19 Mar 2010

In reply to some questions raised

I am here clarifying some of my points in my previous post: Outrageous! The paranoid Canadian Customs 加拿大了不起啊,不把旅客當人看, and hopefully my words here can answer the questions raised in one of the comments to that post.

As I stated in my post, the terms "the arrogant Western mindset" and "rudeness" are used to express the attitude of the officials of Canadian Customs towards that woman while she was interrogated. Indeed, when we use the term "Western", regardless whatever words may come after it, the expression itself has already caused certain problem. This is exactly the same as we use the term "Oriental". However, if we are more sentitive to the use of terms, we would find that the use of the term "Oriental" usually has greater effects than the use of "Western". As Edward Said points out, the term "Oriental" itself shows a prejudiced interpretation - resulting from the Occidental tradition - of what seems strange, bizarre and exotic in the East. Since the East is interpreted according to the Occidental way of perceiving the objective world, the East is naturally placed in a position that is inferior to the West and subjects to the norms, attitudes, values, and even rules of the West. Of course, we could argue with such a theoretical structure Said constructs by posing a different way of looking at the world, such as using Chinese way of looking at the world to interpret whatever that is not Chinese, but that would be only a vain effort and would definitely go into ethnocentrism and nationalism. In other words, Said has given us a therotical structure that is based on facts, of course the old historical facts, and such a structure does explain how the West looks at the East before the modern time. We should be careful here that even though his interpretation of the interrelationship between the West and the East is quite correct, that in fact cannot be fully applied to the modern time. Culture changes according to how human beings live their life and how traditional values are modified and mutate accordingly. However, generally speaking, this binary view of which one is superior to the other somehow can still be observed. That "Western" view over the "Eastern" world still acts like a ghost lingering in our real everyday life.

Do I say that there is a definite Western way of thinking, a mindset, that is arrogant and rude? Of course, there is such a way of thinking. But do I refer this thinking to "all Western people"? No, I did not and will not do so. There are prejudiced thinking, rudeness and arrogance in whatever people from whatever cultural backgrounds. As I have said clearly, I am referring only to those who are involved in the case. Does this make me a racist? Of course not. The commentator of my previous post seems to overinterpret my words and have put me in an awkard position at which I must justify myself. The same is the question he raised that whether Taiwanese tourists are barred from entering Canada. Maybe my phrasing is not clear enough so that the commentator once again overinterpreted and exaggerated my words. My intention is to say that the Customs should treat people nicely instead of looking at them like they don't deserve any human rights. The last question the commentator raised is the problem of the media here in Taiwan. I agree that due to this nationalistic patriotism, we may be misled by the media here. However, according to the following reports on this issue, we cannot help but believe that there are something fishy about the actions of the Canadian Customs. Moreover, though I agree that we should be, at certain extent, skeptical to the power of the media, we must also realize that we are living in the world of media without which we may not know anything that is crucial to our life, especially our quality of life.

As I am typing here, and also the commentator's reading and leaving messages, isn't this the function of the media? Media offers us chances to find out what is wrong, what has not yet been fully discussed, and what that must be fought against. As my blog title says "when all is done and said, how says you", we should all try our best to say something. In fact, I owe this specific commentator my gratitude because his comments allows further discussion that is not just about the case concerned, but about cultural conflicts that urgently requires our attention, about human rights that should not be only a slogan, and about the latent problem of the media.

17 Mar 2010

Outrageous! The paranoid Canadian Customs 加拿大了不起啊,不把旅客當人看

廣告真實版 加海關刁難台婦 外交部討公道
中時 更新日期:"2010/03/17 02:16" 仇佩芬/台北報導




出示簽證和回程機票 仍強搜行李




隻身不通英語 被迫簽自願離境書




Even though this Taiwanese woman doesn't speak English and her husband isn't a millionaire, having a good traveling visa issued by the Canadian representative in Taiwan and a booked return ticket should indicate clearly that she has the right to enter Canada as a tourist without being discriminated against.

