because she lived in Kaohsiung, I lived in Chaiyi, but we’re so similar. I don’t know how to describe, when we grow up, we found we have similar voice, similar character and value.

And what about your grandmothers?

I think I’m closer to my paternal grandmom, because she stayed with us when I was little, I don’t know how long, but she had three sons, so she would take turns, so when she came to stay with us, I was six or seven years old, she would buy things I like, and a lot of food, when we went to traditional market, especially. And watching TV together, she would like look at me while I was watching.

So she really loved you.

Well, she didn’t have too much to do at that time.

How about your maternal grandma?

I don’t have that much experience that we are close together, maybe because we didn’t live together. But I think my auntie’s more like my mom, because I was raised by her, because my mom was busy at the time. That’s why I think your grandma doesn’t have to be your real grandma. Because when she cared for me, her kids were already like 20 something.

My father always complained my grandfather, because my grandfather always treat me nice. I think Taiwanese grandfather always get involved with their grandson.

But you’re a granddaughter.

Well, yes.

My paternal grandfather died 20 years before I was born. But my maternal grandfather liked me a lot more than my brother, because my performance in school was great. My brother’s smarter than me, actually, but he doesn’t care about schoolwork, so he doesn’t perform as well. He’s not a traditional kid, he doesn’t obey the rules, so my grandfather doesn’t like him as much as me. So I was really sad when he passed away, I think it was my 18 years old. My mom told me I was like the representative, because there are four grandchildren of him, my brother, my two cousins, and I, and my mom said that my grandfather loves me the most, because of that. But I think the best memory of him, was that he was the guard of a textile company in Tainan, and I live with them at that time, and one day, you know what the guards do, they have to go to every checkpoint, to record that they checked it, and I got to go with him. I was five years old, so I just went with him. When the mission ended, we went to his like, employees restaurant to have an ice-cream. And I remember that. And I got a cold the next day. Getting a cold is kind of serious stuff when I was small, and I remember my grandmother yelling at my grandfather about that, but it was a fun memory. I think the point is that I’m not very familiar with my father. I’m familiar with my mother, and my grandparents. My father worked in Taipei, and we lived together in Tainan. So I think the point is I would do my best to get to know my son, because if you don’t play or work with them when they are small, they will know you are their father, but they won’t know you. I lived with my grandparents, but I didn’t learn Taiwanese.

That’s really interesting, and you were in Tainan, of all places?

And my mother spoke Taiwanese with them. So I think the funny part is, I can understand what they’re saying, but I can’t speak.

So you speak Chinese to your grandparents, and they speak Taiwanese to you.

Yes, because their Chinese skills are limited, and my Taiwanese is limited. But we could understand. Also, when they speak to me in Taiwanese, they don’t require a response from me.

My paternal grandfather and mother learned Chinese so hard, so they can speak Chinese with their grandchildren, so all of us don’t speak Taiwanese.

But I think learning the mother tongue helps you to understand the culture. So even though I can’t speak it too well, I try to expose myself to it, and ask what words mean, and why they speak like that.

I always laugh at my sister’s Taiwanese.

So they didn’t speak Taiwanese with her in Kaoshiung?

I speak Taiwanese better than my classmates!

I grew up in three places, so my Taiwanese is merged! But my Taiwanese is similar to Beigang, because that’s where my grandparents are from. So I have a Beigang accent. But I have several words I use in kaoshiung accent.

The Road Farming Has Travelled

Questions to Ponder:
1. Is profit a sustainable practice??
2. Could it be that in fact we have been living on the riches stored up for 1000 years, and have blown it all in a century?
3. If this is true, we’re like 3rd generation of a rich family. The first two generations have successfully built up a business and turned it into an empire, the third generation bankrupts the company before his life is over and dies in penury.

4. It points out that the American farmer built up huge farmholdings without really gaining any great wealth. Which makes you doubly wonder why they did it. Most American farmers are deeply in debt to banks, machinery companies and especially seed companies. Was the American farmer sacrificed for others’ profit?

5. Sometimes it seems that modern people think that things can just be made out of nothing. That there’s no source. It just appears like ‘voila!’ in the store and is available to buy.
6. Our cult of the artificial: everything can be made from nothing, for almost no cost.

7. Why do empires only last for awhile?
8. Why did the Ancient Greek civilization die out in the 2nd or 3rd century?
9. Why did the Roman Empire come to an end?
10. Why did the Chinese empire last for so long?
11. Why did the Ching dynasty finally fail?

12. What are the ethics of transferring the wealth of the land into endless manufactured goods?
13. Or how about the ethics of transferring the wealth of for instance, indigenous forests in South America in the form of natural fertilizers like guano to the land in England so it can continue to be unsustainably farmed?
14. Do we have a responsibility to take care of the land?
15. What about in terms of wider self-interest?

Discussion Question:
What are the ethics of transferring wealth?

Example A:
If I have behaved irresponsibly and thrown away the resources of myself and my group, is it okay for me to get a part of others’ resources, if I have the money to pay for it?
Example B:
If I can pay less for something, possibly even less than the true cost of making that something, is it okay to buy it?

Journey to Forever Online Library

Taipei Discussion Transcript: Farming

Participants: Maggie, Fanny, Mary, Angela

I can’t choose a team, because I don’t really understand this question, really. It's hard to understand, ‘transferring wealth’.

Yeah, this time, it’s really an undigested question. I’ve been sitting on this article for weeks, because it’s all so new to me too, and finally, I finally figured out what I wanted to ask about it, but I couldn’t figure out what really kinds of positions you could take on it, so I though, I would just sort of prevail on you guys to work this idea through with me. I thought maybe we could think this through together.

Yeah, cuz there’s a lot of different questions that could be asked about this article, there’s a lot of material here.


I was thinking of the story of stuff, when I wrote example b. You know, the cost of the 5 dollar radio in no way reflects the whole production arc, from oil shipped to refinery shipped to plastics factory shipped to assembly factory shipped to warehouse shipped to store, and sold for only 5 dollars? How is that possible?

Coke for instance, it’s sugar water and flavoring, and the container, or packaging, is I think, just 3NT dollars, but it cost me 20NT.

That’s not the point I’m making. The whole process of making the can…. I know repetitive units make the money, but how could that can only cost 3NT?

