Vonnegut in Charge

Discussion Question:
If you were president [either of Taiwan or the US], what do you think would be the most important things to take care of, and how would you do it?

Ever concerned with raising the level of political discourse in this country, we asked novelist Kurt Vonnegut to compose an acceptance speech for Michael Dukakis. Of course, writers have contributed to presidential oratory in the past, but their efforts were lost in the revision-by-committee process. Here's the real thing, unfiltered and undiluted.

I am here to serve the people of the United States of America -- all of them, in all ways which are lawful.
I will not now speak of my humbleness. It has been said with some truth, I suppose, that almost anyone can grow up to be President. I have to add, ''But surely not an humble child.'' The Presidency is simultaneously a pinnacle of power and of vanity, and God help us all.
An aspect of my vanity, which seems to have found favor with a majority of those who chose to vote, is my belief that, with the help of the fourth branch of government mentioned in our Constitution, ''We the people,'' I can do a lot to help the United States of America become the United States of America--at last, at last.
The echo of Martin Luther King in my words is intentional when I say ''at last, at last.''
It will do us no harm today, as it has surely done no harm to other nations I need not name, to acknowledge a past soiled with atrocities, including, in our case, slavery and genocide, and the treatment of women of whatever race under law as though they were not citizens but property. Let us celebrate how far we have come from such bad old days in so short a time, and measure how far we have yet to go.
What better measurement might we use for progress made and progress yet to come than the health and happiness and wisdom and safety of all our people? And make no mistake about it: This nation is the most astonishing and admirable experiment in pluralistic democracy in history. Because of our wealth, the fairness of our Bill of Rights and the openness of our long borders, every conceivable sort of human being is now an American.
We are the world.
There is much in the recent past I would undo, if I could, especially our overwhelming national debt, whose undoing will be slow and painful. I will try to find out what good things, if any, we bought with all that money, borrowed mostly from foreigners. I will report back to you, whose children and grandchildren must pay it back with interest. I will be surprised, as I am sure most of you will be, too, if I find many purchases our descendants might thank us for.
With your encouragement, and with the cooperation of your elected representatives, I will attempt, after listening to the best-informed advisers I can find, to give future generations reasons to think well of us after all. There you have it, the principal mission of my administration: to create and bequeath to the future a decent habitat for all, free of poisons, free of hunger, free of ignorance, free of hate.
Too much, too much?
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?
Those are the words of Robert Browning, of course. I can put it a lot less elegantly, if you like:
Company's coming! Let's clean up this mess.
Many of the poisons in the water and the air and the topsoil are new. One which can sicken our spirit is ancient, and only since World War II has this country begun to fight it with any seriousness: the idea that females and persons of color are second-class citizens. That poison would love to make a great big comeback, to take its lethal place alongside nerve gas and radioactive wastes and PCBs and crack, and DDT and Agent Orange and the AIDS virus, and on and on.
Not while I'm President. In the words of Patrick Henry:
If this be treason, make the most of it.
Am I proposing a redistribution of wealth? You bet, since the wealth is being redistributed in any case, and often most crazily, and against the national interest. Am I proposing that we tax and tax and spend and spend? Yes, I am. Virtually every transaction is being skimmed already, and some private persons have done this at such confiscatory rates as to become as rich as smaller sovereign nations in a few years' time. And they spend and spend. On what? On what?
Ah, me.
Am I proposing an enormous public works program? How else might we describe our military-industrial complex, so mistrusted by that great Republican, General of the Armies Dwight David Eisenhower, when he himself became our President? With your encouragement I want to take much of the money now going into that public works program, and invest it instead in the arts of peace, the noblest of which are public health and education.
Who says otherwise? And why?
Company's coming.
I thank you for your attention.

Taipei Discussion Transcript: Vonnegut

Participants: Maggie, Teresa, Fanny, Mary, Angela

If you were the president or the leader of Taiwan or the world or any territory or the universe or a solar system, or whatever, what do you think would be the most important things to take care of, and how would you do it? So: that’s a broad question, and it should engender some interesting answers, which I think in the form of an outline and some illuminating detail, might be a useful format.
Anyone? Anyone? … Bueller?

If I were a president in Taiwan, there are two things I would like to do first. The first one would be to establish public transport system around the whole Taiwan landscape. Because this policy can cause two helpful effects for Taiwan. The first one is to reduce the oil use, and the second one can develop the rural, the economy and rise the living standard of the small town in rural area. And my second policy is to improve our education. Focusing most on law and money education, among other things, to teach our children respecting themselves and others. I think education is the cornerstone of a country. That’s my policy if I were a president of Taiwan.

So how’s my—

Yeah, if you want , you can critique—

You say, you emphasize on education—


--especially on law?

Yes, in particular and respect children respect themselves a lot. In my opinion, most criminals in our society is because people don’t respect themselves and others. Don’t respect the value of their life.

Myself, I think that school is not going to do this as well as at home, but you have to start somewhere.

Fanny, why do you say law? Why law?