The actions of the Customs are rude and illogical. This woman asked if she can call her sister who waited at the hall, but the Customs rejected her and even took away her mobile and telephone book. Later she was offered two options: 1. stay in costudy for three days, or 2. sign the paper that delcares her will to leave the country on the next available flight. Okay, if the person has been considered by the Customs as suspicious and dangerous to the country, it is reasonable to see these two options offered to the person involved. However, if we look carefully at this case, we would find that there are no firm reasons to justify the action of the Customs.

First, if this woman is considered a terrorist, then the Canadian goverment should have taken the actions similar to the U.S. Customs, which means to arrest the person first and delcare immediately that her current status might be dangerous to the country. Then the issue will be dealt with on the level of national security. This also means she will not be held in custody for three days, let alone being put on the next available flight.

Second, if the Canadian Customs think she has the intention to stay in Canada, then they should have checked whether she has the confirmed return ticket and should immediately contact the immigration office and also their representative office in Taipei for relevent information. In the meantime, before they can finally confirm any possible status, the person involved should not be discriminated against, meaning she should receive a good reason for being held, and also proper treatment while she is held in custody.

In this case, the rude Canadian Customs just treat her like shit: they go through her personal belongings and ask "why do you have so many pairs of underwear?", "How can you travel to Canada when your husband only makes something like 3500 Canadian dollars a month?", and even questions her visa, which was issused by their official representative office in Taipei a day before she boarded the flight to Vancouver. If the visa is invalid, it is impossible for her to board the flight, as we all know this fact from our travel experiences. All these questions are unbelivable and they remind me of my personal experience when traveling to some underdeveloped countries. In fact, as I remembered, those underdeveloped countries, though they were rude when asking questions, they still treat me like a person, not a dog.

What makes us angry here is their taking advantage of this Taiwanese woman. They know she cannot speak Engish and knows nothing about immigration laws, so in order to protect themselves from further complaints, they force her to sign the paper declaring her will to leave the country on the next available flight. That is a legal paper that forfeits the right of the person concerned to enter the country. Thus, there is really nothing we can do afterwards. Worse than that, this woman will be recorded on their immigration records (or usually called the blacklist) as someone "not welcomed". We should know that once you are recorded on the blacklist of whatever country, it will be very diffult for you to travel to other countries in the future, let alone getting a visa from countries like the U.S. As I infer from this case, forcing the woman to sign the paper clearly shows their intention to protect themselves from future complaints. They might have already known that they made a mistake and thus gave only two options for the woman to choose. Who would choose to be held in custody for three days? I would if this happens to me and I will do whatever I can to sue those involved in this event.

So what is about Canada now? People used to say the people there are nice, but in this case we only see arrogant Western mindset and rudeness. Are women inferior, especially women from Asia? Are Asian people inferior, especially Chinese? Would they dare to do the same to a U.S. or a European citizine? If they don't welcome us to see their beautiful country, then why bother to spend so much money and time to fly there? Even they don't welcome us, they should still treat us like "normal" human beings, right!

9 Mar 2010

Tim Burton's Alice is in Underland

Yes, Alice is in Underland, not in Wonderland, as the New York Times review says. Wonderland is for children and we are all too old for and also too bored with that. Only Tim Burton's Underland can fulfill this grown-up taste for sarcasm and that bitter dark humour.

In this film, anyone who enjoys the dark world created by Tim Burton will find himself again indulge in that splendid fantasy. Alice in Wonderland shares the same idiosyncrasy of Burton, as can be seen in his The Nightmare before Christmas (1993), or the most recent ones like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). This created fantasy world always has a grayish tone, even though the colours shown are bright, sharp and vibrant. It is this grayish tone that successfully transforms a children's fatasy into an appropriate entertainment for grown-ups only. When Alice falls into that tree hole, she is destined and also forced to face her fear and rebellion, whether it is the confusion about her arranged marriage, about her childhood experience of that imagined world, or about her life in this reality that is full of all sorts of so-called normal standards of behaviours. Thus, her falling down into the tree hole seems to probe deeply into her complex emotions and thoughts, and only through her adventure in that imagined world in which no more normal standards are practiced can she really re-collect her courage to fight against her own confusion and fear. Does this make Alice someone abnormal, someone lacking the humanity proper to live in reality? Of course not! In fact, with Burton's unique understanding and his excellent presentation of the story, Alice and all other imagined characters are fully equipped with all sorts of human nature, which is once hidden deep inside our body but is now teased out, purified, then magnified and thus performing livily in front of our eyes.

