Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Culture of the Market

Participants: Jason, Robert, Wilson, Vina, Yehrung, Angela

See: The Culture of the Market

May I ask a question, if your children asked you, they want to try a little drugs, I want to experience the feeling, what do you do?

Depends, how old are they?

15 to 20 years old.

I think I may tell them there are a lot of things we want to try, specially we think it’s exciting, we’ve never done it before. But we cannot always doing the things we want to. For example, you watch superman jump out of the window and fly in the sky, you think that’s exciting, and you want to try once, but that action may cause some danger to your life. If this happened will you try it? Drugs are the same thing, they’re dangerous for your life, you might die. So in this situation, I think I would asking, in this kind of situation, do you really want to try it? I don’t know, that’s what I thought of when you asked this question. Because I think you tell them, you cannot do this, you cannot do that, they won’t listen, you have to make them think.

But in the end, since it’s not a matter of life or death, I would like to try, so would you respect me?

No!

So you’re just laughing at me.

Well, you’re not a children.

Because when they are very young, I will tell them what should do, what should not do, because it’s easy to except. For example when they’re in first grade, and one day he told me, mom, why can’t I have freedom to watch TV? So I said to him, well since you’re talking about freedom, so let’s talk about responsibility. So every morning we talk about who is responsible for what. So he says he has to go to school, and practice piano and do homework, and then he’s free. But when he grow up, so then it’s easier for him to understand what is right and wrong. Because teenager always just want to be different. If they want to go in opposite from you, it’s difficult to debate with them. So it’s easier if you help them accept things when they are young. Just like when we grow up. Maybe its not really democratic, but when we grew up, we were taught this is right or wrong, so when I grew up I didn’t have difficulty accepting things. But now that society is so individual, its harder, they always doubt and challenge, so I don’t have any best way to stop the challenge.

I agree, we have to do this when they are really young, you have to told them what’s right and wrong. My wife and I usually, when there’s bad news on TV, we tell our children, what caused the result, and let them learn from the real experience of others. And tell them

Scare them!

Yes, …. Well, anyway.

How about you.

Well, in my opinion, I think you as a parent are not doing too bad if you child would lie to ask you before if they should try. I think I would try to share some real examples. If he or she is already up to that age for independence, I will leave the decision to him or her.

[crosstalk]

Not quite so, I was thinking the relationship matters most to parents and children. I think if they want to talk to you, there’s always a chance.

Mmm!

Yes!

What about you?

I think the answer is very easy. If your children are between 15 to 21, so the motivation why they ask this question to you, it’s simple, they just want to know what’s your attitude. Because they are old enough. So the answer is very simple. I don’t think it is worth to try. And I will say because., blah blah blah. And then I would turn back the question to them. If you want to try, and you know it’s not to worth do to it, but if you want to try, let me know. Because you add the condition, they are above 15 years old, and they are not kid, they have their ideas. They just want to know what do you think about it. I don’t think they want to follow your rules for the thing. So just tell them your attitude, it’s enough. If they want to try it, a lot of bad thing will happen. So if you try it, tell me, it’s very important.

How about you?

I have a very interesting experience. My oldest son and 10 years ago, one day, he told me, he’s really impressed by smoking, he feels it’s really cool. And I thought: “okay”. I give him money, to go to buy cigarettes and bring it home. And my oldest son sat by my side, and I smoked with him together . One, two, maybe the third cigarette. So I asked him, how do you feel? Not good! Not sweet, not good smell. I said yeah, this is a cigarette. So he never touch it. So one day he grow up, he’s 17, he tell me, I really want to try the drugs. I ask him, where can you buy the drugs? He said, he don't know, but he can try to buy it. I asked him, where, tell me where. He said he don’t know, but if I want, he can try. So I tell him, maybe your friend, maybe you can get the drugs, but it’s not reasonable. He said, hey when I was 10 years old, you smoked with me. But I said, but cigarettes you can buy anywhere. But drugs, it’s not reasonable. I was very serious with him. My son said, don’t worry, I won’t touch it. I said, I really really worry about this! He never talked with me about it again.

Yes, I think drugs and cigarette is different. Especially the source of it.

Yeah, the social structure for getting you hooked is like Amway. It’s limited, you can only get it through certain people, and well, unlike Amway, it’s ‘forbidden’ and therefore ‘cool’, and there’s like this cachet about it. But the main point, like Amway, you buy it through your social connections. And the sellers have an interest in making you a long-term customer, so they invent reasons to have contact with you—like Amway!—and they’re also people you would normally hang out with, so once you buy, it’s really hard to not keep buying, especially if there’s social pressure. You can hang out with drug users, and not be a user, but once you start using, then it’s really hard to stop, because of the social structure of the thing.

Paragraph 9 said young people want to get recognition from other people even thought they don’t have the money, don’t have the power to control the living style, or to decide how they want to do, so they want the recognition from other people. If the kids is only 10 years old, he want to get the, maybe some recognition from his parents. But young people after age 18, they just want recognition from his or her friends. So it’s important for, it’s related to this article. If the young people they have enough money to support this living style, they also want to use money to maintain the relationship with his friends, so my question is, do you think our young people really face this kind of problem? In Taiwan its serious or not? As Vina said, you saw the Commonwealth article saying the drug problem is very common in our high schools. So the problem is, if this problem is very common in Taiwan, what’s the real issue to cause this problem to be serious. Our young people can't get enough money?

I used to discuss this with my husband, but the topic was different. We were talking about campus violence. When I say, my idea is that if I found there is a campus violence, I will transfer my kids out of the school, just try to get away from, just to protect children from—

So you say the kids face campus violence, so you would put them in a different school?

Yes, because I don’t want them to have them surrounded by this. But my husband grew up in Shalu in Taichung county, so there’s a lot of violence there, and he’s a male, so as boys grew up, he had a lot of chance to face this issue. So he said the best thing is to teach him how to protect themselves—and run fast. You can tell who is good for you, and how to avoid, so you know this kind of thing. So that maybe the situation will be the same. The mother’s point of view is to protect the children from those kind of exposure, but maybe the way of facing is much important than getting away from, since we can’t protect them all the time. But we keep arguing, since we haven’t faced the situation yet. So there’s different ways of dealing.

