Monday, March 29, 2010

I AM NOT HAWKING ZHU ZHU PETS!

So, due to the constraints of working and studying full-time, my blog has been neglected and, consequently, fallen into disrepair. I only noticed last week that I no longer owned the domain where my site was hosted.

Now, I come to learn that my site, and everything I've written has started to be used as a fodder for a site hawking Zhu Zhu Pet Babies, whatever those are.

Let it be known that I am not behind this, and recommend that, should you be in the market for a Zhu Zhu Pet Baby, you do not buy one from someone who sets up a site like this, that for some reason markets itself as both a vender of children's toys and a travel site for Taiwan. Likewise, if you are looking for information about Taiwan, don't get it here.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Finally, it’s official: Meet Mrs. Redhead. Now, off to Washington, DC.

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Nine months after our wedding adventure started in the Housing Registration Office in XinZhuang, we finally had a wedding ceremony.  Not only was it a short, sweet ceremony and a wonderful reception with friends from all over the country and the world, but it also signaled an end to always having to explain why a married couple still needed to have a wedding. 

A taste of the matrimonial extravaganza can be found here.

Now, with the wedding behind us, we are also able to focus all of our energy on our imminent move to DC.  While we’re pretty sure we’ve found ourselves an apartment, we’ve still before us the task of lining up jobs.  Since I’ll be starting a Master’s in International Relations, my job search, while still important, is a secondary issue – study comes first.  However, Fanfan will be getting her career started, hopefully as an elementary school French/Mandarin or art teacher. 

Suggestions, advice and contacts are welcome.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

On Pajamas Media, the Only Redhead, and 21st-Century Conservatism...

NOTE: Judging from the emails I have received regarding this post, I feel it necessary to emphasize – though it’s pretty clearly stated in the below article (It’s long, I know) – that no conclusions as to my political affiliation (which is actually none) or my philosophical bent (decidedly middle) should be read into this.  If anything, this should be seen as an argument against the sort of useless conservative/liberal, left/right nomenclature to which we’ve become so accustomed. 

I certainly think the lion’s share of stupid has taken refuge on the right side of the aisle, but then again plenty of “conservatives” would agree with that.  I also think that there should be a healthy dose of skepticism in the infallibility of free markets, but that puts me in the company of folks like Bruce Bartlett and the Honorable Richard Posner, hardly a pair of pinko ideologues.

I’m not concerned here with whether my thoughts jive with one side or the other.  I just want to be right (by way of my arguments, not simply by virtue of telling everyone else I am, which is not taken as a given these days).

 

You may have noticed the starboard side of this site is a little lighter as of last week. I removed the Pajamas Media ads promoting such conservative luminaries as Michelle Malkin, John H. Hinderaker and Joe the Plumber (yes, that Joe the Plumber).

No more. Pajamas Media is dropping more or less everyone in hopes of focusing all of its conservative force into PJTV. From the email we bloggers were sent several weeks ago:

As you know, last September Pajamas Media began a new initiative in Internet television called Pajamas TV. When we started with our RNC coverage from Minneapolis, we noted that we would be in a Beta Phase through the first quarter of 2009. In the last few months we have strengthened the PJTV lineup with shows covering Media Bias, Education Bias, Middle East Update, Sharia and Jihad, Powerline Report, Ask Dr. Helen, Hugh News, Poliwood, Conservatism 2.0, Economy and Finance, National Security, and others.

As the end of the first quarter approaches and we near the production phase of Pajamas TV, we will continue to build our emphasis in this area. As a result we have decided to wind down the Pajamas Media Blogger and advertising network effective March 31, 2009. The PJM portal and the XPressBlogs will continue as is.

Reaction hasn't been terribly positive (mostly wondering, how are you going to get people to pay for PJTV in this economy?). The Moderate Voice has a pretty extensive rundown.