But I think the profit on coca cola is 50% of the can, though.

But I think because nowadays, we produce those products by machines, and so-called automaticalized systems, so we can produce so large and amount of products, that in theory could reduce the cost. So maybe that’s why we can pay only a little money to buy those products. But for nowadays, oil and so many raw materials, their price go up, that makes, because in past time we can use low-labor from Vietnam or south Asia, and use low cost of raw material from south Africa or east Europe. But nowadays, oil prices, commodity prices…

What are commodities?

Oils, ores, or coal, is the definition we use at my job.


So the commodities from those countries is more expensive, because transportation cost higher than before.

See, I wish I had a better grasp of economics, I can feel that it’s right, arghh, so I’m no better than Stephen Colbert’s ‘gut’. The Story of Stuff woman showed it but didn’t prove it.

Yeah, but it’s hard to get the exact numbers. But I do wonder how we can pay 10NT dollars for watermelon

Only 10?

Or whatever, we pay so little for watermelon, or other foods in Taiwan, but I can’t prove my thinking. I just feel …

I think it’s the balance between supply and demand.

Yeah, but that’s not the true cost of it, it’s just what you can get for it.

It’s like, how can I sit in this air-conditioned room and make so much more money than the Indonesian guy over there building buildings? He’s working much harder than me, but it’s what the market will bear. But how is my mental labor so much more expensive than his physical labor?

Yeah, that’s the market for you. We think the free market will set realistic value. In theory, something costs 100NT dollars, if you sell it to me, and I don’t want to buy it, so you slash it to 80 dollars, but you still don’t want it, then it goes to 50, so then you finally buy it. That’s the equivalent of the price. That’s how the market works. That’s how some guy like singer or artist, those guy in movies in movies or TV shows earn so much.

Actually they’re paying those guys for their availability. They’re paying for the year before and the year after the movie, so that you’re available to do their movie.

Only for movies?

I’m not sure. Another example is a painter. The actual cost of canvas and paints is negligible. But the reason they can charge so much is all the time and money they spent training, practicing, developing their skill and their talent, their unusual ideas, there’s a lot goes into a painting. This is true for musicians, too. You’re not just buying the object, you’re buying a kind of value, and you’re retroactively supporting all the work they put into getting to the point where they could paint that painting.

So when we pay for the cd, we’re paying not just for the materials, we’re paying for the talent,

For the machines…

For them taking the risk to do the music in the first place!


Question 8 to ten, it’s really a group of questions, and I wonder, what is really the answer of these question, because I think, these are really good questions, I want to know why?

Why did the Ancient Greek civilization die out in the 2nd or 3rd century?

Well, because of roman?

No, because they’re before the first century.

We need Lynn!

Yes, Lynn, where is you?!?

But I know the reason why roman empire came to an end. Because they were too big,

Just because the separation?

Yeah, the separation. And they failed to handle the different culture. Yeah. Do you remember?

Yeah, but the western roman empire, the east?


Maybe, but…

It might also have been a food problem. The guy who wrote the book we sampled, in another part of the book he argues that the food quality of the Romans declined as they expanded and population expanded, and the fields were used for too long, so since the quality of food went down, the quality of intelligence also went down among the population.

So should we learn how to grow the vegetable or rice?

But the more important is to learn how to maintain the fertility. Sure, we have to learn how to grow vegetables or rice, but if the land dies…

In thirteenth century Europe, they separate their land to three part, and this year, the grow the two part of the land, and the third part

They let it lie fallow.

Yes, exactly.

Yes, that’s a Saxon practice. Before the Saxons became the Anglo Saxons in England, when they were still only in Germany, that was their habit.

So, does it possible to use this kind of system nowadays?

No, we use the chemical substance to increase the fertility.

Yeah, but it’s like drinking coffee. Does coffee actually give you energy? No, it just releases the energy from the body that’s already there. It’ doesn’t increase anything

I think, because we want to keep the price in certain range, so it’s hard to use the fallow policy.

Yes, right.

How does that affect it, can you explain?

Because if you use fallow policy…

The whole land of the farm, can produce, say for example, 1000 pounds rice, but if you use fallow policy, then you use only 2/3 of it, 60 or 70 percent, then it’s only 600 or 700.

But what if, as you use up the fertility of the land, then…fallow looks like a pretty good idea, stable 700, instead of decreasing yields

Yes, but how do you use this to talk the farmer, and say ‘oh, you can save the fertility of the land’

Well, you can tell them they can save the money from the fertilizer.

Population = nutrition = more people, so… we cant afford more population. So on one hand, do we really want to increase the land’s fertility? On the other hand, you can’t go around killing people off because they’re inconvenient, so what do you do?

Well, so the gods do it for us, that’s why there have been so many terrible typhoon and earthquake in recent years. I think that’s the penalty.

Well, global warming, if the scenarios are true, lots of people might die, but that’s us wiping ourselves out, right?

I read in the Chinese newspaper today that a guy is setting up solar systems and encourage us to use less oil energy. When I read this I was so happy to see someone has the same ideas about our future. But we need someone in gvt can, I just think maybe we can, is it possible to contact this guy, and discuss with him or her?

Sure, do you know his name?

No, because they will not show the real name.

Why not?

I have no idea, but maybe we can call the newspaper, to ask them the real name, who wrote this essay.

You can leave your information and ask them to give it to him to have him call.

Okay, so let’s maybe look at example a.

But, what is transferring wealth, actually?

See this is what I could barely get a toehold on, this is what I wanted to talk with you about, he gave this example, of farmers in England in the 1940s, their land didn’t produce quality enough feed for their cattle so they imported ‘oil cakes’ from somewhere in the 3rd world, and so the nutrition of the soil of wherever they got the cakes from was transferred to feed English cows, so the nutritional ‘wealth’ was transferred. Money was transferred back, of course, but the real wealth, the unreplaceable nutrition, was transferred away permanently.

Just like, now due to globalization, we absorb resources from developing countries, and the sell back products to them to earn money, and I think this is another kind of transferring wealth.

And in paragraph nine, he’s saying those European people took in resources from America and Asia and New Zealand and Australia, that made them so there was still so many resources to use, and then they over used the resources and overproduce, like the society nowadays.

Well, that’s not like that was then and this is now, this is still happening.