For my kid’s example, when my kid was in 6th grade, his classmate suicided, because they said they watch the TV use the knife to cut their hands. So it’s a kind of, they want to try it. Because one of their classmate want to do suicide. But that is a real case in my school. So the schoolteachers notify—

High school or elementary?

Elementary.

Really!

—so the teacher want to cooperate and want to teach the kids and explain why they cant try it. But for the real suicide kid, it’s a different way to maybe, to help him to resist that suicide behavior. But for normal kids, you just need to let them know why it is not a good behavior, even you want to mimic it. So that’s a real case for Hsinchu. It’s a kind of media effect. They watch the television. We cannot protect them well. We need to teach them case by case. When one problem happen, we need to face what cause it.

The Culture of the Market

Questions to Ponder:
1. Is modern culture a ‘culture of forgetting?’
2. Is the growth of the market related to fractured social relationships?

In Paragraph 8 the author asks two questions:
3. How was the humanity that characterized the struggle against poverty transformed into a perception of others as rivals, competitors, participants in a rat-race no one chose?
4. How would we have been drawn so irresistibly to marketed goods, services and sensations, if we had continued to draw sustenance from one another?

In the first article, the author wrote:
“Since they have no memory of what went before, and little sense of their own history, they have only the faintest conception of influences that have shaped them and created the insecurities which torment them.”

5. Does the lack of a sense of history inspire more fear of other people?
6. If people understood how they were influenced/taught to fear others, would it make them fear them less?

Discussion Question:
Has the culture of the market broken our relationships with one another?

Articles:
The Guardian: Slash-and-burn economics caused the blade crimewave
The Guardian: Children of the market
The Guardian: Punishment won’t get rid of knife crime.


Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Grandmothers, part II

Participants: Robert Wilson Vina Jason Angela

Old women in US, they say the older, the more invisible. You have to work really hard to be noticed.
In my shorthand version of Western history, I think of it like this: In pre-christian times women were the healers and the one who knew how to use the herbs. The Catholic church was uneasy with women having so much power, and so in the 13th century there was a massive campaign to demonize them as witches. And later the church even forbid its priests to marry, and became a male-only organization. And the shadow of the Catholic church, of all the Christian churches, over western culture is long and deep. We’re still completely informed by Christianity, even if we consider ourselves secularized. And Christianity is fundamentally afraid of the power of women, turns us into good girls and whores, and invisible old women. So I brought this up, this topic of old women, because you guys grew up in Chinese culture, it’s completely different from what I know. So I want to know what’s the Chinese viewpoint of old women? I know Chinese culture has a reverence for old people, but in literature it only seems to be in the context of old men. So how about old women?

But the reality will be just like what you said. Like how they treat Lu Shiulien. [VP of Taiwan for 8 years] They don’t appreciate her intelligence, her wit, her contributions. They see an old woman. Most people will say they do cherish an old women, but they won’t get really high respect in society.

You mention sexism, right? But it’s kind of you care about the sex, the male or female.

Maybe.

But what I found, is that if a woman cannot help others, she is useless.

That’s why your mother-in-law is afraid not to help.

Right, in Chinese culture, her value is for what she do for others. We respect old women because what they contribute to others, not herself, the personal achievement. The value system. You will get high achievement as a male, but we are more focused on the contributions of women, not her own achievement. Do you see the difference?

You mention two words, contribution and treatment.

Achievement.

You say contribute to others, most of the females will help their partners,

No I mean, for old men, we all focus on his own acheivement. But for old women, we focus on her contribution.

It’s a stereotype.

So the truth is, we say old women is very important, but if she could not help others, the truth is she is not really important. In most common feelings. Not talking about your mother! We all agree that, we will all say your mother or your wife is very good etc, but OTHER women?

It’s difficult question, because, maybe since I am a man I can’t experience, I can’t maybe know what’s the, you say I can help other people, if I can’t help other people, even though I have achieved some successful business, I can’t get the respect from other people. But you say in Taiwan the status of the women. My opinion, I’m not sure it is true or not. Maybe, just I say, the acheivement for men, maybe we can evaluate the men, he fulfils the dream of a good business is a acheivment, or his goal is to teach some young kids, so that’s his achievement, but he can’t get any help from his wife, so his wife is not helpful for him to achieve his goal, but his wife is a successful woman, she can have another achievement. To that me the achievement and contribution is not related.

What do you think, do you agree with me?

It’s very hard to comment.

Because we are men.

Forget about this, just think about the question.

I really think that what the elderly can do for our society partly depends on our attitude toward them. If put them in the right place, they always contribute.

So is there any difference between elder men and elder women?

I don’t feel any difference for me.

Not your own parents, just the whole society. If we represent Taiwanese people to answer Angela’s question, is there a difference?

From my view, yes.

How about you?

At first I don't think there’s any difference, but after Angela mention this, I think there is. So when we value old men, we value their achievement. But we value old women, if she didn’t contribute to others, then we don’t value her.

She must have done something for her family?

Yeah.

So the problem is, how do we evaluate the success of the women? What is the basis? My opinion is like to evaluate man is different, it needs to have some difference. The difference comes from the because, for what do you want to evaluate, what’s that target you want to devaluate. It’s not men or women, it’s valuation metrics. If you want to evaluate a woman has a successful business, or she is successful in taking care her family, the evaluation factor is not same. So if you say the men and women, you want to evaluate the men and women, you use the same evaluation basis, it’s not fair, they are radically different.

But what is the difference, what is the criteria?

You need to know what factor or criteria you use to evaluate men and women?

So what are the ones you use?

So to evaluate a man, you have to consider that most of his goal is to establish his business or his company. So if you use how much he pay attention to his family, it’s not fair. But if you ignore how much he take to take care of his family, totally, it’s also not fair. You have to balance. How much he take care of his family, and how much he take to establish his business. So for women, you have a different factors.