In the end, this is really no skin off my back. I wasn't paid to be on the Pajamas Media blogroll. The only money I ever received from Pajamas Media was for this article after the Taiwanese elections, but The Only Redhead in Taiwan never had enough traffic to breech the big-boy-blogger payola. That's do in large part to the fact that when one is not paid to write, he doesn't have quite the opportunities he would otherwise have to pour his time into such an endeavor because he has to work elsewhere. It's a vicious cycle of blogger poverty.

Moreover, this situation owes itself as much to where I am in life--having been picked up by Pajamas Media when I was in my early twenties--as it does to PJM's lack of "link love" for almost everything that I wrote. After all, one would think that if they picked me up, went through the trouble to sign a contract, and get me into their network, then they might actually link to some of the stuff I wrote to generate interest in their subject matter.

There is, however, a problem

The only thing that's getting under my skin is this: Joe the Plumber went to Israel on PJTV's bill. Joe the Plumber. Israel. And he wants to "Abolish the media from reporting."

I don't think even Michael Moore, Al Franken, and Keith Olbermann could come up with a parody so ridiculous if you locked them in an ivory tower with a week's supply of hippie lettuce and space cakes.

Alas, this is real, folks. Sure, I understand PJM's reasoning. Joe's a man of the people. He's a plumber (but not really). He's not some elitist media sleuth with a degree and experience who spends his days supping on arugula and other elitism legumes. He's a plumber, and he's going to tell it like it is, for the people. He's going to stand up for Israel. Give Joe your sick and your huddled masses, and he'll tell 'em how friggin' awesome America is.

At the risk of demonstrating my youthful naiveté, I have something to admit: I actually believe blogging can be a respectable, informative element of public debate. I believe it builds on the free flow of thought that started with the printing press, eighteenth century pamphleteers and coffee shops. It is the next step in the progressive widening of the aperture that shines light upon our collective knowledge. I say this knowing full well that there are a gaggle of idiots, bigots, and bunglers who promulgate their certainties on a daily basis online (some of them, for PJM). I'm quite aware that the Internet has offered succor to those who find comfort in the intellectually lazy pursuit of reading that which leaves their personal philosophy unmolested.

But for the rest of us, for the curious and the truth seeking, there is a new opportunity to learn and to challenge. I have gotten as much from writing and reading blogs as I have from any class that I ever took. I relish the constant criticism and the daily pushback I get. It makes me think, and, though I often have trouble grasping certain concepts, I'm not scared to try, even if it seems to go against even my most fundamental beliefs--say, that people are intrinsically good, or want to be, and even the worst among us can change, as can the best.

I readily admit that I don't know everything, but I strive to know as much as I can. I study constantly, I talk to people, and I write. I invite criticism, especially from those who disagree with me most. This is why Joe the Plumber, more than any of the others at Pajamas Media of whom I have a less-than-favorable view, seems like such a slap in the face to me.

I should also acknowledge that Pajamas Media contacted me, asking for my participation and ideas for Pajamas TV. This came at about the worst time possible (during Fanfan and my move back to the US), so my gripe is not that they left me in the dust, it's that they pursued Joe the Plumber, promoted him, and, I presume, paid him. Had it been almost anyone else, I would not be writing this.

As I mentioned, I am not paid to maintain this blog. During my time in Taiwan, I worked full-time as a teacher and studied Chinese on my own dime. I maintained this site because I wanted to share what I've been learning and hoped to receive feedback. If Pajamas Media, all this time, had the funds to send an unlicensed plumber to a country he likely couldn't label on a map beforehand, couldn't they have paid and collaborated with me? Or, at least, someone with more integrity than Joe?