Right, if we only used local resources to produce, then when we aware the shortage of resource, then we will reduce the production, however, if we can import resources from other countries, then we will keep producing, and then on and on.

But also, the market end of things, Americans have too much stuff, now, they’ve no place to put it, and now they don’t have any money anymore. My friend Johnny was saying that if we didn’t have India and China as new markets, capitalism would have died by now, it needs new people to buy things. Capitalism is fucked, basically, you know what I mean? It’s a really off balance system.

Who create capitalism, anyways?

Who knows, I think we’re all sucked into being a part of the system.

Okay, but let’s look at example a. If I’ve thrown away all my resources, is it okay that I pay to get someone else’s? Is that ethical?

Its evil.

Why do you think it’s evil?

I don’t know, it just wrong.

What do you think, Miss Mary?

I just don’t know the answer.


Do you think it’s evil?

Well, I was trained by capitalism, and trained by economic courses, so I just think, if I have money, why can’t I use it? The teacher always teach us that’s the right way, if somebody grow rice, and somebody build house, and somebody sew clothes, and you just pay money for that. So I never think it might be evil to behave in like this way. But, …

I think capitalism is convenient for most of people, but it’s still evil.

But you like, it, right? That’s what you’re conflicted about, because you like buying things.

Well, yeah.

See, the question I’ve had for a long time, is buying and trading things capitalism? Is capitalism like trading things ‘on steroids’?
What I mean is, for instance, Nantou is really good for growing tea, but not much good for growing rice or anything else. Taichung is really good for growing rice, and other veggies. So Nantou and Taichung trade for what they need. So is that just trade, or is it capitalism?

No, that’s a classic trading system. The case of Taipei and Nantou, that’s capitalism, because Taipei doesn’t grow anything.

Taipei grows money!


Taipei provides a place to trade everything and grow profit.

So the relationship between product and product is trade. And the relation between product and money is capitalism.

I like the way you think!

So the stock market, it’s only for money, it’s totally capitalism.

Yeah, when you get to futures and derivatives and all that crap, it’s like it really hasn’t got much to do with the actual products being exchanged.

So food for food is not evil, but maybe money for food…is money for food evil, question mark?

I think it’s a question of degree and emphasis, as the author said, because money is a very convenient medium of exchange.

Yes, that’s what I’ve learned during these five to ten years, money is the most convenient medium for exchange system.

Yes, ‘a question of degree and emphasis’.

美國: America the Beautiful

Discussion Question:

Is America Taiwan’s friend?

Choose a side:
Team A) Yes. America has been very good to Taiwan, helping it establish democracy, giving it money to build up the school system, and getting a US education has helped so many Taiwanese move up in the world.
Team B) No. Taiwan is only important to the US as a nice offshore fortress, part of the ‘containment fence’ created by South Korea, Japan and the Phillippines.
Team C) Moderator
Team D) Yes. Taiwan needs America to contain China, and the US needs Taiwan to contain China. So in effect, we’re friends.
Team E) ____. _______________________________________.

The Ratville Times: The Erosion of the American Dream

Taipei Discussion Transcript: America the Beautiful

Participants: Mary, Maggie, Willie, Fanny, Lynn, Angela

I’m team b, because I think if the US is our friends, they don’t want to urge us to buy the worst weapon. So I think, we just, not just the weapon, Taiwan is also the weapon! So the US is not our friend. We’re just a toy or a tool.

I support team b. I think America just want to take advantage of us. That’s why they will force us to buy, or to set the budget to buy their weapon.

Weapon, that’s the most important thing! Because it costs a lot.

Yes, is costs us more than fifty...


Well, now it’s down, but almost fifty.

And they’re not true friends to us, or they would support us to join the WHO. I mean, it’s impossible for us to join the UN, because china will fight that, but the WHO, we have so many doctors who help with that, and we need to share the information, about SARS, and birdflu, but they don’t help us.

Well, I think Taiwan was partly America’s friends before Chaing Kai Shek died, partially, because of WWII, and because Chaing Kai Shek established some good relationship with the us. But after the KMT lost the war against the communists, and went to Taiwan, then the American gvt put Taiwan as a kind of point to resist an evil empire. But at this time, they don’t want to fight china anymore, so Taiwan’s status is like they put their hand into like east Asian circle. Because they can control china at least a little bit by helping or not helping Taiwan. But it’s not about communists anymore, they just worry that china will be very strong. So they just want to earn something, make some profit, and want to control china from helping Taiwan. They won’t help Taiwan like they did 30 or 40 years ago, at that time, china will send sailors to Taiwan’s outside islands, and at that time the US will offer weapons freely to Taiwan, but not anymore. The position of Taiwan has shifted. Although Taiwan definitely needs US, and especially Japan, I think lots of people know that the US can put some soldiers in Japan, because they have a treaty. So they have a range in south Asia, which Japan and the us work to protect from invasion. They don’t say which country, but everyone knows its china. And Taiwan is within that range. So that’s the funnies part of this. And also this main force, that china doesn’t dare to too much in Taiwan, because of the existence of this agreement, and give US a reason to bring soldiers here. So there’s the Diauyutai islands issue, but china doesn’t do too much about it.

Well, they’re building concrete buildings on reefs off the coast of Philippines.

But the Diauyutais, they weren’t important in the 70s, they don’t really care about those islands, so they just use it as a political issue.

But there’s oil there,


Actually, the US supported Japan to own the Diauyutais in the 70s already.

They were given to Japan to control and manage the island, but the ownership belong to Taiwan, that’s what was agreed then. A court made that decision

Whose court, which court?

Many years ago, I remember Taiwan fight for Diauyutai with Japan, and finally the court in Japan made the decision, that the ownership belong to Taiwan.

Really? Because I’ve heard that, Taiwan have 11 or 12 conferences about the ownership, but there’s no decision. But I heard that in mid 70s, for some reason the us supported Japan to have Diauyutai. And at that time, some college students protest against this kind of thing. They didn’t protest the US, but they went to the Japan embassy, which still existed at that time, but since the KMT needed the US at that time, and the US hinted that it was Japan’s, probably there were some practical reasons, and the KMT didn’t want to go against the US gvt, so they just abandoned, abandoned?


Anyways, they dropped the issue. And so what? Ma Yingjieu is 37 years too late.

Wait, what did he do?