So that’s why the same situation, like Lu Shiulien, or Shi Mingde, go to prison, but the appreciation received, it’s quite different, even the same reason, but the appreciation is different. [They were both jailed for activities in the democracy movement when Taiwan was still under martial law.]

But you will say the same situation, they are politicians, they are perform the political activity.

But they do the same thing!

But Lu, she is our vice president, and Shu is our party leader, so they are the same.

She was elected to be VP doesn’t mean that she is respected. Just because she’s chosen as the partner. For the common society, for the common feelings, I don’t think she received much appreciation for what she did in the past. I thing others receive more. Maybe it’s personal, we don’t like her personality

[Laugher.] [Because Lu’s personality is often criticized in the press]

Maybe it’s the stereotypes for the old women. I don’t know the answer, I’m just curious. What do you think?

You take the Lu Shiulien example, she is not a, she cannot, you cannot use she as example and see if the whole society respect old women, because she is a politician. So it’s more complex. So we should think about if we met an old woman or old man in the street, do you respect the old man or the old woman, what does their, when you saw them in the street, do you more respect the old man than the old omwan/? I don’t think there’s that much difference. So Lu Shiulien is not a good example.

Okay how about male and female branches of Tsu Ji, they’re treated equal!

But that’s really not easy to see, beaseu you’re bringing religion the mix. Also, the spiritual leader of Tsu Ji is a woman, so this might affect how women are treated in the organization.

So there’s a common stereotype in society, for male and female, it’s complicated, because you want to eliminate stereotype its not easy.

But think, old and ugly man, and old and ugly woman, people will treat them different.

But you can’t say that.

Okay but the American president race, if palin were old and ugly?

Oh, that’s the thing that bothers me the most about the race, it’s that because she’s beautiful, and ‘fuckable’ she’s a better candidate? Wow, because if you can fuck someone, you’ve got power over them, so they’re saying, we’ll only let those we can control in?

But Obama chose an old ugly man, but nobody talk about that!

[Laughter]

Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Grandmothers

Participants: Robert Wilson Vina Jason Angela

I think children are more affected by mother than father, and so the mother was affected by her mother, so that’s why the maternal grandmother has more of an effect.

So the daughter is more close to her own mother than her father, so you imply that?

For example, I live with my mother-in-law. The time the children spend with her is much more than they are with my mother. But the children’s characteristic is more like me, and more like my mother. So its very interesting, when I read the whole article. I think that maybe Asian people are more clever, because it’s all maternal lineage. But I think in modern society, it more tends to be like that. Because I find that many of my friends they live with their mother already. Maybe its because the wife takes the decision making power.

Or you know a lot of strong women.

Because the wife prefer her children to be taken care by her mother than her mother in law.

Why?


Because I can say what you should and shouldn’t do, but I can’t say that to my mother-in-law. Just like those wife prefer to stay their maternal leave in their own home, and not with their mother in law, because they can say what they want to eat or not in their own home, but not in their mother in law’s home!

Before we start, I just want to ask some background information about everyone.

You want to take a survey?

I just want to know do you lived with your mother or mother-in-law?

When I was child?

No, now?

No.

No.

No.

So I’m the only one. Because most of my friends say that I’m a very special girl that can bear to live with her mother-in-law. Because most people don’t.

Yes.

Not really hate, but most people choose not to.

I guess your husband is the local resident in Hsinchu.

No, I am the local resident!

So your husband want to take care his mother, so his mother live with you.

Yes, because I’m quite fine with living with old people. I’m fine, but I find that most people find very serious problems between—

A tension relationship.

There’s tension in the relationship.

—They prefer to live in their own family. If they can choose, they prefer to live with their own mother, but they’d rather live by themselves. For me, I’m very busy, so I really do need to have someone help me with the children, so I’m quite happy, well not very happy, but I very appreciate that I can stay close to my mother and also live with my mother in-law

So is your relationship good?

I’m fine!

Wow, that speaks volumes.

Well what it is—there’s a different…my mother-in-law’s family was very poor

So there was an economic difference

Well it was a values difference.

Oh, so it’s a class difference.

Well, for instance she has to keep warming up the leftovers, over and over.

She has to save every last scrap of food!

Yes. My father was a teacher, so I’m high educational level, but my husband’s family was laborers. So it’s good, because they’re very traditional, but sometime it’s a burden for us, because she’s always sacrificing everything for us, but we don’t need them too. But she’s afraid we’ll kick her out. But my mom is different, she kicked us all out of the house so she could have some quiet.

My mother is different. She moved to Hsinchu with me, but she didn’t’ like it, because she was used to Miaoli, she didn’t want to change her situation. It’s common in Hsinchu, lots of people live here, but their families are not from here. So you asked a question, why we don’t live with our mother-in-law, it’s very common here.

And so your situation?

Actually, my father is still working.

But if they retired will they live with you?

I don’t know.

Why don’t you know?

Well, we’re still thinking about it, it’s a question of living style.

How about you?

Well, my parents said we can move out to form our own family. I live in Jubei and my parents live in Hsinchu. I go to my parents’ every day for lunch.

My brother is like that. They live so close they don’t need to live together.

Sounds like a win-win situation.

Really!

Still have some privacy, yes.

When my children were still young, I still lived with my parents. But now they’re grown, it’s not a good idea. I would say my parents’ viewpoint, especially to the education system, we want to adopt some attitude to teach our children, well we have different aspects. So sometimes living in different places, it’s a good idea. My children then don’t confuse about what the adults might, from his or her parents, and the parents in law. The same situation in this article. They say the mother-in-law, the grandmother have a different style. I would say it’s important for teaching our children.