Because I think in Taiwan, Taiwan people seldom obey the law. And that cause a lot of criminals and problems. In addition, most people almost in the bottom of the society, they have no knowledge of law.

Of their rights, maybe?

Yes, and so they don’t know how to protect themselves. For instance when they have no idea in this case, they should or can do something to protect themselves. But rich people have money to hire lawyers, or people with higher levels of education have knowledge of laws, they often know how to protect themselves.

So you mean if you were president, then how would you do of the people, they obey the people—

How you would make people follow the laws?

You say, they don’t follow the law, so if you were president, what would you do to make this kind of people follow the law?

Massive adult education classes? Culture Class for all! About rights and responsibilities? Free? Compulsory? But you’d have to teach the teachers first.

Put heavy punishments.

Don’t we already have that?


The death penalty? That’s not heavy? The problem is, it’s tricky—like you said, people don’t know their rights? Then what do the punishments mean?

Okay, right, so we have to educate people first, the reason why they should obey the rule. Then the third step, if people don’t follow the rules, they will be punished very heavily. Then people will know they should comply.

Okay, so are there any more questions for candidate Fanny?

Just one more question. —

Hee! You sound like a reporter!

—Why do you say ‘law and money’?

Because in recent years, there are so many issues related to complex financial products, and many people, they borrow much more than they have earned, eventually ending up in bankruptcy, and also cause a lot of social problems. They have no choice but ending their lives, their children have no money to finish their education. I think it’s a big problem.

Okay, so are their any more questions for candidate Fanny?

You know I’m very nervous, it’s like I’m a real candidate.

You would be good president!

Does someone else want to be the candidate now? It’s a little bit boring, just one candidate?

We can’t have an election with just one!

Yeah, Taiwan need more candidates.

Okay, if I was the president of Taiwan, I think I have similar. Like economic issues, that people can find a way to earn money for them. Like, or they can find, they can have some organization help them to develop their, like, ability to support themselves, even though they are adult, and that would be a good thing to do.

So job training? Or more than that?

Actually help them to find what they are really good at. Education too. Not just focus on certain areas, but what they are interested in and can make money from. Give them more channel about things they can do, without worrying about ‘now’, not having a financial problem or something

So if you were president you would build a channel for everyone in Taiwan to do whatever they want to do, and without worrying financial problems.


So, how would you do?

I don’t know.

Well speculate, throw out some ideas, you’re not really a candidate here.

Okay, how about internet. Lots of people don't know how to use the internet. So free lesson, or free education for something, the gvt covers classes they need. But I don’t know where the money comes from!

Well, the Republicans in the US don’t seem to worry much about that either, so I don’t see why that’s a problem.

I just have one suggestion, you can establish a platform, a sharing platform, where people who want to learn certain skills can swap their own skills to others.

That is brilliant!

For instance, I’m good at analysis, you’re good at cooking, we can swap in the platform without paying fees. Because if you provide a totally free channel, that would increase the, that would need more tax, and tax coming from people, and that would be a big burden of the whole country.

But it’s better than paying for weapons?

Okay, are there any other questions for Candidate Mary?

How about a third candidate, Teresa?

I think the most important would be to let my people to have a healthy life, and health and happiness and safety life. Then how do I help them to get to the end? My action, my purpose, the first is, I will invite the other countries, the other foreigner private company to come to Taiwan to invest in Taiwan. The invested item is no, no…

No limit?

No…every industry is okay, if they want to invest in Taiwan. If they want to invest, then they will hire our people. When they hire the Taiwanese, then we can get more salary. If the people get more salary, then they can have a good life than before. Then the gvt has the…can get some tax. So the circle is the …the first things will let our people have a good life.
And the second action is, I will reduce the foreign labor come to Taiwan.


Yes, restrict the foreign laborers, like the southeastern countries, like the Philippine, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia. These kind of countries people, they come to Taiwan to work. I know their salary is cheaper than our people, but they will rob our people ‘s job. I know why the company, they like to hire the foreign laborers. But if we can restrict the foreign laborers, then maybe our peoples can get more job than before. This is if I were a president, these are the first two actions I would take. I wish I were the president right now. But it’s difficult, especially restrict the foreign laborers.

But how about security? You mentioned you want to develop a healthy and happy and …

Safety…yes…security? I’m not sure.

What do you mean by security? You mean int’l security or do you mean reduce the crime rates?

Um, maybe when I invited the private company to invest to Taiwan, maybe there has some security problem. But I think I can control it, because what’s kind of industry come to Taiwan, we can evaluate it before, so if it is a good industry for Taiwan, then I will let them come to here. If it is violate the environment, or pollute our air or water, then I will not let them come to Taiwan to invest, even it can give my people has a good life and get more job. But it will hurt people’s life, so I think the gvt will not let it come. For the security, as you just said, I think after the gvt gets the tax, then we have enough money to hire people to come to be a policeman or they would like to be army, to protect our society. So, and the other action is, security, we need to teach our people, just like you say, give them more education, but I know right now, most Taiwanese people, we have a good level of education. But why some people, they violate the law, because our, we can’t enforce the law. If we can do it like Singapore, I think most of the people, they will follow the law. They will not disobey it. I saw some of Taiwanese people, they go to America. They follow the traffic rule. They know how to drive. Even though no person cross the street, they follow the traffic rule. But in Taiwan they cross the street where they like. But compared to Taiwan and America, they have different rules to follow. Because the American criminal system quickly to punish the people. But in Taiwan, sometimes we didn’t do it.