They sent military ships to claim the Diauyutais. It was the executive branch, and they sent the coast guard there. And basically, only the executive yuan could do it. Of course, there were legislators on there, so it looks like a legislative action, but the legislative Yuan can’t control the coast guard, so it was the executive branch.

But basically all they did was sail around for awhile.

Yeah, and the Japanese hung around the edges, but there was no incident.

So basically, Taiwan is a checker.


Like the game.

So we are a tool/toy.

So what do you want, do you want to be the 52nd state, or part of Japan? Or china?

Personally I’d choose Japan at this point...

We played a game with our classmates, asking this question, and they all chose Japan, I don’t know why?

We’ve all been influenced by Japan.

But my Japanese is bad!


But some people want to be part of the US. And other groups, Japan.

Well, does anyone want to be mainland Chinese?

I think so, now, not before.

But people I meet that have been to mainland china, they’re really against them.

But there’s so many mainland Chinese on the subway these days!

My professor, she hates mainland chinese.


Because they always, just take WHO for example, they don’t treat us like their people. They also hate us.

I don’t think so, this is biased, from my point of view, I didn’t pre-assume the thing that will happen when I meet a mainland chinese. The WHO thing is terrible, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the individuals I meet. I don’t want to mix up politics with real things. But they do have some bad habits, and there’s a culture gap between mainland chinese and Taiwanese. In my experience, they’re very easy to get along with. But probably because I don’t brink up sensitive topics.

But they always bring up sensitive topics to year. Take my classmate for example. She always go to the top liver-fibrosis lab. And she says, Taiwan is our province, and you’re just choosing one province of ours. And my other classmates get angry, but we have no words to protect ourselves, but the classmates are shy, so they don’t say anything, but they keep attacking with this topic.

Also in the US, there’s so many mainland Chinese, and so we can’t do anything about this.

I agree.

Sure, but I never had this experience of machines brining up topics like this.

You are lucky. I met a guy, he’s 10 years younger than me, he said, why you don’t unite with us, actually, you should belong to us. Actually, I don’t want to fight with him on this, don’t want to talk about it, and he goes on, how they have bomb and weapon and ways to attack us, and I was so shocked, I just met him!

But they are trained by their gvt to be like that.

Well, we used to be trained like this by our gvt.

Yes, but we have access to information from all over the world, so we can figure things out. But they don’t have that kind of access.

Well, when we were small, we were taught that Chinese could only have banana peels, that’s all they had to eat.

Sure, but we have to distinguish. I hate US gvt, but don’t hate us people, and hate Japanese gvt, but not japanese people. In a country or race, they both have good guys or bad guys. Even in Taiwan, people just want to make them die.


In your life, you just want to make someone who look down on you and don’t treat you well. But if I’m hurt, I will defend myself.

I think I agree with fanny that, when I talk to machines about this issue, he said he doesn’t really care about the Taiwan issue. So in Taiwan, there’s people e who don’t care about this, so in china, some people don’t care about it, but he said some of his classmates really would care about it.

But then there’s that mainland china’s population is so huge, so as they travel around the world, they mention and proclaim that Taiwan is a part of china, and so that’s a big part of the problem.

Actually, my political scale is 0, so I’m not very concerned about this, it’s all okay, but we should, if everyone’s has good life and we could live well, I think everything is okay, but stop! Um…

You mean, stop mention…

No, please, let us enter WHO, please. I think some world organization, we should be allowed in. so it’s okay, but we also have right to participate in the world organization, that’s my point.

But unfortunately, in the world, or in politics, there are no true friends, so no one even big country like US or Japan, no one support us.

They don’t support us, because we’re so tiny.


Well, think about Singapore, they’re very small, but they have a lot of power. We, we don’t have identity. If we say were from Taiwan, some people think it’s Thailand. So we have to promote our country, really.

So let me ask a question, because I’m just a person, I’m human. I wonder, if all of us want to gain our identity, even if it is necessary to have a war? I think about this?

I think most people don’t want to have a war. But Taiwan is in a very weird position, you know? Otherwise you could just unite with china, and become a special administrative area.

But the return of HK was written into a treaty.

Yes, the Ching dynasty.

They just rented the island for 99 years. It’s the same as Macao.

So sometimes I think we’re quite poor. When I was in Switzerland, they let us enter without a visa, but you must have a return ticket. And the custom guy, because I stick Taiwan stickers on my passport, and he said, Taiwan, no, I don’t know, and so I said to him, there is the visa policy, and I think, he just wanted to give me hard time.

I saw this in 1992, too, on the train, only the Taiwanese were bothered, these two sweet girls. My American passport, they smiled at me, but they gave them so much trouble.

Us too, when we arrived at customs of Swiss border, and these soldiers only checked the Taiwanese passport, only these 17 people.

Yes, and I think, hey, we spend money in your country, why you treat us like this. So why you announce we don’t need visa in your country, if you’re going to treat us like this?

And they don’t choose people randomly. They only check the Taiwanese.

Also, when we went from Germany to Czeck republic. They didn’t check the Malaysians, only Taiwanese. So we don’t have identity. We spend money, but are treated like second-class citizens. So we have to establish our identity. So do we have to choose one of the three to get our identity? China US or Japan?

Taiwan doesn’t have a powerful backup,. If we had someone support us, it would be different. But Taiwan’s been out of the picture since 1970, and those big countries don’t have profit conflict in this area. If we were in the middle east or eastern Europe, or the old soviet satellite, so there they have some people picking sides.

Well, that’s not true, you have the US.

Well, but they don’t support us that well.

Well, I think the support the US gives eastern Europe is just as shaky, I think they want to keep you on your toes.

But they also have western Europe helping them. and they give them much better weapons support. Like France doesn’t care about protest from china, and they’ll just give you, whatever you paid for. But the US, they’ll say, you have to pay first class price for second class weapons, because china protests. So I’m not so sure, maybe we should make some trouble, so that people will pay attention and give us help.

I don’t think we really want that kind of insecurity. It’s a high price.

Because Taiwanese people right now, there’ really secure,

Yeah, there’s an interesting balance point just now. Basically no one wants to push Taiwan to either side right now.

So that’s why no one shows us support, it will break the balance.

So this kind of thing is just ended abruptly from my point of view. We won’t see it, but when it happens, it’ll go really fast.