But I’m in favor of team b, because I appreciate the grandmother factor. Because many of my friends, they're older and their children already grown up. They say they appreciate their parents, because when the child was young, the parents or parents-in-law take the role of mother and father. I notice this too, cuz when I was a child I didn’t live with my grandma because my mom was a housewife. When I came home, my mom was there. But this didn’t happen to my children, because I work in Taipei. But my children still have someone there, when they come home. Some of my friends’ children in Taipei, they have to hang out in fast food restaurants to wait for their parents. Because there’s the after school program, but after that their parents are still at work, and they have to get dinner for themselves. In primary school, they have some nanny, but after highschool, even though they’re not yet adult, they have to take care of themselves. Because they don’t find nanny for them. So they go to after school program by themselves, and feed themselves by themselves. So I do appreciate the traditional mothers’ role, and the traditional fathers’ role, too.

So you prefer team b? What’s the difference between b and e?

I’m not really supporting team e, because I’m not really think that…I appreciate that they play a role in child raising…spiritual. Although they do have a lot more life experience and see a lot more children than young women. But I don’t know that they do really know what to expect from a child, they may still not know what to do.

So team b is saying that old women—

Are wise!

—have the experience to take care of difficult situations. When something happens, they have more experience to take care of the situation.

But I’m not 100 percent supporting b. For example, my daughter uses her left had. So my mother-in-law wants me to change her to use her right hand and accuse me for not changing it, but I don’t agree with it, and then she goes to my husband.

It’s a conventional conflict.

And sometimes she will always say to the children what they do wrong. But I prefer to tell them what they do right. Because the modern parent cherish what their children do well. But in the past Chinese culture, they will not say what is good, but will correct you. It’s all correction. I’m not saying that correction is not right, but in the past culture its too focused on everyone having to fit in to a mold, and you have to correct everyone to the same mold. We are more western now, and more about respecting individualism. Like the grandmother two wolf story. But our grandmothers were all about correcting children’s behaviors, because of past Chinese culture didn’t respect individualism. So it’s not 100 percent wise.

I want to create team f.

Okay! Cool.

So the answer is yes. I would say the grandmother is important, especially for traditional Chinese society. But I would say the old grandparents have lots of experience to take care of children. But the most important is we want to maintain a Chinese culture characteristic. If I respect my mother this is a kind of education sample for my children. It’s a culture, we need to set up a sample for our children to learn how to respect your older people or your relatives. It’s very important but my reason to create the team f, I don’t completely agree the old women is totally their responsibility. The parent like me or my wife have a responsibility to take care of our children. That is why I want to take the team f. The answer is yes, but I have another reason.

Can you state it in one sentence?

The grandmother is important to help the mother/father to take care of grandkids, and it’s a learning example for the grandkids to learn how to respect older people.

But it only has effect when you live with them?

But just I said, to live together or separate is also another kind of experience.

So what ‘s the difference when you take them every weekend to the nursing home?

I would say if my parents have the ability to take care of themselves, I would say they should live in their house. But if they don’t have the ability, and I can’t, then to transfer them to a care center is a good idea. But I have a responsibility to visit the care center very often.

I’m not criticize you. I’m just say if you have a grandmother, it will have an effect to teach children to respect elder. If you don’t you still can teach them with your daily behavior. But what is the effect of the grandmother on the whole family.

I’m saying it’s like you teach your children to respect other people, but if you practice it, and you respect your mother, your child can learn from your practice.

Right. What I do to my parents my children will do to me. I do agree. I’m just curious about your wording. I think that if you live together, why live together, because it’s daily life, if the children get used to living with older people, without any functions, but you will have to bear it in your house, and you still have tot take care of them, this will really teach your children how to take care of those who used to be active. My friend said that when his children were taking care of by his parents, and when he grew up, and choose the school, and he was worried if he was too far away, he worried about his grandparents, because his parents often go abroad on business trip, and he was worried about that the grandparents had no one to care for them. I think this is really good, so the children start to think about others—they didn’t worry about the parents, they can take care of them selves, but they worry about the grandparents! It’s a way that they know they belong to the family. Their responsibility. Because they were fed by them, and then they want to take care of them.

You mention it’s related to different styles of grandmother or grandfather. In our generation, or the kids, they are the traditional style. But maybe our grandkids will face to another style. Like when I’m a grandfather, I will say I won’t be a traditional grandfather. Maybe it’s a different style, so in current Taiwan society, most grandmothers and grandfathers are traditional style but it will change. So if you are grandmother what, do you want to take care your grand kids?

No.

[Laugher]

But you would like to influence them?

Not necessarily. I think that if you are more independent, you not necessarily need to live with your children. But I know that my parents in law are not independent, but I can accept it because they need it. They need to live with you to prove that they are worthy of love, so it’s fine.

So let me re-ask this question. In 30 years, you are a grandmother, do you want to live with your children?

If I need, I hope they will welcome me. But it depends on my choice, you know?
That means that, if I want, I hope they will welcome me. But if I don’t want, it’s my decision. If I do need them, and they refuse to do so, I’ll be sad. But it will depend on what I feel that time.
Because I don’t want my grand daughter in law—normally you will like your grandchildren, but you may not like their spouse!

Hey, I want everyone to answer that question, that is interesting.

I prefer not. I think I can live happily with myself, and maybe with my wife. I have many hobbies, many dreams, many books to read, there’s so much to explore.

But you have to economic independence!

Yes, I’m going to say that! I’m getting to that.

So in Chinese old saying, before you had to save money to keep when you are old, but now you have to save money to protect the children.

But my answer is the same to Robert. My son tells me, when he grows up, he doesn’t want to live with us. And my daughter say she want to live with us.

Normally daughters prefer to live with their parents.

Not every daughter!

[Laughter]

So that’s why I say, I want them to have their own life, and my wife and I will have our own life. We could live together part of the time, but not every day.

But take my mother’s example she didn’t want to live with my brother, but when he bought a new house, she came to see it, and asked, hey? If I was here, where would I live?

So she wanted to know that she could!

Yes.

And my sister in law said, oh, there is not room for you!

Oh shit!

It was stupid, right? There’s room for the children, and a room for the books, but no room for her. So she’s stupid, she still should welcome her. But if this were you, what will you feel, can you accept it?

