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.

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