31 Aug 2007

Hostages are free, but what about the future of Afghanistan

Note: Images from AFP (Agence France-Presse) & Yahoo News Taiwan

Though two of the 23 Korean hostages were unfortunately killed by the Taliban, the rest of them are all free now. They are safe and ready to return to their family. They must have suffered the great torture, both physically and mentally, from the Taliban whose notorious bloody actions for establishing a pure Islamic country have hurt and ruined so many families.

I am happy for those hostages who are safe now. However, the negotiation between the government of South Korea and the Taliban has become a serious problem. In order to rescue these hostages, South Korea has agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in the end of this year. This seems that from now on Taliban can always target on humanitarians, missionaries, and all other volunteers working for international organizations. This is not a hypothesis; it has already happened.

It sad to read news and look at the images about Afghanistan. People there have suffered so much from the extreme control of the Taliban and the war inflicted by the U.S. Even though we see a new government for this poor country, we have not yet seen any progress concerning the country's welfare, let alone the idea to defeat the Taliban. What could we really expect when this group is still so active? Is it really possible to successfully defeat them?

Now we have a new issue coming, that is, this group has found another way to challenge the power that aims to destroy them. This new threat is way more serious than the old tricks, and it truly effects the international rescue actions in Afghanistan. How the super power responds to this new threat is what requires our attention.

23 Aug 2007

What a joke! Can Matsu help us get a seat in the UN?

Who is Matsu?

Matsu is the goddess of sea in Chinese folk religion. She was a real person dated back to early Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD). Her name is Lin Moniang(林墨娘)born in a fisherman family in 960 AD. She died at the age of 28 in 987 AD. According to the legend, she climbed to the top of the cliff and flew to heaven. When she was born, there were strange things happened in the village, and people believed that this baby was special. She was smart, and very naturally she knew about medicine and supernatural power. Therefore, she constantly prayed for her father and brother's safety as well as all other fishermen while they were out in the sea. Every time she prayed, the bad weather would change and the rough sea would turn smooth. In addition to this, because of her ability to help people in the village, she was believed to be having divinity. So when she flew to heaven, people knew that she had become a goddess.

Her ability to help people and her supernatural power had been widely discussed. Slowly, people started to believe that she is the goddess of sea who had the power to save and help every individual who suffers from pain and misfortune. She started to gain popularity after Song Dynasty that made her one of the most famous goddess in Chinese folk religion. Not just people who work at sea worship her, almost every Chinese knows her and worships her. Even the emperors (such as in Ming and Qing Dynasties) believed in her divinity and named her the Heavenly Empress(天后).

Matsu is a very important icon in Taiwan. Her temples are almost everywhere, and everyone here knows Matsu and believes in her power. In Taichung(台中), there is a would famous Matsu festival held by Chenlan Temple (鎮瀾宮)every march. This religious festival not only represents our strong belief in Matsu, but also represents the recognition of Taiwan. It holds all Taiwanese together as a group power to thank Matsu for her protection and compassion. Through this activity, we share the same belief and ideas that in fact reinforce our recognition of Taiwan and our identification of this land. Therefore, when this festival starts, we always see politicians joining the activity, and Indeed, the reason for them to join is to hope that Matsu could protect them and help them win the election. Moreover, they naturally would use this opportunity to deliver their political views and gain the trust from all participants. Honestly speaking, these politicians are truly manipulating this religious icon for their own interest only, which contradicts to Matsu's image of compassion. I wonder how Matsu would feel when she realizes this!

However, as my title goes, can Matsu helps us win a seat in the UN? I guess the answer is no, and this is only another trick played by those tricky politicians.

Why do we really need to join UN when we have been on our own for so long? We still survive! Besides, UN is such a huge organization that doesn't really produce anything efficiently but full of all corrupt situations within its structure. Why do we want to join this organization when we will not be benefited from it?

For those who insists in joining UN, their main concern is on Taiwan's independence. But this is such a ridiculous logic. We are in fact independent now. Joining UN will not make us more independent. It in fact will cause more international troubles that would truly damage our current independent status. The second ridiculous logic they hold is that we must change our name so as to show our independence. They argue that our current name only causes confusion, so we must let all other countries know that we are "Taiwan". True that we do have a name that is not recognized by other countries, but everyone knows Taiwan, and we are already using it as an unofficial name for this country. Why do we want to change the current status and go to the direction that leads Taiwan to destruction? It is never about the name; it is always about the cross-strait situation. China is way stronger than us now, both politically and economically. They are fine with us using Taiwan unofficially. If we start to change this situation, no one knows what kind of damage would bring us. Then why do these politicians want to put their people and the country's future in such a dangerous state?

I could never understand what these people think in their head! By the way, though I believe in Matsu, and I truly think that she knows all languages, I don't think she is able to get us a seat in the UN, not even you bring her statue to the headquarters of the UN in New York, which is what they planned to do and will do couple months later. My reason is easy to understand. She certainly has the power to help us, but for those foreign countries, they don't believe in Matsu! When they are not believing in this god, how could you expect them to receive the message from this god and do what she wants them to do! Taking the whole issue with a superstitious consideration, we could easily know that this effort will surely be a vain attempt. The bottom line is that this is only another politicians' manipulation of Matsu image for their personal interest.