This kind of violates Chinese thinking, you need to express your welcome, but we have a problem in taiwan, no one has any room!

But I think that young people don’t really think about it. My colleague said the reason she doesn’t want to marry, she doesn’t want, when she comes home, she doesn’t want to find fruit in the fridge! Meaning, she doesn't want to find that the mother-in-law is there with out her permission. Right now, she is only a girlfriend, and the mother-in-law already makes her too involved in the family. But it’s quite strange, that I think it’s fine, because I’m too busy. So if there’s fruit, it’s fine, because I don’t have time, and you want to cook, it’s great! So now for the young people, it’s—

But maybe it’s because you're too busy. If you were less busy you’d have problems with your mother-in-law.

Well, it’s ‘cuz I’m lazy, I don’t mind people taking care of me.

But this is maybe another problem. When we get older, we have to think about what the younger people are thinking. We have to think about their thinking logic, and respect them for that.

I’ll ask in in another way. Do you like the family style in America? Because I think that in 30 years, we’ll be like the culture in America. So our future will be a lot different from our past. So when you look at the US family style, it’s our future. When you say Chinese culture, I think in 30 years, it won’t really be like that. 5 years generation gap, 10 years is really very obvious. But so 30 years, will really be different. So do you think this is good?

It’s not really about good or bad. I agree it will be happen in 20 or 30 years, but the only thing we can do is maintain their relationship with our children, to establish the cause relationship with them. It’s the only thing we can do. We can’t refuse to accept that situation. Think about my example, my son said he wants to …if he has the ability to travel around the world, he doesn’t want to live in Taiwan or Hsinchu. Now he doesn’t even want to be here, he wants to live in Taipei, and he wants to leave and go.

You’re in my parents’ position!

But when my son talks to me, I just encourage him to fulfill his dream. So I tell him how he needs to prepare. You need to earn money, you need to read books, and you need to know things. It’s not easy.

Actually, that’s not true. I just had a plane ticket and 600 dollars US, but I was okay.

But I think balance is best. Too traditional or too modern is not good. But since our society developed, I think our children will develop individualism, so we decided to teach them more Chinese style at home. And also individually. I was educated in Chinese style, but we are trained by society modern individualism so it’s quite balance.

I want to know what Jason thinks.

In 30 years, it depends how my children are thinking. Just like Vina, you need them to take care your children right?

Actually, she said they need her!

My children are actually taken care of by my mother. You know, my parents in law feel like their son has become a lu zue! [= the son is the ‘wife’ in the family, without the prestige of being the main hereditary line]

[laughter]

So, if they need, they can live with me, but in my style, I have my own house, and I live near with my parents, so my parents can see me, if they want, everyday, and they can see their grandson and granddaughter every day if they want. They are all retired now, so usually they go abroad for traveling. When I need them to take care my children, they are happy to take care. So I think it’s the best way for me.

But if your children want to go to foreign country?

That’s okay, it’s their life, I respect their decision.

So it seems their current status you live with your parents is the best model.

We don’t live under the same roof, but very near.

The same building?

Not the same. About 20 minutes drive apart. It’s the perfect model for me.

So you want your children adopt your mode.

Well, for me it’s a good style, because I love my parents.

Do you have children?

Yes,

How old are they?

7 and 5

And who takes care of them?

My wife.

Same as me, my elder is 7 and my second is 5.

And your wife doesn’t work.

Yes, she quit after the second one. She was a teacher before.

Just like me, my wife and I decide that one need to quit a job, and so we discuss, that I need to work! So she quit.

So that’s why you don’t need to live with the grandmother, because all your wife live with your children but I can’t, I need her.

You know, my wife’s salary was higher than me.

Then why didn’t you quit!

Because she said she wanted to take care of HER children. She wanted the experience of it, she thought that it was worth it.

You know, I wondered why always the women quit their job. But in fact, when you actually have the children, you know that the responsibility is on you, because these 10 months, it was already all on you. So you’re already used to have the responsibility. So the woman will decide to sacrifice.

It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a kind of trade off.

As Robert’s case, he is a house husband.

Well not really, you’re the main income bringer, right?

Well partial. But I have the greatest housewife!

For me, that’s why I’m not gonna have children.

For me, I’m a businesswoman, so it’s fine. But if I were a housewife, I can’t imagine what will happen. Because two housewife in the house, that would be terrible, who’s in charge?

That’s why my wife, my mother encourage me to move out.

[Laughter.]

It’s my house or your house! I come to your house, I follow your rules.

One house is owned by one woman!

[agreement and laugher]

So what team do you choose?

Team b and e. It mentioned that old women play an important role. I’d say they could, but not necessarily. But we should value the wisdom that old women bear. Actually for all old people.

I think all people would choose b and e in Taiwan. They would say so, they wouldn’t necessarily show in their behavior, but they think it. Because we are taught.

So who would say a?

I think they would think it, but they wouldn’t say it.

I think that some of my girlfriends would say a, but not in public.

so how about you, A?

ha, no I’ll take c.

trust me, it’s not what you think—that’s a moderator job.

so what are you?

She’s b!

So I’ll choose b,

So how about you!

Oh, uh, I’m typing, I’m not sure.

So what does it mean ‘strongly influence the quality of people’?

It’s like, people raised well are wealthy of spirit, interiorly.

So it’s an economic quality or spiritual quality, its contrasted.

What do you mean? Contrasted, that’s interesting.

Knowledgeable.

You can be rich and stupid, or you can be rich and wise, or poor and wise, or poor and stupid, the point is you can be wealthy in money or wealthy in spirit, they’re not related.

Conversation: It’s better than television.

So, in a conversation about rethinkingourselves, the woman I was talking with said: “Well, I’m easily influenced.”

I thought about this.

I think the process goes like this: First you’re easily influenced, but then you read and listen some more, and then for awhile you declare that it’s all crap, and you don’t trust anything. But then you read some more, or listen some more, and then you start realizing, hey, you know, some of these things make sense to me, and they fit a pattern, and over time you start to realize what you truly believe in. And then you read and listen some more and refine your ideas, take some new ones on, throw out some that don’t fit anymore, and your opinions get clearer and better fitting. Wash, rinse, repeat.