Each character seems to have a certain human nature as his/her peculiarity, but at the same time he/she is not just the representation of that certain human nature. They all have their own complex personality and the highlighted human nature is to give the character his/her uniqueness and grotesqueness. In fact, it is this grotesqueness shown through the character's gestures, voice, and attitudes, or in other words, the complete action of the living body, that captures the audience's eyes and enchants them. The Red Queen's huge heart-shape head is not just a bodily deformity, it actually corresponds to her mental instability, that is, the fear of not being loved and the hatred of the normal standard of beauty. Due to her power over all other trivial living creatures, each one of them tries so hard to turn themselves into someone with any forms of deformity so as to keep themselves alive. This creates a funny aesthetic that takes the ugliness as the beauty and the defomity as the perfection. In fact, why can't the ungliness be beautiful? Why can't the selfishness be righteous? Who says the ugly and selfish person is doomed to be a loser? In her world, everything is turned upside down. Helena Bonham Carter successfully shows us what a wicked and desperate woman is and through her performance we get to see that we all have such personality somewhere in our body which we are so fear of and have to hide and suppress in the reality.

Anne Hathaway's White Queen is another funny creature, and she is such a criticism to hypocrisy and mannerism in our real world. That exaggerated gesture constantly shows her weakness and lack of emotions. She is the ice queen living in her while bubble world. Although her world is a world of goodness, it submits to the crazy reign of the Red Queen. Her great excuse is the two outrageous monsters: Bandersnatch and Jabberwocky. The White Queen can be seen everywhere in reality though those who have that quality mostly show it in a very subtle way. They belive they are elegant, pretty, good, and even generous, but the truth is they are ignorant of whatever is real. Is it wrong? No, of course not. It is just a type of human nature the producer of the film wants us to see.

Also, the Mad Hatter gives us a highly complex personality. He is somehow schizophrenic, especially when he goes mad. Yes, when a person is mad, it is likely he is schizophrenic; when a person is born mad, nothing can justify his maddness. He used to be a nice Hatter willing to spread the happiness to everyone. But when the village was burned down by that monstrous Jabberwocky, he lost himself and dwelled in his little dark world waiting with unstable mindset for the saviour, Alice, to return. The contrast of his two extreme personality is clearly represented in two scenes: the first is broken utensils and rotten food on the banquet table; in contrast to that is the wonderfully decorated banquet table in Alice's memory of her first visit to Wonderland. The more Alice probes into the heart of the Mad Hatter, the crazier he becomes. Isn't this what we all feel when someone goes too deep into our heart? When someone keeps asking us to face something that we try so hard to forget? The Mad Hatter is the most successful grotesque character in this film, and Johnny Depp once agian surprises us with his brillant perfromance. He is so interested in performing characters that are mentally distorted, but what he did well is there is always a tiny difference between all his mentally distorted characters. It is this reason that marks his brilliance in acting.

There are more characters that bear such grotesqueness related to the reality world, such as the Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the twins that are contantly in disagreement and argument that is formed according to their illogical and rediculous understanding of the condition. The exaggerated human nature of these characters in Wonderland is in fact observable in the real world. As we see, after Alice comes back to her engagement party, she suddenly finds that the twin sisters are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and Lowell somehow reminds her Stayne, the Knave of Hearts. Her refusal to Hamish's proposal results from her experience as the White Knight successfully slaying the Jabberwocky, and this achievement further pushes her to seriously look at herself. Thus, in the end of the film Tim Burton gives us a courageous modern woman whose confidence leads her to the real adventure, taking up her father's job and sailing to the Far East for commercial activities. This is unbelievable to the people of the mid-19th century! Burton is great at playing with this theme: if this is an adventure, then why not make Alice the pioneer of the female self-awareness!