But America also has more than 1 percent of their population in jail, too, so I’m not certain that’s the best solution.

I think I prefer the Singapore system. Because I think Taiwan’s law is not very strict, so I think maybe we could create more hard and more heavy law to apply.

You know, everyone in Taiwan talks about it, but they don’t really want it. Would you personally want to live in Singapore?

No, it’s too heavy.

See? You don’t want it!

Yeah, but it’s effective!

But it’s important to take the law to important things. Even they see someone violating the law, someone in Taiwan will not say anything about it.

But that’s what’s nice about Taiwan, it’s live and let live, it’s what’s makes here such a nice place to live. Nobody interferes with what you want to do. Let me give you an example. I don’t know if I read this story on the internet, or if someone told me, but this is the story. A guy moved to Singapore, and got an apartment. He put plants on the walkway outside his front door, as you do, and put dishes under each plant to catch the water so that it wouldn’t run all over the place when he watered them, as you do, right? Okay, so a few days later, he gets a knock on the door. It’s a policeman, who told him its illegal in Singapore to put dishes under your plants, or to have any standing water, because it potentially breeds mosquitos. So he got a notice from the police, or maybe even a fine, I don’t remember. The notice or the fine is not really the point. The guy was really pissed off, and why? He was pissed off because he was like, his apartment was on like the 5th or 6th floor. The police wouldn’t have known about his plants without one of the neighbors telling him about it. He was pissed, because he was like, “Why didn’t my neighbors just come to me directly, or put a polite note on my door to let me know the situation? Why did they instead call the police? That’s so unfriendly!” What he felt betrayed about, I think, is that ‘authority’ was brought in to deal with a situation that just needed a little communication. It was like killing a mosquito with a brick, so to speak. It was un-neighborly and unfriendly, and left him angry with all the people who lived near him. That’s not the way to build community, but it is the way you build ruthless dictatorship—break people into vertical relationships with authority, instead of the horizontal relationships of community.
So there’s a lot that’s nice about Taiwan. I’m not saying that it’s always good, but everything good comes with some bad things, and some bad things come with good. But you have to be careful not to lose the important things. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

Angela, what would you do?

Well, I totally support the Vonnegut platform, and I would incorporate a lot of the fanny platform and some of the Mary. I really love the idea of educating everybody at once, including all the adults, into understanding, thinking about and applying their rights and responsibilities as citizens. I don’t support the Singapore platform at all, I’m sorry.

Hsinchu Discussion Transcript: The Culture of the Market Part II

Participants: Vina Peter Robert Wilson

See: The Culture of the Market

My position is, ‘yes and no’. I would say ‘yes’ for young people and the answer ‘no’ is maybe for older people. Because I would say the young people want to have more power to control their economic, and also young people are very active in the society, so the culture of the market will have the more influence to this young people. However, for older people, I would say, since the older people have their living style, and they trust they want to do something, and trust they want to own something, so the culture of the market doesn’t have much affection to the older people. So, in short, my answer, yes for young people, it will break the relationship between the young people. it’s not really to the older people, so this is effect is no.

I have a question first, could you give us a brief description concerning the culture of the market. What the main characteristics are? Because I’ve been thinking for awhile, and I couldn’t define what is the culture of the market exactly.

I remember last week, the same question to raise, and I interpret is as, it’s like an evolution for the marketing, or stuffs happened in the market, so it includes the promotion campaign, it includes the economic activities, that’s my interpretation. Last week I also asked this question, why use the ‘culture’.

For my definition, something like the media, they let you to think about the way you perceiving the world, like, how to say, so the market means the, you learn from the marked, from the media, you told you what you should think , how you see the world, is influence by them.

Well, it’s not yet defined in my mind, that’s why I wanted to talk to you guys about this. When I think about it, what comes up for me is this. I was a child in the 70s, and Milwaukee was in an economic slump, and it seemed that, like in terms of clothes, it was like if you had a really pretty skirt on, you were dressed up. But when we got to the 80s, it was like, you had to have an ‘outfit’. Your shoes and earrngs had to match, all the pieces had to go together, but nothing was individually very valuable. You couldn’t just wear a pretty skirt anymore, it wasn’t enough. Before, clothes were very expensive, it’s one reason my mom was making ours, and we learned to sew. But in the 80s, clothes got cheap, you know? And everyone had to be in an outfit, and start following the styles in magazines very closely. But you know, maybe it was the difference between being a kid and being a teenager? I don’t know. The other thing I think about, was soup. We always had soup on Sunday, sometimes homemade, sometimes out of a can. But in the 80s, we started having soups from packets, individual servings of soup. That’s like, you know, so manufactured, so marketed. It was like my mom getting seduced by convenience.
I don’t know, I was young then, so I can only talk about clothes and soup, but I’m trying to express that I felt a difference in the pace and texture of life.