What would William F. Buckley, Jr. say to Joe the Plumber? My guess is that he'd have some choice words for Pajamas Media for sending him to Israel, for mistaking everyman virtue in the face of superficial media hyperbole for everyday ignorance in the face of a mythical monolith, and for further reinforcing the idea that conservatism is the refuge of mindless, frothing babble, rather than a coherent political philosophy. To be clear, one does not have to have a diploma to be intelligent--though I don't know Joe's academic background, I'm guessing he doesn't have more than a bachelors, and it's probably not in social sciences--but intelligence does demand a certain measure of curiosity, honesty and, I hope, capacity for complex thought. Or as Daniel Larison (currently one of my favorite bloggers) put it:

First, this does say something important about the miserable state of the conservative blogosphere as a journalistic medium, and it also tells us something about the thorough Palinification of the right. Palin was praised and embraced because of her perceved ordinariness, and her lack of expertise was regarded by her admirers as an advantage and a desirable trait, and now we are treated to the journalistic equivalent of Palin’s qualifications for the position she sought. In journalism as in politics, standards, qualifications and expertise are now to be thrown out; average-ness, ordinariness and ignorance are to be prized as proof of one’s authenticity.

Thanks, Joe. That was very articulate.

In trying to prove it's working-man roots, the republican party ended up mocking America with the idea that we could fall for Joe the Plumber. That we were interested in sweet political nothings.

And, Pajamas Media bit (Republican Party itself was already hooked).

Conservatism at the Dawn of the 21st Century

Mr. Plumber, in many ways, is an extension of the conservative direction that Pajamas Media is forging, along with the Republican party. The "Dumb as we wanna be" crowd, as Tom Friedman would (and probably does) call them. This is certainly not true of all of the bloggers at Pajamas Media, rather it is my impression of most of the top bloggers at Pajamas Media. They espouse the kind of "dumb as we wanna be" conservatism that sees the world in black or white, Israel or Palestine, with us or against us shades that defy reality. They will, for instance, readily acknowledge that Hamas has committed war crimes, such as using ambulances to transport troops and shooting missiles from schools, but nary a peep is heard about *gasp* Israel's own alleged transgressions, like the use of white phosphorus, killing civilians waving white flags, and preventing red cross medics from attending to the injured. It's all chalked up to the nature of Israel's enemy, and any criticism of Israel as a country is to hate Jews as a people (while criticism of American policy towards Israel, especially in *gag* Europe, is anti-American). Just look at the case of Chas Freeman (President Obama's ill-fated pick for National Intelligence Council chair), I've yet to see any proof to support the claims that he is "hostile to Israel," but that lends itself for to the fact that I can differentiate between criticism of policy and outright hostility towards a people and because I realize that Israel and the US are sovereign nations whose foreign policies should not be dictated by the other (And, yes, I know some Taiwan folks don't like Freeman, and some China folks do. But I certainly doubt China/Taiwan had much to do with this controversy)

That's just one example. More recent examples abound. In debates around our current economic doldrums, the rage against earmarks comes to mind. Likewise, to suggest that government plays any roll in our economic recovery is anathema, except for the commies on the left. This betrays reality, in which government has a very important role in catalyzing free market innovation (not guiding it) by way of incentives, boosting infrastructure, and education, to name a few. Taxes and subsidies can be used quite effectively to create incentives for tech companies to build the United States a smart grid with smart houses and smart cars where energy companies compete in a free market to provide the cheapest and cleanest forms of energy. There's little doubt that the green energy market will be the "next big thing" but it will never come about as long as we are not paying the real cost of coal and gas prices are low.

The sad truth is that, as long as conservatism is guided by the voices of impassioned, albeit intellectually lazy, black-or-white-ism, then the government will be bigger and bigger. Liberals will undoubtedly continue down the path of getting government to endorse its own best biofuel, for example, (corn ethanol, anyone?) instead of using government incentives for R&D and letting the market sort out the cheapest and most efficient candidates (Sugarcane ethanol? Algae? Solar-thermal? etc. etc.).