And then there’s this thing called the Socratic method, which I understand to be basically a bunch of people sitting around talking and discussing something, and bouncing their ideas off each other and arguing with each other until new ideas are born. And if no new ideas are actually created, well, in the meantime a whole lot of information has been disseminated and chewed on and hopefully digested.

Conversation: the art of sharing ideas and figuring out new things together.

Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: Farming

Participants: Kevin, Peter W, Wilson, Vina, Regina, Angela
The original discussion question is here.

The point is, it’s not so serious. If it’s the metal mine or the oil, yes, it’s limited. But the plants, we plant some seed, let’s say in Taiwan, talking about rice, normally in the south of Taiwan we can have three harvests one year, and in the north, 2 times. So it’s not that serious.


Okay, no, what you don’t know is Taiwan’s soil is incredibly rich, because, just like the US, less than 200 years ago it was all forest. Also, Taiwanese farmers use ancient Chinese farming methods, which according to the author of this book, actually conserve the nutrition of the soil really well. It’s why the Chinese have used the same land for 1000 years and it’s basically okay.
But listen, let me show you a link, this is something that happened in Uzbekistan. The Soviet gvt took a fragile ecosystem, pumped it with water from the Ural sea—permanently reducing the sea by half, by the way, and killing the fishing industries and all the towns around the edges—and got 50 years of cotton out of it. But now, the land is completely dead. It’s not even a desert. It’s completely dead. Look at this picture.
Okay, but listen, until I read this book, I totally thought exactly what you did, that it’s industry and chemicals and plastics and carbon we have to worry about. But now, I see that this is a whole new area that’s got to be considered. The world is changing so fast, you know? The Taiwanese gvt is working on a 10 year old paradigm. They’re not remotely thinking about food yet, but I really think they should be.

The reason haven’t seen that scenario in Taiwan because we let the land take a rest after one season. Even though we use the chemical fertilizer to the soil, it’s because we let it rest, so we don’t harm.

Well, actually it does, it’s that it’s not as clearly harmful, because of the resting.

You know, population is like bacteria in a Petri dish. If you feed it a limited amount of food, the population of bacteriums doesn’t grow. But if you give it a surplus, the population grows, the more surplus the more growth, but the problem is, what happens when the food runs out?

Maybe in Taiwan we don’t have a lot of farming fields.

We do have! So the gvt policy is to rest.

But we don’t have fields on the scale of the US.

But the US is largely for-profit agriculture.

But I’m saying is, we don’t have the kind of field where we plant the same kind of food for miles. So we don’t have to exploit the forest. We can keep the forest.

No I don’t agree, because in the past we had to follow Japan’s rules. If as you say, we keep the forest, and have very good farming development, and the cities, and keep it as the original situation. But these few years, people are very worried about Taiwan’s future. So now we have the politicians ask those farmers to leave things fallow, because they’re afraid that too many…so they ask them to rest. But now they have changed the laws that allow them to build houses, and they can change restrictions to build houses, so the situation, that you say we lack farmland, will come to happen, will happen, because we’ve started to build on our farmland.
Do you know these two years, the agriculture is a quite popular issues, because of the growing of the emerging market, and the great population, and imagine if china, everyone ate one more piece of bread, what a shortage of wheat would be. So the land shortage has made agriculture prices go up. And in fact Taiwan has the great advantage. We have great dirt, and good soil, we could make money from it, but instead we have been developing industry. Not agriculture.

Okay, let me give you an example from my sister in law, she’s a farmer in Miaoli. The gvt wants her to have her land fallow. The gvt doesn’t approve her to plant. The gvt want to control the quantity of food, so it won’t depress prices. But maybe this year, the world lack of food, so the gvt approve she can plant in his land every year. So it’s a policy, it’s a gvt policy. It doesn’t mention any soil exploitation, the gvt want to control the price.
But there is another problem for Taiwanese farmer. They subsidy they get is only a little money, so they need to find a way for other money. So the gvt tell my sister in law to change her farming style, so need to do something, to change from pure forming to a recreation business. So need to change their farming style. And the gvt teach them how to change their style.

But I’m thinking, just for considering the future, just feed ourselves is fine. But in the future, we’re too reliant on imported foods. We don’t have much problems because we can feed ourselves. But if you think about in America, now they already suffers from this problems, because they don’ t have enough good enough farmland for corn, and basically their main food is corn, and the corn price. Because the corn is meant for biofuel, and this cause a great influence on them. And if our food type is rice, it’s fine. But if we too rely on the wheat, maybe we will have some problems. We will have to pay more, and still more. And farmers will to change those, will maximize their profits, so they will change there, for example, if corn is more profitable, they will change over to corn, and it’s not really good for the ecosystem.

So it's interesting, paragraph 32, they say it’s not necessary to say that every national agriculture is completely self contained, this would be a great pity. So Taiwan has enough food, we don’t need to import too much food, just some flour.

It’s interesting to think about Africa. They lack food so they want to increase their population.

Huh?

They want more labor to plant plants.

Wow. But if they would stop fighting, they would have the population.

So, about question number one, its strange to link, to say the population is proportional to the agriculture. So I don’t think it’s a real situation. I think the population, there are many factors that affect the population growth.

Yeah, medicine is one.

Even Africa, their economic situation is very bad, and agriculture unit output is not so….but their population is very huge.

Like in china.

So I don’t think the agricultural development is the major factor for the double triple of population in Europe in the 18th century. In my understand, the European empire, the Spanish and the British robbed the agricultural treasure from south east Asia and mainland china, is the reason for the economic growth.

How?

Their economic position improved.

So allow them to do what?

Allow them to have more babies, more land, and improve their living environment. So this can explain the high growth rate of their population.