In my experience, it was 1990s to the 2000s. Because I graduated from my masters degree in 1991, and began to work, and it was like a big jump from the 90’s to the 2000s. I remember in the late 90s we used a cell phone, but before then, we didn’t. After we used cell phones our connection way was totally different. And now for 2000, cell phone, everyone has one, and they use msn, they don’t use a cell phone. They hook on the internet to use instant message all the time. So if you want to connect with them, you have to use msn. So the marketing is changed, and the human relationship is also changed.

They recorded some movie, called Wall-E, and they talk about the future, and the technology development in the movie is everyone talks to each other through screens, but with no microphones. You just sit next to me and we talk, no need to type. But without really seeing people and touching people, because it’s too convenient, but its just a screen. So this is like the technology development affects people, its like close, but really distance. Now we have skype, connect those distant. Now we don’t live in the neighborhood, and so skype is very convenient, but we get used to that kind of interaction, instead of real interaction, we talk with each other, but we don’t spend time really be with somebody. So yes, our relationship is really broken. I also notice mainland China is really serious problems in this. Because most of china don’t really share culture. Because of the Cultural Revolution. So they don’t have anything in common except capitalism and money. the only thing they trust is money, so they don’t really trust each other, and those relationships are so called created, not natural relationships. Natural, is your born as my friend, in my neighborhood, not my workmate. It’s that I needed this relationship, so I created this relationship.

So your position is ‘yes’. My position is I think still quite uncertain. I would rewrite the question like this. I think the market is reshaping our relationships with each other, is continuing to reshape. But not broken. If you think of traditional relationships, they would be broken, but the the style is changing.

You’re saying the old style is broken.

The relationship is still there, just the way is different.

Too complicated!

But I think indeed, that many traditional values are no more that important for many people. So many people see this as a problem.

Of course everyone notice the recent problem with mainland china and milk. This is a surprise but not a surprise. Because the culture there is ‘didn’t care about others’. I think the market of the culture in mainland china is really different from what we thought, and that’s why I so surprised that they can do these things in the food. And I, so, I just want to ask you about, what do you thinks about this kind of market cultures in china. How do you define?

So what’s your real question, how do they define?

How do you feel about the—

I think the poison in the milk really change the mutual trust between the consumer and the vendor. And it’s a difference, it seems global, has been globalized. Because the major, the stockholder of the San Lu milk factory company is new Zealand, it occupy over 40%. So the supply chain is very complicated.

Not only ‘made in china’ problem.

So many raw material, semi product, finished product, the transaction process very complicated. It caused the problem, many parents in Taiwan don’t know which brand is reliable. Even in Taiwan we have some—

Made in Taiwan, but—

—the dead body of the pig, the pork, but I think the market, maybe I foresee in the future, is a good opportunity for our gvt to promote every mother to feed your baby with breast milk.

Oh, don’t get me started on the unethical marketing of breast milk! It’s why I’ll have nothing to do with Nestle in any form. You know they pay actresses in poor countries to go into hospitals dressed as nurses and tell poor women that milk powder is better for their babies than breast milk? I think that’s really evil!

But it’s a food safety issue.

But it’s a marketing issue, is my point.

But you can see that this kind of situation make us feel others more! Like your question, because we can’t really trust those who provide things for us. We know that we feel more about them.

I have another opinion, to the same topic. As Peter said, maybe it’s a problem for the globalization, because the supply chain include a lot of countries, involved in different groups around the world. So, as Vina says, how do we trust another countries, or you feel other country, for example you don’t trust the goods from mainland china.

Not just countries. You don’t really trust the market. The market is not really trustable.

So if you don’t trust it, why do you want to buy?

No, at first you trust, so you buy things, but now we find it’s not worthy of trust. Now we find everything has the connection. So now we have the milk scandal. So you think nothing to do with me, I don’t drink milk.

But you don’t drink milk tea?

Right, now you realize, you drink milk tea, and then you eat bread, and red bean cake, and I give chocolate cookies to my children, from Japan, but now, it’s in everything! So I’m so scared. Before I check the place who made it, but now it’s no use. I don’t know where the raw material’s from. We should have the right to know what we eat, but we don’t have that right, because from that scandal, there’s too many things we need to know.

But we are the end customer, we don’t have to think to much, we trust the brand.

But her point is we cannot.

I know it’s hard, but if you don’t trust, what can you do?

You stop buying things, and then the economy goes to the shitter.

But you do need some things, how can you make them yourself?

But right now, you feel it’s nothing, it’s not affect your life, but what if it’s your kids in the hospital and dying? My professor in Jiautong university, he’s the first one in Taiwan to have the Crohn’s disease. He’s the first one in Taiwan, he’s a professor. It traced back, it’s a rare situation in Taiwan. Now he’s already died. The reason is a few years ago, when he was abroad for the doctor degree in the US, he ate something contaminated.