Just like the falling of the wall. It happened so suddenly, and no one knew what happened.

But the balance will tip in favor of china. The reality is we rely on them quite a lot nowadays. It’s quite sad, actually. I think lots of Taiwanese back to Taiwan to do the invest again. But the point is, we have lost a lot of advantage in the trading or production area. And it’s hard to compete in the globalization. I mention that I’m the sales for fabric. To be honest, it’s really hard to compete with china. Because maybe their quality is not excellent, but our quality is not as good as before. So I don’t know who will pay much more price to buy Taiwan’s product.


I think labor costs. Also, Taiwanese become lazy, we’re not diligent like we were in 1950. Also, they duplicate your items, quickly,, and perfectly. So it’s become very competitive in price and production time. So hard, really, we got a really tough time.

This is serious.

Yes it is, and you definitely will face that problem.

Because my job is to translate some economic article, and we found that mainland chinese are so huge and they always can finish the translation very quickly than us, because they have so many people.

And the point is, their salary is much lower than you.

So now, we can read the Chinese version of wall street journal and financial time, and whatever English journal and article, you can also find the Chinese version. To be honest, I feel their ability, to…but I think our enemy not only mainland china.





The population of middle class, in India, is the most in the world. Much larger than mainland china.

The Subtle Benefits of Racism

Questions to Ponder:
1. Are Taiwanese people racist?
2. Are Chinese people racist?

3. The cartoon here speaks mostly about American experience of racism. Do you know any stories about a Taiwanese/Chinese experience of racism?

4. Why do Chinese people prefer to invest in China, rather than Indonesia, or the Philippines, or Malaysia?
5. Why are there anti-Chinese sentiments in Malaysia?

6. Why are white foreigners called 'waiguo ren' [=foreign people] in Taiwan, and brown foreigners called 'wailau' [=foreign workers]?

7. Are ‘ethnic differences’ the same as ‘racism’?
8. Are Hakka people systematically discriminated against?
9. Are Min-nan people systematically discriminated against?
10. Are Waisheng people systematically discriminated against?
11. Are Aboriginal people systematically discriminated against?

Discussion Question:
Does racism exist in Taiwan?
Choose a side:
Team A) No. Taiwanese people are very tolerant of and friendly to foreigners.
Team B) Yes. Every time we have an election, there’s a race issue in Taiwan.
Team C) Moderator
Team D) No. There may have been problems in the past, but now everyone’s got the same opportunities as everyone else.
Team E) Yes. Chinese people think people lighter than them are superior, and those darker than them are inferior.
Team F) It’s not important. The M-shaped economy is a bigger problem for Taiwanese people, we’re just wasting our time with the ‘ethnic differences’, it’s just a political issue.
Team G) No. ___________________________________________.
Team H) Yes. ___________________________________________.

Amptoons: Denial, It's a White Thing

Taipei Discussion Transcript: Racism

Participants: Amy, Anita, Doris, Ramona, Mary, Clark aka Superman, Maggie, Willie, Fanny, Lynn, Angela

I want team d and team f, just like team d said, there may have been problems in the past, but now everyone has the same opportunities. So I want to combine the two.

I choose team b. In my opinion, it’s not just in Taiwan, it’s around the world. And I think the Taiwanese people they all think racism exist in Taiwan, every time we have an election, politicians use the issue to, like, if we are the same race, we need to get together, we need to fight the other politician, because we are the same race. So it does exist in Taiwan.

I am team h, because racism exists in Taiwan, and also other countries. Sometimes I meet person who discriminate towards others, who discriminate against me.

I choose team h. I think racism exists in Taiwan. It also exists all over the world. Just as Mary says, sometimes discriminate towards others, and others discriminate against us.

Sometimes I think that yeah racism does exist in Taiwan, but here we do have equal chances for jobs. Because racism does exist, because people have racist impressions of other people, but people here are generally kind, we think it, but we don’t necessarily act it.

I do believe it exists in Taiwan, and it’s also a phenomena worldwide, especially in the neighbors with similar culture background, but still have racism, like Taiwan and China, Turkey and Greece, Malaysia etc.

So you’re team H?

Yes, team H.

I’m also in team H, I agree with Mary’s opinion, that racism exists not only in Taiwan, but also in other countries. Actually, people in Taiwan are kind to foreigners and all people like Hakka people or aboriginal people, and all Taiwanese people have the same opportunities for works, for jobs, however, sometimes we have different attitude impression on different races. Even for foreigners, we have different treatment for white people and black people.

I’m in team f. I believe that it exists in Taiwan, but I don’t think it’s important anymore. I think that the bigger problem is that people will discriminate by people’s economic difference, instead of their ethnic difference. So that’s my point. I really that racism is a political issue, it will be picked up jut for political purposes.

I like a, b, d, e and f.

So you think all the positions are true.

Yes. I think for my opinion, the racism not exist in Taiwan, compared with south Africa, we are much more better. We don’t have, we don’t have white people against black people, we don’t have much fighting, only for political reasons. But I also agree that the m shaped economy is gradually changing our thought level. You would think people are rich they have higher standards compared with other people, so it’s hard for me to choose one side to stand for that.

I choose team d. I think everyone got a standard chance. So I don’t think racism exists in Taiwan right now.

Can I just mention? I think one reason it seems that everyone has a standard chance in Taiwan is that most people look very similar, it's hard to tell if you're Minnan or Hakka by looking at anyone. So, unless anyone here identifies as Hakka, for example,

I'm Hakka.

Okay, thanks for saying so. My point was that, if most people here are Minnan, and I'm white, well, most of us have the privilege of being the dominant race, and so from this perspective, it's really easy to think that we all have the same opportunities. But I think if you were to ask an Aboriginal person from Pingdong, you would have maybe a different answer to that question. For example, a friend of mine was born in Pingdong, but when she was very young she was adopted out to a British couple because her family had 10 children and couldn't raise them, so she was raised totally British, she can't speak Mandarin or Taiwanese or anything, and she came back here to meet her birth family. When she was there, she asked them which Aboriginal tribe they belonged to, because she had done research, and found pictures of I think the Amis tribe, and found that her own face, especially her nose, looked just like them. Like a really uncanny resemblance. And her family were like, "No, no way, we're Minnan, we're not Aboriginals!!" But everyone knows that there was intermarriage and other things, so the chances are actually really good that they were partly Aboriginal, but they didn't want to think that at all. It affects their social standing too much.