Okay, back to the agriculture in Taiwan, after Wilson was say that it’s not a big problem. I’m not so optimistic about the agriculture here. I don’t think the soil is fertilized enough. For example, a few months ago, the worldwide fertilizer price rise very sharp, so many farmers couldn’t get enough, so without enough fertilizer, they can’t plant enough, and can’t get good harvest, so it means our soil also lack, like the Europe and America, it’s worse than before. But where we are strong is our agriculture scientist, our capability.

Yeah, don’t have lost talent.

Yes, is very advanced. And 20 or 30 years ago, they can dispatch the teams to help the African countries, or the middle east countries. So I think the soil crisis I think is global issue. And why our gvt decide to fallow many lands, partially is because just like Vina says, part of eating habit is changed to western, like McDonald, so we don’t need too many the rice to supply our internal demand.

But we can export it!

Rice, some surplus rice.

Just like Thailand.

What countries are importing our rice?

Lots of countries import Thai rice.

Number one in the world.

So I say, who buys Taiwan rice?

We haven’t developed the market.

China will need it.

I don’t think so

Yes! They will.

I’m supporting Peter. In the past, we have a lot of talented experts, like our previous president, Lee Tunghue. In that generation, some talented people liked to go into agriculture so we have many professionals who could make a good agriculture policy. But now we’re better at technology, so in education system, I don’t think many young talented people will go into agriculture, because it’s without money, without future. So in future, we’ll lack this professional area,. Everyone wants to go to TSMC.

No, that’s ten years ago.

Okay, IC design.

Sure, and it’s hard for farmers to make money. And it mentioned that their business model is not right. And I’ll say that the price of food is always low. It’s a worldwide problem. Because people need it every day. so if the price increases, it causes a lot of pressure to the country’s economy. And maybe, I’ll say it’s a problem, but it’s not a solvable problem. It’s very complicated.

But the profit, the farmers, they don’t get a considerable profit. Most of the profit is taken by the middle man, who takes advantage of the farmer, and of the consumer. So we actually pay a lot for food, but the farmer makes no money.

So if you can pay less money to buy the stuff, would you pay more for it? For me, I would choose to pay less money. It’s very straightforward.

But it’s talking about the true cost of making that thing. What if you say that this should cost 5, but you’re selling it for 2, I won’t buy it, because it’s too cheap.

Like in mainland china, all the fake foods.

Like okay, if a shop is going out of business, you can buy for cheap.

Or what about the reuses. Like someone steal the clothes put out for recycling, and wash it and sell for a cheap price, but it’s really not new.

So less than the true cost!

So that’s one problem of the social system, not the trading system.

But on the scale of mainland china? All the fake goods do affect!

But it’s also ethics!

But think about in Hsinchu, why do we have the low price policy, we try to do the lower cost. So what is the true cost?

So for low cost notebook, what do they do, to lower the margin, they can’t cut out materials so they cut out labor. So what do they do, they go to china.

But if you don’t have any margin, then you reduce the material cost!

But in Europe, some, they are against those company they build the factories in mainland china that use the very cheap laborers, because it’s children and overworked people. They say that even though we can get the cheaper price, we are against it. For example Nike, they didn’t know their manufacturer employed children, overworked with no rest. Or maybe you can get the cheaper price, they’ll say background, exporting costs, but it’s bullshit. So I’m against for buying.

This hiring children, this is a problem for the reputation of the company, for the image. So if Nike reduced cost by hiring children, so we can be against their product, we don’t use less money to buy their products. So maybe it’s like in example question. But I challenge the words, ‘true cost’ who can tell me what is the true cost?

Everything you buy you have a price in your mind.

It’s market price, but two high, or too low, everyone uses their sense, it’s market sense. You just know!

I don’t agree.

Give me an example, I’ll show you.

So you’re saying this cup should be 5 dollars.

But I agree that the true cost depends on people.

I'll give you an example of cars. Say a Lexus or BMW. Same car, same design, but Lexus is cheaper, because of customers loyalty.

But the price is rising now, because people will like it, so the price is rising.

But so it’s over the true cost, it’s the brand loyalty.

Sure, brand loyalty is why luxury goods still profitable.

Okay, but if someone wants to sell you a new BMW, one million [=NT, about 30,000USD], everyone else pays 2 million, then you know something’s wrong

Stolen car!

Sure, but why is IBM so much more expensive computer?

That’s what they price it.

So if you can buy it cheap, something is wrong.

But Lenovo laptop is the same, but it’s cheaper.

So I don’t buy IBM, I buy Lenovo!

Sure, but you see my point.

Okay, but if the price is so much lower, then you know it’s fake goods, or sacrifice some benefit to the supplier. And it’s not good for the consumer to pursue this behavior. For example my husband’s company, the purchasing manager, tried to cut costs of suppliers, to a very low price, and one year the supplier’s bankrupt, so they still have to find other, which cost them in a different way. So the best way is everyone can make money. Not big money, but you have to keep the supplier alive. You still have to thinking about others. So the lower price, I think that maybe really means that only you are benefit. It’s a short term benefit, but not more.

The key point is ethics. I know it’s judgmental but you know what’s right or wrong. You use your feelings. You buy the more expensive thing, but you get something in return. You buy low quality, you lose.

How about your opinion, Regina?

Okay, I think in example B, sometimes it’s not depends on our intention, sometimes it depends on market price. For example, in Africa, they plant coffee beans, because our developed country need it. The develop countries don’t really need it. And the price, maybe it’s under the cost, because our wealth is stronger, so we can control them. Maybe we would like to pay more, but the market is like this, so we don’t have the power to control this.

I remember I read one article that we talk about children in Africa, they have to collect those beans, and a lot of boxes, and not more than one dollar, and the price at Starbucks is 3 or 4 dollars, and it’s really the margins of it is only made by—

The middle man, like Kevin was saying.

—Right. They can manipulate the price.

Yeah, and if we can use the internet, we can organized this for itself.

Yeah, but talking about Starbucks, the environmentalists said that Starbucks was manipulating the markets, and they fought back, saying that they showed what price they sold what country’s coffee, and they’re saying they hope—

Yeah, using another way to explain.