So the only way we can do is to establish the monitory system?

Do you trust the gvt to monitor well?

We have to trust them to do this, and other monitoring organizations to do this kind of work. It’s the only way we can do.

But I think the sense, the culture, for instance in Japan there’s some scandal, but in general we will trust them.

But in Japan, there’s tons of these scandals, it’s just that people are whistle blowing, it’s too expensive for them.

It’s that they built up the system, so they follow the system for inspecting the food and manufactured goods. So the develop country, the most of the important thing is they establish how to establish the system and how to perform the system well, not related to citizen quality or citizen education. I mean the developed country have the experience to build up the situation. They have.

But the citizens do matter! Look at the wall street meltdown, not enough oversight? They just didn’t implement!

But look at after 911, the US did an oversight system, but only for US, not everyone else. So for the international affair, it’s difficult. For the WTO, do you think they can solve the globalization problem? I don’t think. It’s a platform to improve int’l trading, but it’s not guarantee equality or efficiency, it’s not that capability. They just establish a platform for communication. Back to Taiwan, for the tainted milk. It’s a local problem, it’s a Taiwan problem, not a US problem.

But if they sourced cheap milk powder from china, then it is a problem.

I know they care about the toys, the lead in the paint.

People already raise the lead paint issue, and Americans already feel bad about china, because of losing jobs to them, and so it was marketed pretty much everywhere.. But it’s also about children, that’s the one issue people will get strongly worked up over. But the problem is, once the problem is too widespread, people use it as an excuse to forget about it. “It’s in everything! How can I keep track? I’m not going to bother, I’ll just trust the brands.”

So for organic produce, there’s a labeling system, now.

But you still have to trust the people.

Yeah, you can switch the labels.

So you have to trust that you know they’re not going to hurt you, they’re like you or whatever.

So that’s maybe why you brought up countries, if they’re people like you, not some strange foreigner—?

But you have to trust people.

But the point is the supply chain is too long, you have to trust everybody along that chain. So it’s like when we discussed before, what is the true cost of something. Because every product is keen for the cut costs, and we pursue for the best price. So I think the whole system create the market for fake things.


I was thinking why the milk poison instance damaged our mutual trust, I think it’s because the information is not very transparent. I think the key issue, no matter is our gvt our manufacture, should expose the necessary information, and it’s also to educate people. Because some misunderstanding, is due to we don’t have enough information. For example. Even the famous company, they don’t know how many, how safe their products. Because the larger the company, the more risk they will provide the product to consumer.

So the problem caused by the milk, I think is why is so attractive everybody’s attention is happen in a well-known milk powder suppler, market share is number one in china. Before, the black hearted food producer is small, illegal company. But why is so serious, is that it’s well known, big, we can even call it an international company.

Some brands are even the ‘sole provider for the Olympic games’.

So its economic benefit is the best is the priority for the gvt. Because of Olympic, production activity, human right is lower priority. Even milk, I heard the report, has already been found 6 months ago, but hidden intentionally because of the Olympics. So what the gvt should do is to provide the transparent information. Not any protection, any company or something. To educate how dangerous concentration for a child or an adult, intake every day. So according to the information I receive, the milk—

Melamine. The problem is melamine. It’s a plastic, used to make durable dishware. If you add it to food, it increases the testable protein count. Since they’re only testing for protein, not for melamine, you get away with it. You can only test for things you think are there. So melamine went under the radar for a long time. But it’s not just milk. Melamine is why the rash of pets dying in the US became the news a few years ago. It was added to wheat gluten, again to raise the protein. It’s why I basically try to avoid anything in a can these days. Especially anything with a protein content listed. I’m worried there’s melamine in.

So what happens?

You develop stones in your kidneys. I think your body is like trying to isolate the poison from you. I think adults don’t die of it, but you could get sick. But babies can’t handle kidney stones, their kidnesy are too small. And dogs and cats store more things in their livers and kidneys than we do, they can’t metabolize it out, so they’re very vulnerable to dying from it.

But yesterday, I was talking about Costco, the way the do everything, they have the name list of who buy the things. So they say some food or something have problems, always happen, so the most important thing is to handle it. So they notice when there is some problems, so they have the whole list of who buy this kind of things, and when. Since they have member cards and who buy things from Costco, so when they have some problem with products,

So they have some purchase record, they notify them?

I not say they’re perfect, but they don’t force people to have evidence and return it. They even call the member, they say you used to buy this, do you want to return it? I don’t know if they're really a good company, but if somebody can do something like this, we can more rely on them. Because if information is more transparent, we will notice that. Because not everyone will trace everything is okay to eat. We still have to rely on some, not only manufactories’, the chain stores, the gvt. So there’s not just one checking point. Of course we want to trust—

So, you're saying we can’t just rely on one checkpoint, we have to have many checkpoints.

But don’t you think that if people who sold things actually cared about the people bought it, then this shit wouldn't happen.

But the chains are so long. Some people probably don’t really know it’s really poison. They didn’t know it would—

But it’s to cheat. The original point was to cheat.

So how to solve the problem?