The source of this combative, substance-free conservatism is, Patrick Ruffini argues, a lack of confidence in the values conservatism portrays:

We need to be confident, like the left is, that we are the natural governing party because our ideas are in alignment with basic American principles, and quit treating middle class, working class, or rural Americans like an interest group to be mollified by symbolic, substance-free BS.

It is indeed time for confident conservatism. "A movement self-confident in its place in American society would not have made Joe the Plumber a bigger story than he actually was," says Ruffini. Yet, instead of holding substantive debates on issues, based on facts, conservatives now tend to rely evermore heavily on the easiest weapon in their quiver: bias canard. Instead of presenting a coherent argument for the red team, they instead cry fowl of the game itself.

The Big, Bad Liberal Media

I am not denying bias, and it is an understatement to say that I disdain all of the television news networks (and I've said as much). The Good Lord knows that punditry is at best pretentious and does little to elucidate the murky waters of policy and politics. But I wouldn't insult my own intelligence by tossing it all out as a crock, hell-bent on undermining my personal ideology. Part of being an intelligent participant in any debate is being able to process conflicting perspectives--a characteristic, I might add, that is attributed to President Obama perhaps more than any politician in recent history--and a healthy level of humility, accepting that you don't have all of the answers.

Most liberals consider the news media as too dumb to report complex issues, while most conservatives see the media as too liberal. There's a big difference. A liberal will task him or herself at disproving the factual claims of a troubling story, while a conservative will try to fundamentally undermine the credibility of the organization itself, conveniently absolving him or her any responsibility to dispute the arguments made. This allows conservatives to disprove any news story from CNN, The New York Times, Keith Olbermann et al, regardless of the factual basis of the claims made, solely on the basis that the report comes from CNN, The New York Times, or Keither Olbermann.

The bias canard conveniently ignores that FOX is and has been the number one most watched news channel in America for years now and is the third most-watched basic channel. How laughable is it to watch FOX pundits on a regular basis decrying the fact that "the Mainstream Media is not reporting this!" when they are the most mainstream of media outlets.

Sure, this happens on both sides, and, sure, there are some conservatives (Daniel Larison, Andrew Sullivan, and David Frum to name a few) who do not use liberal media bias as a rebuttal to every criticism levied, whether or not they believe such a general bias exists, but they're the minority. A scant few PJM and redstate.com rely on anything but.

I should note, this tactic goes hand-in-hand with the anti-Education rhetoric of conservatives who portray all of academia as a bunch of lying lefties. It makes my skin crawl to hear the old Republican routine of passing off the criticisms of academe--without even giving the semblance of refutation, or being pushed to--as simply the detached views of blue bloods from the Ivory Towers.

Such an anti-education, anti-science dogma is particularly dangerous when most agree that in order for America to remain competitive, we need to lead the world in innovation, foremost by being the forerunner in green tech. But, conservatives still have a particular gleeful fancy for denying Climate Change. Forget the fact that there are things we know that make green energy necessary even without the threat of Climate Change: ending the importation of foreign oil that helps fund terrorism, a new market to create jobs and invigorate the economy, a free market in energy, etc. It's all just Hippie-ganda.

To be clear, raising such issues with conservatives should not imply that I think "the left" is a paradigm of enlightened discussion. While I appreciate greatly the work done at Open-Left and Talking Points Memo, for instance, I worry that they don't do enough to clarify that our current economic debate is not a war against the rich, but a fight against corruption, unchecked greed, and the idea that free markets are free of rules, regulation, and principles. They too occasionally rely on partisan snipes and generalizations, and I often worry that they believe government alone--or at least, predominantly--can fix our problems.

This is to say nothing of Crooks and Liars, a site that I read for years but now have little stomach for.

But, I think that when it comes to shallow, uninformed and self-serving proselytizing, today's conservatives have the market cornered.