Sure, but who is lying. It’s not Starbucks. It’s not the environmentalists are not lying. The information is distorted. The point is the complete money is not involved here.

Most of the money goes to third-party organizations.

So they are talking different target, but it’s the same issue.

Because the consumer wants cheaper, so the company wants to cut costs, so the suppliers can’t earn money.

And I think the key issue is the example b. Want to highlight for the true cost. It try, okay, to point out the most of the manufacturing costs is underestimate, then it’s true. Normally, we over consume the resources on the earth, and also, some resource is export form other countries, by some, you know, inhuman way. So I think its purpose is to remind us, that when you pay one dollar to buy some product, so what’s the real, invisible, some heightened cost behind the cost showing the finance report.
Okay, another issue I want to, I think the price, the transaction price in the market is determined by buyer and seller. I think its very simple, but we can say, I don’t think it’s guilty or illegal for business man or company owner to try decide this production site to supply cheaper to the market, it’s not about guilt or illegality. If the market is free enough, so the consumer has the right to decide to purchase a product at the lowest cost, under the condition the quality is equal. So that’s why china has become the world’s factory. Of course, a lot of people refuse to buy products made in china—

[laughter]

—but for rational consumer, there’s no reason not to buy, because it’s cheaper. So…I don’t think the transfer wealth, from one countries to another underdeveloped country is wrong, because we all know the businessman’s money, always he will invest in an area, in most efficient way.

Oh?

So what we have to do is try to improve our distribution.

You mean channel.

Yes, because most of industry in Taiwan, the smile curve, we discussed a few weeks ago. The margin of the manufacturing is very very low. So most of Taiwanese companies try to invest more in the marketing, and in the development. So these two sides are the most value added in the supply chain of any products.

But I can understand what Peter said, and I also agree, but, also this article, like Kevin said, the ethics of transferring wealth. We talk about b, but we didn’t talk about a, which is more about American style.
Sorry—

No, go ahead, I bash the US all the time, it doesn’t offend me when others do it!

I think that when people talk about climate change, about bigger issues, but in America, there is the most irresponsibility, the most throwing away of resources—

100 percent agree!

—and they can just buy others’, like mainland china, Africa. But if you agree, that I can pay for it, and also make those countries rich. But the truth is that most of the irresponsible behaviour, the result is suffered by the whole people, because of the climate change, the revolutions, even in mainland china, and the revolution and the waste is caused by ourselves. Sure I can pay for it, I can get the cheaper price, I can pay for others’ resources. But it’s not a good way of thinking. For example in Japan and Europe, they’re really devoted to lower, minimize the waste of resource. Just like the Kyoto protocol only two people didn’t sign, just America and Australia. But now only America. So maybe after Bush—

Depends if McCain or not.

But the point is what this article is talking about, it’s not just about marketing and brands.

You mention about responsibility to society.

Yes, because this article is talking about this.

It’s very ideal, and practically, we can talk about as peter said, value added, why low product are for gaining more money, so you add value. So the lowest cost is manufacturing, because it’s just to compose some component. But for the branding, they can put more value, but that’s depend on you need or you trust. If you can rely on the brand, you don’t care about paying more, because they add on the brand. So it depends on, so I’m saying, how do you really figure out the true costs? If you rely on your logic, you might be paying more.
So I’m saying this article is too idealistic. The practical economy is not evil, they can get the balance. Challenging the trading system as an evil thing against the agriculture system.. I’m saying he’s a scientist, he’s not an engineer.

So from paragraph 28: “Modern opinion is now set against all forms of exploitation. The limitation of money dividends, the disciplining of capital investments have begun. Undertaken originally only from the point of view of economic order, then continued for political and national motives, these measures bear in themselves further possibilities; it would be easy to give them wide moral significance.

[Quite possibly this was true in 1930, I highly doubt it’s true now. –Angela]”
You wrote that note, Angela, what are you saying by that?

He was writing this at the end of World War II. He was saying that modern people understand how wrong capitalism could go, because of the war? And so people would thinking differently. But he’s wrong, obviously. I’m saying, if we were truly against exploitation, it wouldn’t exist now, because we would have got rid of it already. If we truly were against it.

So it’s saying capitalism = democracy? That if our economic system is capitalism, then our society would be democratic?

Wait, you’re not saying capitalism is democracy, are you?

[Laughter]

So if capitalism does not equal democracy, then what does, socialism? Communism?

Wow, I’m not sure whether you question is in the right vein.

If our society is free or democratic, you have a right to play your business on your own, but you need to obey the law. And we also discus some, we have disciplines, because we have social responsibility, so we have to constrain our freedom to run our business. So I just say, does it violate the democratic spirit?

Wow, what do you think?

Well I don’t know what democracy is…

Democracy means free, or free democracy.

I think democracy is free plus responsibilty, so I don’t think that it violates….

But Wilson, you’re mixing up the systems. Anarchy is emphasis the full freedom for emphasizing everyone’s right. But democracy, the basic rule, is the minority has to follow the majority.

Wow.

I so agree.

Exactly right.

But the majority have to respect the minority.

Yes.

Yes.

But the minority has to follow the majority.

Sure, after the decision has already been taken…

The majority has to respect the minority’s right or benefit, so that’s the base of what democratic society exists on. If the basis of the rule is broken, the democratic society cannot sustain.

For example if the, for nuclear waste. All Taiwan’s people decide to put the waste in Lanyu [=Orchid Island, about a two hour plane flight away, inhabited by an aboriginal tribe], of course the majority would!

Majority violence!

But you still have to respect the minority voice.

Even the decision is to locate the waste in Lanyu, also all the protection or compensation should be taken by the government, for the nearby people.

But it’s interesting that if we decided to put the waste in their neighborhood, and we give them money, would they really want it?

Sure, they want it, but they want more money.

So the key point is the price.

So you need to give me enough money!

So it means democracy can be solved my money.

As long as you’re rich it’s okay!