Source everything locally.

Yeah my husband wants that, because it also solves pollution problem.

But we have to have trust.

Local sourcing helps with that!

Luckily I have two children who are allergic to dairy products. So we rarely consume milk.

Someone told me not to buy the milk in RT mart, but I said, I want to drink it, so I’ll buy it. If you don’t want to eat bread, what will you eat? But I want to eat milk. I want to eat bread.

But I want this issue to raise the social responsibility of this company. Those chain stores don’t have any social responsibility.

Everyone’s pursuing economic advantage in whatever form, so that turns other people into obstacles and objects.

So Angela raised a question a while ago, if you had the option to pay more money for it, would you? It’s really the same question.

Yes, it really is.

So if you feel it is worth to pay more money for it, and you want to buy it at that price, so another related question is, the brand name means the price you need to pay.

I don’t mean the brand name. I mean the real cost. You use so many unhealthy products to make the real cost so low.

I remember the question is, how do you evaluate the real cost? So it’s how do you look at these things. For example, there’s luxury cars and cheaper cars.

But if the way of they doing things really so, the real cost means include some hidden costs, like—

Pollution for instance.

—like some company they have the social responsibly, they will put many people to check the resource—

Indirect course.

—yes and I think the issue is not luxury or not, I think the real cost, if we talk about the price of brand is worth it, I think the issue is the real price. Because everyone is keen for the lowest price, is not healthy for the whole market.

Like I had this supplier the other day, she was explaining to me why Kimberly Clark paper is more expensive, it’s because they go to great lengths to have sourced paper from sustainable forests, and that it takes 7 years of investment, so they have to be more expensive than those logging old-growth forests.

But copier paper really matters, it has to be good, or your machine jams.

Well, I’m talking about toilet paper, it’s a different kind of copier jam.


Well the other time Kevin gave us an example, if this cup cost 10 dollars, and I sell to you for 11 dollars, and one dollar I donate to third world country, do you want to pay 11 for this cup. If 15, will you?

A lot of people do, in the US.

So it’s another kind of marketing.

So you just say the real cost is 10 dollars, then the extra I will use to support poor people, will you pay the money through me?

I think the best is what I just mentioned. If I know your cost is only 10, I won’t pay 15, because 15, you have 50% profit—but normally most customer don’t know your real cost.

But 11 is acceptable.

But think if I want to buy this cup, I will compare your cup with other, with other level, compare. The issue is not the maker, okay, how much donated to third party. I think it’s how do they make the customer feel it’s a good deal, it’s a fair deal exchange behavior.

I guess you never buy things from those handicap people selling on the street. Of course you know you can buy pens and tissues a lot cheaper, but you want to help them. Of course you’re buying something expensive, but it’s worthy of trust.

So the main issue is still price, low price is always right.


Not really—

Well, that’s more or less what Peter argued.

But I don’t think the cheaper the better is the best way for normal product. I still think it’s based on mutual trust between the maker and the customer. For example in many convenience store, they have those boxes for receipt donation.
For collecting receipts.

Oh really? I didn’t know.

They use the receipt, and choose the receipt of larger amount, and claim the deal is cancelled, so they can save some tax on the turnover.

What an evil world.

So I think all of us are influenced in the advertising promotion media. That’s why I feel people have to be educated by what is true and false, and what is a better deal.

And our schools do not do that.

But it’s hard to educate people for right or wrong.

But not impossible! It’s just easier to test people if they memorized 100 things! Our schools are also about the cheapest fastest bottom line of high grades.

Yeah, they find that exam scores are not really a good measure. So it’s the whole system, the value system is quite important. What is the things they value most.

So our school is not about teaching how to live well, its about teaching to live in our current economic system. So if we agree that our system is fucked, why are we educating our children for it.

So, Peter, what’s your position, now.

Mine is almost the same as Robert. Honestly, I’m not—I don’t agree the wording, about broken. Maybe—

Reshaped? Reform?

In some way it really influence, the change, it depends on what kind of, just like Wilson said, the cell phone, the PC, is the another key technical product to influence your living. But before the 80s, the PC is not so popular for private user. We usually only see it for job requirement, or information processing. Also the 90s, the network

It was still academic base.

[discussion about origins of internet]

But did you know that letters in 19th cent delivered 4 times a day? Technology changes, but the need for lots of communications are the same.

Taipei Discussion Transcript: Culture of the Market, part II

Participants: Lynn Maggie Mary Fanny Willie Angela

See: The Culture of the Market

So, this question is true for me.

What do you mean?

Yes, the culture of the market does break our relationships.

You have to say why.

Because the market promotes competition to everyone’s life. The market, you know there’s good parts, and bad parts, lots of positive and negative parts. It’s made people think about, I have to do this to be superior. To be equipped to something or whatever.

What do you mean?

Having something or wearing something, makes you superior or inferior, although they are just defined by others, by society actually, which is not naturally right or wrong. I mean, just, there a lot of stuff which doesn’t naturally belong to the right side or wrong side, just people gave them the definition. I think basically what people are fighting about is imaginary. That’s a kind or world or position which human create. Which doesn’t mean much if you look at it from different perspective.