10 Aug 2007

96% of university entrance exam takers can enter the university now: is it a good sign for higher education in Taiwan?

The university education in Taiwan is going nowhere. What can we expect from the university students now when the university entering score is only 18, which means students only need to score 2.8 out of 100 for each subject!

According to the Department of Higher Education in Taiwan, there are 158 universities in Taiwan including 2 Open Universities and 7 special universities/academies for the training of the police and military. If we count in 15 vocational colleges, which are junior colleges for junior high students, the total number of higher education institutions is 173. Do we really need so many institutions for higher education?

We shouldn't be shocked by this terribly low entering score. There are too many universities here, and each of them wants students. When they cannot get the funding from the government, when they are having difficulty raising money from private sectors, the only way for them to survive is to get as many students as possible. So they keep opening new departments with fancy names that can attract high school students. When the offer is way more than the real needs, in order to take enough students to keep the new department, new universities risk taking in students who are truly not able for higher education. This explains why the entering score for universities is getting lower every year. Not surprisingly, now we have universities with students whose education level is only in junior high school. They don't speak and write English, they totally have no idea of algebra , they cannot identify Dubai on the map, and the worst of all is that they can't even talk and write Chinese, which is their mother tongue.

I agree with the idea that everyone living in this society deserves the right for education. However, what happens here now is not the correct way to do. The ministry of Education should set up standards for universities. They can group them into research universities, vocational training universities and community colleges. Research Universities are set up to further all types of research that can foster the academic quality of Taiwan. Vocational training universities provide students with all required skills and train them to be professionals for their future career. Communities colleges should act as an alternative that provide basic training and knowledge to those who are not qualified for higher education but want to learn and develop their skills. If we do so, each university will has its goal and target students, and students will be guided by parents and teachers to select what really is the best for his/her future. We would be able to avoid such a shameful score.

In Taiwan, what we have now is a very tricky policy from the Ministry of Education. They provide NTD 50 billions for universities that are evaluated as the so-called "good universities". The purpose of the Ministry of Education is awkward here. It is a good intention that they give this money to help universities to be ranked as one of the top universities in international ranking. Indeed, if a university receives a high rank in international ranking, the university must be good in its teaching and research qualities. When they use this money to build up their strength, they are truly fostering the academic quality of Taiwan. However, what about all the other universities? The ministry seems to ignore them completely. If you don't help them and you ignore them, they will be just like this, in such an awkward situation. They still try hard to survive, they still take in low quality students, and they still try to compete with good universities but keep failing. This only brings one result, that is, they can never contribute to the academic environment in Taiwan but only produce bachelors without proper knowledge and professional skills.

It is truly sad that the policy makers do not see this truth. They are totally blinded by politicians and businessmen. I believe some of these new universities are not set up to provide qualities but only to gain money. University education is way more expensive now, and the tuition fee is getting higher every year. For those who consider education as business, this is really a good chance to make money. Corruption has found its way into the academic field already. How could we expect new changes to be happened in higher education when policy makers are so corrupt? Is it possible for us to have a healthy higher education when the whole government is so corrupt? Maybe it is a good thing for the new generations in Taiwan because everyone can go to the university now. However, it is also such a shame. Taiwan probably will become a country with the highest unemployment rate for bachelor holders in the world. By that time, we will have beggars and homeless people with high degrees everywhere!

1 Aug 2007

Antonioni & Bergman: le temps retrouvé

What a sad news that surprises us all. Both were great film directors, and both died on the same day. Did they have a secret agreement on that? Their decease closes a chapter in the history of films, and it also marks the end of the golden age of Art Cinema.

It was when I was still a film student that I heard about Michaelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman. I still remember the first Antonioni film I saw was Blowup, and for Bergman was Persona. How interesting, both films are released in 1966. Blowup is Antonioni's first English film, and it is famous for its controversial theme and scenes that still draw the interest of modern film workers. Persona is what Bergman himself considered the most important film he ever made that actually saved his artistic life. Both masterpieces are regarded as the director's rep work.

Who would ever know that these little coincidences could lead to their decease on the same day!

Indeed, I do get this strange feeling when I read about their death. It feels like falling into a huge hollowness that sucks you in and drowns you. True that I don't know them personally, but I did have their films accompany me throughout my college days. They were always the topic we talked about. We always chose their works to write about. They seemed to be around our life all the time. That truly made you feel that you are so familiar with them. In fact, when we are so engaged with someone's works, we start to establish a special connection with them. This connection is a communication, is a dialogue between the screen and us; though it is only a one-way communication, it allowed us to get to know what the director wants to express, to know his/her ideas better. Therefore, after seeing their films, after trying to establish all different kinds of dialogues with their films, I felt that I had known them, that they were already a part of my life. I guess this is why I get such a horrible feeling after knowing their death.

A memory is something you have or something you have lost?! I guess it is both. Even though I still have my memory of both great directors, we have lost them forever. It is always possible to "retrouver", but all we can find now is only the memory.