My Generation: The Center-Left Nation

In general, what liberal bloggers don't do, again, is portray most issues as simple matters of fact with clear right or wrong solutions. In a strange twist of fate, "the left" has come to dominate political realism, while the right has become a hodgepodge of idealists and moralists. This truism led Jeffrey Hart, whose conservative street cred can hardly be disputed, to declare, "it seems clear to me that Obama is the conservative in the 2008 election." But FOX's hiring of alarmist whack-job Glenn Beck, and the resulting ratings spike, is perhaps the most potent signal that conservatives have lost their party.

In the 21st Century, Republicans are more concerned with defining and defying "evil" than they are with finding a strategy that works (i.e. talking to "evil"). Conservatism has bought into the idea that our country and it's success was built upon and by God, as though God himself, and not Enlightenment-based scientific innovation, gave us the technological advantages that begot our power.

At twenty-six, I might be the youngest blogger on the Pajamas Media roster. If not, I was certainly one of the youngest, which says a lot for why I don't agree with so much that is written by self-described "conservatives." I've written about the "Global Generation Gap" and it's implications for Taiwan and the world, but there are certainly applicable demonstrations here in the U.S.

For my generation, liberalism and conservatism have little to do with fiscal policy or the size of government. Most of us came of age politically when the Twin Towers fell. The debate was framed around support or opposition to the war in Iraq and, subsequently, (in my case in particular) feeling that your faith in the U.S., despite its short-comings, as being predominately a source of good in the world had been betrayed by a government that, as the years passed, tortured, killed, and snooped on people within and without the country. For us, the Republican Party has become a party that does not understand the complexity of culture and religion, the party that doesn't understand the importance of a science- and math-based education, and the party whose patriotism is based on the belief that America simply is great because it is America, rather than because it is something that we, as Americans, work and, at times, sacrifice for.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, conservatives seem to have little understanding of how intertwined our world is economically, politically, and culturally, maintaining the belief that the U.S. can do what it wants with impunity.

The reason I mention my age is because I represent what the Republican party has lost. As I noted when I wrote about how wrong I thought McCain was for president, this was not a natural turn of events. I grew up in a conservative family, in a conservative state, in the most conservative region in the US. I was taught in essence that Ronald Reagan hung the moon, and the Clintons were loathsome pond scum. Yet, over the last five years, I have found myself cringing more and more when I hear Republican talking points, and I've come to see the dreadful Democrats as the only group capable of complex thought.

Solidifying this tectonic shift, just as Kennedy and Reagan inspired a generation who still today are faithful to their ideals, so has Obama. There is plenty of research to show that people's political affiliations happen in and around their twenties and tend to last the rest of their lives, so the Republican Party should be gearing up for a generation wandering in Gehenna. The republicans and conservative media have become the representatives of old, white men.

To put it more bluntly, America is not a center-right nation. No, seriously, it's not. Realism has found a home on the left. For free markets to function, regulation and education are absolute necessities. Freedom of religion also requires freedom from religion. Government is not a monster to be vanquished, it is a beast of burden, guaranteeing education, catalyzing research, and incentivizing the creation of new, risky markets.

This does not mean that America is a nation of Democrats, though. I realize that many find the idea of post-partisanship laughable, but I don't know one person my age who cares much about which party is offering the best policy. But, I will say, many of us certainly do associate one particular party with an ideology of Christianism, anti-academia, regulation-free-markets, international ignorance, and petty nationalism. Republicans have departed from Buckley, Friedman, and Hayek, and they no longer dominate educated ideals. They deal now in shallowness, peddling ideologies of "real America," flag-pin patriotism, aversion to understanding our enemies, vilification of criticism as hatred of America (except when their candidate does it), an obsession with TelePrompTers, a mocking disdain for community service, and an inability to see past 1980.

The list goes on and on, and I've tried for a long time to challenge my growing bias. I've actively searched out low-blow, baseless, personal and nationalistic attacks from mainstream liberal candidates of the sort one sees coming from conservatives. I've even gone on conservative forums and asked for such examples. Nothing. Well, okay, I do get responses, but they are always citations of the comments section on a liberal blog or comment from Keith Olbermann. It's never, say, a factcheck.org article regarding a campaign ad or a comment from a politician that goes beyond policy dispute and attacks the person himself.