I also think the culture of the market broke our relationship with one another. In this culture, money and time is the king. So people don’t want to waste too much time on maintain relationship. And culture of the market, people judge the value of things, or other people not by their contributions to the society, but by the price, or the price of those things and people. So I think this kind of culture have harm our relationship between others.

I agree with them.


That people are quite busy, so it’s hard for them to maintain relationship with others. And also, um, like, I think, this is one of the reason that broken our relationship with one another, but another reason is that people have a different idea about making friend with others, so they expect different kind of friendship. Like, if like, they got their stuff to do, and they don’t have time to hang out with you, and then you expect if they—maybe it’s different definition of relationship.
Like, or maybe for some people they think relationship is about spending time with them, or just satisfy their needs. But for some people, relationship is to understand the other people or something, they make friends not for satisfy their needs, they make friends in different ways, have different interactions.

What do you mean by—?

It depends on your values. Other people think if you have good interactions, you are good friends.

So there’s a difference between these two category ways? I mean, to satisfy a friends need and—?

I think maybe because the different expectations, so it also decide the relationship is successful or not.

For instance, Maggie want me to stay with her when she is down, but I think our friendship just on the basis of talking and—


—yes, and then she cannot find satisfaction with me, so it’s easy to broken between Maggie and me, something like that?


I also think that the culture of the market breaks our relationships. When we just care about money, and fortune, our relationship is so weak, and useless. I think it’s the truth, so thank you! Next!

I think the culture of the market really broken our relationship with one another. Actually, if you study marketing, you will find, in their theory, when they want to run a new product, they will segmentation.

What does that mean?

They will split the market in different groups, and they will set different prices for different groups. So once you do marketing and promotion, they will set top, middle and lower level, if you are not on the same level, people will think, you’re not our group. So it’s marketing, but it will influence people’s behavior and relationship. Also I think nowadays people are always in a rush, we don’t really have time to establish long-term relationships. So the relationship with one another has become very weak. So if we are influenced by the culture of the market, the linkage with each other will become weaker and weaker, so it really is bad for us.

Um, I think maybe I am the one who behave like the way Lynn mentioned. Because I often segment my friends into different kind of category.

Mm, me too.

Because we only have 24 hours, and I have to use my time more efficient. So I will divide my friends in to what kind of group. So this kind of group we can interaction, and we can take care of each other, and I will spend more time to maintain our relationship, and friends in big groups, we have the same kind of background, and we can share some kind of information about work, and investment, and other kind of friends we can go to movies, and go shopping together, but it’s hard for this kind of friends to share something deep. So this kind of friends I don’t spend that much to maintain our relationship. And the most distant group, is the people on the msn, you just use them for the purpose of jobs, or something to helping you earn more money, or to gain better opportunity of your future. And I think, that might be a kind of cultural market, or capitalism.

But sometimes I wonder, when you segment your friends, how would you really know he or she is only in category abc? If you ever try to understand the people, just wondering?

Like we make marketing, I will categorize them by their backgrounds and the reason we make friends. Then by the time I know them better I will change their groups.

You know, when I lived in New York, it was just like that. Everyone did it, and everyone knew everyone else was doing it. You have your dancing friends, your going out for a beer friends, the people you’d go to, to get some culture, like they knew the good art show, some who you’d invite to dinner parties. Sometimes you could tell when you’d just been upgraded or downgraded, or shifted categories. But you also had your ‘real friends’, the ones that were like your family, and they were like a rock solid category, the one that never really shifted.

So friendship is just like the stock?

You know, but when you’re using people for a category, then you’re not having real friends.

But you know, in those books, they say you should build up your contacts, sometimes, I think, that’s so bullshit, because they’re no way going to be your real friends. And so already, this is not human beings should be.

But I do this just want to save my time. When I was a student in college, this is a true story, I quarreled with my roommate, because we made a date to go to movies after an exam, but that day, one of my very best friends, also Maggie know her, have some problem with her family. She went cry very heavily. So I just cancel the date with my roommate suddenly. My roommate was very angry, and didn’t understand why I cancel the date just for the other friends. But for me, I set my priority that my best friend has a higher priority than my roommate.

That’s something like colleagues, you know what your colleagues and classmates can do, so its—

It’s more like a work relationship.

So basically, like those business friends, they’re all work relationship, not actually the relationship between friends Also, I do think that people who actually can give you a big hand, when you are in trouble in business and work, is those one who know you naturally, who you became friends with naturally, probably you know each other when you are in college, or in different companies, and you saw he or she is an excellent guy, and you know each other well, and know what he or she can do. Those kind of business relationship, is not the exchange of phone number, or you two have eaten together, it’s more like those who you really know, and those who can really help you. I don’t want to say that’s useless, but basically, some people just misunderstand the meaning of business friend. They think they know lots of people, but basically, it’s when you’re in trouble, no one will help you because they don’t know you very well.