I want to ask a question, for those who think racism really important in Taiwan, I want to ask, who ever had an experience to be treat by racism. Do you have any experience in Taiwan, because you are Hakka, you are Minnan, or you are Waisheng, do you have different treatment?

I have no experience to be discriminated against. However I once discriminated towards others. Once I met a black person on the subway. They talked to me, and then I left my ms address to him, and we talked a lot on line. One day he invited me to have a coffee with me, but I just think why was he not a white guy, and so I think for some people like me, racism exists.

If he is Obama or Tiger Woods? Or handsome?

But if Obama and another black person I would choose Obama, but if Obama and a white person, I would choose the white person.

Okay, let me choose the handsome guy to compare…

I think people Taiwan look down on people come from India or Indonesia. So we call them Thailau [=Thai laborer]. Why don’t we call white people Bailau [=White laborer]? And I think the white people aren’t that useful! But Chinese people think white people are better.

But they’re laborers, so we’re just calling them what they are.

But the white guys, what they do is like labor work [=teaching kindergarten, it's basically child care], but we don’t call them that.
The point is, if you saw someone who is darker, from south Asia, you’ll call them a Wailau [=outside/foreign laborer], but maybe they’re not doing that work. Some Indians come to Taiwan, they’re managers of IT company, but we don’t treat them well, because they’re darker than us.

So we treat them different because of the color of their skin?

Yes, we are racist.

Yes, but in Taiwan, it’s just that we call the dark people whatever-lau, if it is a racism, it’s just a small one, we didn’t treat them very bad.

No, we treat them very bad! For example my brother’s daughter has a Filipina maid, but she treats her like animal, she says, "Come, come!"

It’s an education problem. [=they’re ignorant/poor/unsophisticated people]

No! They’re not!

That’s an isolated case.

But I have a lot of anecdotal evidence to the contrary. It’s not isolated. I’ve personally known four people with maids, all of them treat them with serious disrespect. Also, my god, all you have to do is read the Sunday section of the English newspaper Taiwan News, on the page for the Filipinas, and you’ll hear stories that’ll make your hair stand on end. Even the less shocking stories, they’re just so common! Especially the CLA [=Council of Labor Affairs], they way they treat Filipinas is a national disgrace. In the 11 years I’ve lived in Taiwan, I would say I only know of one case where they treated the maid who worked for them with the dignity one accords to an equal.

I’m going to move to Team H!

But it’s a hierarchy problem. It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin is. It’s a question, that people think, we are the employer, we are the employee, so this kind of abuse happens frequently. It doesn’t matter the color of the skin.

But how about the foreign wives? Some type of people, they buy a wife from the Philippines or Vietnam, and their family treat them badly.

Well, that’s not a marriage, it’s more like a contract.

Yeah, you get a maid and you can have sex with them and legally it's not rape. Ugh.


So it’s more an economic difference than a racial difference. You know, lots of people from India, they are getting richer and richer. So they can buy Land Rover, the British company. Once they are the boss, we are not say they are ugly or they are whatever.

I think we won’t say they are ugly in front of them.

But we will say they don’t smell good when they can’t hear.

This is still kind of discrimination. So it’s not just only economic situation.

Well, my ex-boss is Indian, he doesn’t smell, and he’s handsome, so I don’t think I would say that we discriminated. Also I worked for a French person, he said he was discriminated against by British, so it’s not just race.

And race is not the only factor. If I richer than you I can make a lot of money, but you have to use your body to make money, so I can say my level is higher than you.

So Angela, the news you saw in the newspaper, the husband they say they have the money, then they can abuse them. But if they met each other and fell in love, then it’s fine.

Sure, but if you pick up someone from a lineup in a dirty bar in Vietnam, that’s hardly meeting and falling in love, is it?

No, I’m talking about two people from different cultures who met and fell in love.

Then you’re not talking about buying a wife, are you?

What I’m saying is, it’s an economic issue.

But will people who come from Iraq or Iran have higher status than US people? Not really. So that’s still a racial issue, I think.

Middle east people…

But how much do you know them, are there middle east people in Taiwan? And we only know they are rich because we read in an article or whatever, hey go invest there, so we don’t know that much about them. And India, too. But they have a huge racism problem. If you are a laborer, after 12, you can’t get much of an education. But here in Taiwan… if I was educated in US, probably I want to choose someone white from America to teach my kids, not a black person. So you don’t see a lot of black people, it’s hard for them to get a job. So I’m saying that there’s a lot of racism here.

So I’m arguing against that--it’s not just an economic issue.

But I think that the different part is that the maids are discriminated because of the economic issues, but lots of Taiwanese have an impression like people with black skins are dirty or dumb. Or those who are south Asian look dirty or dumb, or they have tendency to sexual harass other people. But it’s just kind of impression, because it really didn’t prevent them from treating us equally. We treat them like that, because we don’t want to get close to them. So we don’t treat them that badly in public. But in private, it’s hard to say, especially that a lot of maids or foreign wives are not treated well. So it’s our impression of them that matters. So it’s racism plus economic issues. For maids, maybe economic issues become more important a factor.

Do you think that mainland Chinese wives are treated better than Vietnamese wives?

Are you asking us to make a scale of racism?

I don’t think a scale is a good idea…

Yes, but I want to ask this.

I think so, because wives from china cost more than Vietnamese wives. I think there really is a scale.

So you pay more to get the same language.

It’s like a kind of merchandising. Cut rate wife.

Still produces babies but doesn’t speak the language so well.

Because I think wives from china get better treatment than Taiwanese wives.

Why do you say so?

Because I hear them talking at California Fitness.

But if they’re there, then they’re definitely on the higher end of the economic scale. So they could be treated better because they’re upper class.

I just think of a situation.

In the city, we can meet a lot of foreigner, they come from other country. And maybe we can change the situation of race discrimination. Like in HK, you can meet a lot of people, and so maybe they are less discriminatory because they meet people. Then you won’t think people smell different.

Actually we smell different because we eat different things. It affects our body odor. When I first got to Taiwan I realized this, because I started to smell different, eating the food here.

Yes, like a friend of mine, she won’t rent her house to Koreans, because they have kimchi, and she doesn’t like this smell.

So if Taiwan becomes an international city, then this will help the problem.

But HK has Filipina maids, and they still treat them like shit.

But when I travel in Philippines, they think I’m Filipina, and in Thailand they think I’m Thai, and at first this was a problem, but now I accept that. And now I have a Filipina friend, I think he’s so nice, he’s so smart, it really changed my mind. I think the more you travel, you get less and less racist.

So if we accept Clark’s suggestion to have the gvt make the city more international, it’ll help racism?

I think maybe, but I think we have to do it from our education, since the kids. We have to tell them that everyone is equal.

When I was a child, my parents always scare me, they say, if you don’t study hard, maybe you will have to go to the Philippines and clean houses, and become Taiwanese-lau.

Fanny just raise a—you mention about middle east people. I just think about another issue, maybe not the racism, I think it’s interesting, I want to share, I think that most people think that middle easterners are terrorists. We were affected by American movies, or American culture a lot, so we will be biased.

We have to blame our own news reporters, too.

In movies, the Russian men, or the middle easterner are always the bad guys, so they are the terrorists. You are right, we should be educated better, and more global-minded, instead of just taking images from the media. Because the media is from America, from CNN, whatever. We should think more about what is shown to us.

I agree with you, I think because our media is, it influence a lot of our thought, especially for kids, and our medias only translate news from CNN most of the time. We don’t have much news from France, not much from middle east, probably because we cannot translate.

Because we are America’s friend.

Are we?

Well our government wants to be. And the middle east is the enemies of the US, so it’s impossible to hear news from middle east in Taiwan, except for economy issues.

There’s one thing I want to share. A friend of mine from the US, he said Americans hate so-called terrorists, but he said that Bush has a strong relationship with the Saudis, in the middle east.

I have a question: I’ll go to Paris in December. Does France discriminate against Asian people? Because I’m going to travel alone. Does anyone have any experience?

How long are you going for?

Two weeks.

If you are in a big city, its probably fine, but if you are going to the country side, be patient, and be careful.

Be careful?

You know as a woman traveling alone, you have to be careful?

I have a personal question, you mentioned south Africa, are you from there?

No, I have friends from there, and they’re white, and they really hate black people. They say that the problems in the city are caused by black people. They have five layers of doors.

Well, women have trouble there, rape in your own bed is very common there, it’s why I’m never going.

Also men have problems.

So when I’m in Taiwan, and we’re out dancing, if a black guy wants to hang out with me, they’ll line up and force them to back off.

So these friends of yours are men?

Why do you ask?

Because that seems a very male thing to do, you know, males are trained to power, that was a power-assuming kind of move.

Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Racism

Participants: Peter, Kevin, Angela

Wait, before we start this discussion, are you waisheng ren? [=Chinese who emigrated to Taiwan in 1940s when the KMT lost the civil war in China] I just wanna make sure we’re all, y’know, the same…

Well, actually, yes, my father escaped from mainland china after the war.


Don’t you mean ‘retreat’? Escape sounds a little…, don’t you think?

Well, escape, retreat, these are different things, maybe he meant escape!

But retreat means you will go back, escape means you don’t want to, right?


Well, I’m the 9th generation in Taiwan, my family came 300 years ago.

But from where?

Hokkien province.

Well, Angela, what do you think is the difference, in your definition, between Taiwanese, and Chinese, because your question one is Taiwanese people, and question two is Chinese people.

So, she’s saying the people who live here and the people live in china.

So what is the difference, is it just geological, in your opinion?

Well, I think that culture is based on history, and Taiwan has had a very different history from China, you know, it was only populated by Aborigines till about 300 years ago, when people started coming over from China, fleeing the end of the Ming Dynasty and all the upset there, and then it was basically self governing, till the Ching took it over for about 50 years, and then they handed it to the Japanese somewhere in the 1800s, and it became a Japanese colony, and then during the Chinese civil war and the Japanese invasion of china, Taiwanese soldiers were made to fight and help the Japanese side. There was no strong communist party here, the communist party was never in power here, and you never had the Cultural Revolution here. So historically, it’s very different than China. But also, Chinese people have a different idea of race than, say, white people. White people think more along national lines, like you’re German, or you’re French, we don’t think of the white race as a cohesive whole, whereas I think Chinese think of everybody as one group, don’t you say ‘hua ren’? So what I wonder, when you say Chinese, are you saying, culturally? Or nationally?

In my opinion, Chinese are educated to say that all Chinese are one nation, we don’t make exception for cultural or racial. You’re Chinese. Period. Even the Singapore people, they’re Chinese, no exception. So that’s why we’re always arguing about it. They accept this way, you’re original from china, so you’re Chinese. So last time I told the funny story, that actually, china is a part of Mongolia, because the Ching dynasty came from Mongolia. So china is really a part of Mongolia, if you think about it. As history goes by so everything will change. And people can choose what they want, but this is difficult to accept for Chinese, even highly educated people, to ask them to accept this idea. Maybe as child they’re taught this way, so they cannot change.

For the Chinese people in Indonesia, it’s not really about skin color is it? Even if your family has lived in Indonesia for 100 years, they still think you are Chinese.

Another funny story, in Indonesia, you cannot keep your Chinese surname. You must change the surname.

Yeah, but even you, okay, even you remove your last name, but you cannot change the truth that your ancestor is coming from mainland china?

But the people in Indonesia, there’s a kind of racism, they want to block out anything related to your origin, it’s too much. But it’s maybe because the Chinese people they occupy the economic resource, and maybe they’re afraid they will try to take away political power, so they want to overthrow the Chinese race, that thing comes up.

I think the situation you mention about the Chinese people in Indonesia, I think, I think the major cause think is related to preservation for insure their native people, have to share the economic growth outcome result, and because the Chinese people make too much fortune, and most the property and the resources are controlled by the Chinese people. So I think the, I think it’s not because the racism.