But some friends, we maybe have lunch or dinner together, or maybe once every three months, or once every half year. And they are my former colleague, but I don’t think they are just my business friends. Because when I feel confused, or meet some big problem in the job now, they always give me some good suggestions. But why I divide them into a group may help me in the future, because I think, they cannot, like friends like Maggie, when I feel sad or want to cry, I can call them out and complain with them, but this kinds of friends, we also have relationship. But I weight them differerently. But actually there are also some kind of people are business friends. For instance, one of my friends, she worked in a brokerage, and because she was a broker, she had so many telephone friends, they always share information about the market on the phone. She thought at that time they could become friends, but after she quit that job, they are say bye-bye.

I don’t know, but I don’t see what’s wrong with that, because, well, I don’t know, we all grew up in capitalism, so it’s hard to see, but is that wrong, what do you think?

I think it’s still marketing think. You categorize your friends into different purpose or ways. I don’t know, I still think it’s influenced by marketing.

I think you’re right.

I cannot tell clearly, but we’re influence by marketing. Maybe you think the business relationship is not the real friend. But in the marketing, you can find lots of books that you have to establish your relationship for future fortune. So it becomes like when you make a friend, you automatically categorize people. But if this way of thinking wasn’t invented, people wouldn’t categorize others like that. For me, certainly, we will have different kinds of friends, or relationship with each other, but I don’t want that when you meet somebody for the first time, you think, this guy: useless, that guy: can be a good friend because they can help me. I don’t like this kind of judgment. Because if you never ever know this person, who knows, one day, he might help you a lot.

Yeah, I’m learning recently that maybe everyone has interesting stories and experiences. Because I know that people look at me, and the clothes I’m wearing that day, and the neighborhood I’m in, and they make guesses about me, but the can’t possibly have the whole story, because I’ve got so many facets. So, suddenly my consciousness has gotten wider, and—yeah, this should have occurred to me sooner, probably—but I’ve realized that the judgements I make about other people, well, they have the same problems. My girlfriend doesn’t seem to have this problem, she treat everyone around her as perfectly real. But she also doesn’t know how to network, and in a certain way, she can’t get things done she needs to, sometimes. You know, because information and opportunities, the good ones, come from knowing people, that’s still true. So, you know, I’m still not sure how to approach this whole thing.

For me, I have to make friends slowly, once I know people more, I might but them in a category.

But sometimes when you met somebody, just should be a friend, somebody, maybe you met him or her in a place or you maybe just sit down together and have a drink, and you talk, and then you found you can talk a lot of things with this person. Then you just want o know him or her more, and then you make friends with this person. I think, and sometimes, this kind of friends maybe know me better than some friends I met at school.

Yeah, I got your point, it’s kind of, you know sparkly. When you meet the right people, talk at the right time, interesting topic, you might have a spark.

Like my roommates in graduate school. She came from Kaohsiung, and I grew up in Taipei. We speak good Taiwanese and English, and can’t speak Chinese so well. We have different kind of characters, but we can talk things that maybe I can’t discuss with my best friends before. And she went back to Kaohsiung and work, and we seldom msn, and contact with email, but when we met in Taipei, we always can keep talking, and never want to say goodbye.


Yeah, so these kind of friends, I want to maintain this relationship forever. It’s a kind of spiritual friendship.

I have a friend like that in New York.

And she never know my life in Taipei, and I never know hers in Kaohsiung, and I don’t know her boyfriends family, but we can just keep talking, and interact.

So, like, how do we make non-marketing relationships?




Like, Lynn said, we use marketing and categorize people, how do we not do that?

Stick with the people you meet in kindergarten.

No, just like your family, that’s too limiting…..

But it’s just like, sometimes you have to make a choice, you have to categorize your friends, or whatever.

I don’t understand.

Is it from education, or from personality, that’s human nature to do?

Well I really think it’s like what Lynn said.

But it’s human nature, or our education, or our personality, or how we make choices?

Oh, I’m beginning to see what you’re saying.

I think the circumstance where you stay..

But I realize I behave this way when I was in college. One of my friends was so sad, because I put her in ‘b’ group, so she was so sad. But one day she told me like she began to behave this way. So maybe a part of personality, but the culture of the market celebrates the space of the broken relationship.

What do you mean she behave, like what? Like divide friends into different kind of group, and you maybe do this thing with this kind of friend, and spend more time with this kind of fired, and spend less time with this kind of friend?

But, like what when someone is really great to dance with , but really shit to talk with over tea. They’re not that much fun.

Like when I want to go to a music concert, I will invite Maggie or something, but for something else—.

I think its really hard to find non-marketing relationship.

Well, maybe one example of a non-marketing relationship, a friend of mine, whenever she needs help, people just step in all over the place to help her. And the reason is, she’s always offering her help to people. She sees that someone might need a hand and she steps in with whatever she can do. She just does it because she can, because she feels rich, and feels she has the time. But it’s really no-strings attached, she doesn’t expect anything back from you. But if she needs help, the people she’s helped just jump in and offer it, because they want to give something back. It’s like a gifting economy, instead of a marketing economy.