That’s why I call this kind of thing racism. I’ll give another example, Malaysia is getting better, in the past they were really against Chinese race, but now they accept the people have their own Chinese surname, it’s okay, but they say the Malay people want to control their political power, but they say the Chinese can keep their economic power. Its true, you ask the Chinese people the Malay people really enjoy some privilege in education, in civil service, there’s really some quota for Malay people. In Thailand, the tour guide told me, actually, they say the fifth generation of the Thailand king, you know that movie, The Annan King, they say the king is the most famous in Thailand, he modernized the Thai, and he really accept Chinese, he said Chinese could immigrate into Thailand, so I say he really make a change in Thai. So now they are really a lot of Chinese in Thailand, and they are accepted, that’s because of the king. But I say, right now, the past percentage of the Chinese race, and the native, I don’t know, but I think they keep balance, in Thailand, that’s my observation.

If we call somebody you’re racist, it means you, how to define, you are a racist or not?

My issue is different, I say racist could be more, maybe aggressive, or say maybe you don’t really like black guy, but I don’t say that’s really racist, if you say you don’t like the other race, and you try to kill them, then that’s racist. But if you don’t like them and just keep away from them, then that’s not rally racist. It depends how aggressive you are.

But somehow, just like we discussed earlier, about the beauty definition, we’re influenced by the media, and the environment, okay. So unconsciously, our concept, or our attitude, okay, be distorted to the so-called racist concept. Just the difference of the degree, or the what action we need to take. Because extreme the racist you just say, you’re not the same, the race, just WWII the Hitler, he want to kill the Jews, because he think the Germany is the okay one, the best in the world. But I think the most people is not the extreme racist. But somehow the racism is very universal, every people in the world somehow has some racist feelings.

Okay, I agree with this thing. I have this kind of ideology, that white people, and Japanese, are the best one, I think most people think this way, or the people from southeast Asia, these ones are lower class, but what we think this way, from influence of media, sometime they present this way, if you want the other people to respect you, you got to respect first. But they show up this way, how can you respect them? You see what I mean? I have a teacher, its hard to translate to English, but he says something like, the poor must have something slimy.

Slimy? Like something wrong with them maybe?

Right, they don’t prepare in advance, they don’t wash themselves. But this don’t apply to the handicapped people, but these poor people, they don’t wash off themselves, so they become that way.

That’s a really strong thing to say…

Just like you talk to aboriginal people, well, t his is difficult to say, but we talk about Hakka and Minnan people, but you know, do you see this kind of thing, Hakka people normally stay in the hilly country area, not the plains or cities, do you know why? And the aboriginal group, they stay in the high mountain area, you know why? Some people say different people immigrate to Taiwan at different times, but most people prefer to stay in plains area. So why do they separate? Because Minnan and Hakka fight, and Hakka lose, so the Hakka moved to the hilly area, and they fought with aboriginal people, and aboriginals lost, so they have to go to mountain area. Now that’s so long ago, no on really care about that, but at that time, if a Hakka came to the city, then they will be killed.

So it was like ‘sundown towns’ for Hakka.

Right, so in the past, the Hakka all stay in Miaoli area, and the city of Hsinchu is Minnan people. But that was a long time ago.

So that’s the same in Taidong. A friend of mine is a haircutter, and she likes to help people, so every once in awhile she goes to Taidong to cut hair for poor kids there, as a way of giving back. Well, she realied, all these kids are poor and negelected, they’re aboriginal kids, mainly. And she found out their parents are fruit farmers. And you’d think, well fruit sells for a lot in Taipei, its expenseive, so fruit farmers should be making some good money, but actually, the mafia who live in Taidong, they only let these farmers sell to them, and they only buy it for 2-3NT a kilo. And you can’t live on that, so they’re depressed and angry and they neglect their kids…there’s just no money. So when you’re buying this fruit in Taipei at 50 or 70 a kilo, it’s all going to the mafia in Taidong, not the Aboriginal fruit farmers. So this stuff isn’t really in the past, it’s alive and well, now.

See, actually, I would say, the gvt really give aboriginal people a lot of chance. They have this kind of thing, they get a salary, and then they spend all their money, and then don’t go back to work

Is this something you’ve observed, or a story you’ve heard.

Well everybody knows this, it’s a general concept. It’s really true.

So, okay, then I really think that story is just straight-up racism. Have you observed that? Do you know a specific instance? Otherwise, I really doubt that.

But Taiwan is so small, it’s easy to move around, so the opportunities are there.

Well, I can’t trust this ‘story’ you’ve just told me, I’m sorry, it sounds like smear tactics. It sounds like something the gangsters in Taidong would say to explain why the Aboriginal fruit farmers are so desperately poor, and to cover up what they’re doing to keep them so poor.

I agree that there’s stories come from news reports or books we read before, but currently, I think in Taiwan, the gvt offer some affirmative actions for like the original people, or some handicap, or even some female, rescue these people, I think the key point is, still they’re, in current Taiwan, the achievement or the contribution you can make for the society is not depends on your original race, okay, I think most of the, I cannot say the current in Taiwan, the gvt provide the fair opportunity for all the races, for example education, but I think it is much better, I think, the society is more open, so if you want to work hard, no matter you are Taiwanese, or Minnan, or Hakka, just like our current president, he says he is Hakka, and also he is waisheng [= Mainland Chinese, not Minnan or Taiwanese], the second generation, so currently he can be elected as Taiwan’s president, so it means racism is not, you know the, concept, generally accepted by most people in Taiwan. I heard that in US, if you are not born in US, you cannot be elected president of the US.

It’s true.

So on this point, Taiwan is more open.

Where was Ma Yingjieu born?

Hong Kong.

So some people in the party once proposed to, like the US, to exclude those people not born in Taiwan, but it was not accepted. So I don’t know, the private business company have many things to provide the opportunity for minority, like handicapped.

Well, Taiwan seems to do a lot for disabled access, I think.

Right, but honestly, when I want to employ a new engineer, honestly, I will choose someone from a background, like if some candidate is handicapped, I would prefer to choose the normal guy become my employee. So I think the racism is for some party or some situation, okay, for example, like the sports game, okay, we all say like Dr. Jones, the basketball game, I don’t know if you remember, we don’t like the Korean judge, because he always misjudged the game, I think most people, most judges in the sports game, somehow will be influenced by his race. So that’s why, in the international baseball game, all the umpires, you need to have a 3rd party. It’s a rule, they cant be one of the two teams, so I think it’s a general principle, so it reflect the truth of that racism exists for all the races, all the people. So what we can do is, um, to find some, to offer some affirmative action, to keep the different minorities can contribute their wisdom.