This sort of culture can change, but It's going to take a while because most of the "real" conservatives have to devote so much of their time pointing out the idiosyncrasies of the "dumb as we want to be" that they can't devote their efforts to policy issues.

So, there you have it. Pajamas Media said they look forward to working with me in the future, but, as long as they espouse vapid, 21st-century, Joe-the-Plumber conservatism, I don't think they want much to do with me, and, likewise, I don't think my generation will have much to do with them.

Otherwise, as of April Fool's, of all days, everyone get ready for PJTV!

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has had a couple of posts from young folks on how the right has lost credibility in our generation.


[Photo credit: Bullneck]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Letter from the Beautiful Country.

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This is long overdue.  For months now, I have been telling myself that I would finally sit down and detail Fanfan and my last days in and tumultuous departure from Taiwan, our first days/weeks/months in the US, the wonderment of South of the Border and the anti-evolution Creation Museum, so on and so forth.  But life has stood before me in determined obstinance, demanding that I spend my time doing otherwise: working, finishing my graduate school applications, studying (I have pre-reqs to fulfil for grad school), planning our wedding, getting Fanfan settled, and all the many other demands my existence imposes upon me at present.

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The "Reality Ride" at South of the Border

Still, I haven't really the time to go into much detail, other than to affirm the continuance of my cyber-existence and assure myself of my relevance here.  I do hope to continue writing about our time in the US, because this has always been a site about culture, life, and perspectives, and Taiwan is just as much a part of that now as it was when we were still in Taiwan.  Moreover, as Taiwan will always be an interest of mine as I continue my studies, I will continue to write about developments in my second home. 

 

Leaving Taiwan

Leaving Taiwan in December wasn't easy.  In the weeks that preceded our departure, it felt as though I became so much closer with Fanfan's family than I had ever been before.  It seemed that not only had my Chinese reached a conversational level but also Fanfan's parents, knowing that we were leaving, decided to forgo the normal reticence of daily life and made a more concerted effort to talk to me, and I them. 

We spent several days driving around Taiwan 拜拜-ing and delivering wedding cakes to Fanfan's aunts and uncles.  Everywhere we went, Fanfan's father tried to point out everything he thought might be of interest to me, knowing now that not only was I interested in Taiwan, but I could also understand what he was saying. 

He wanted to show me everything, like the rice husks in cement used to build their family's old house

and how you can slide the slats in the windows to see how the weather had eaten away at the wood

Along the way, I jokingly noted that I was happier the more I learned to speak Chinese because Fanfan's father was always ready to instruct me in anything and everything Taiwan.  "I just want to make you feel like part of the family," he said in response, which served as a nice punctuation at the end of my stay in Taiwan.  I had come as the mysterious foreigner boyfriend of their daughter, and I was leaving their son-in-law. 

Touring Fanfan's Aunt's garden with Fanfan's parents 

Learning the art of distilling

Some homemade rice wine for the road from another of Fanfan's aunts

Our departure was difficult for everyone involved, too.  Fanfan spent days crying, and her parents were visibly rattled by the notion.  Fanfan had left before, but this time it seemed so much more "permanent."  Sure, we'd be back, but Taiwan would no longer be our center of gravity, so to speak. 

To make things worse, upon arriving at the airport one December morning, the lady at the check-in counter said she could not let me on the plane without my ARC, which Fanfan had convinced me to leave at the house, being that I hadn't been asked for it before and it might prove useful in the future if Fanfan's parents needed to do something for me.  We immediately called Fanfan's father who was parking the car, and he sped back to Taipei.  The traffic was terrible, though, and I was restless, fearing I was going to have to buy another thousand-dollar ticket to the US, and we were going to have to make the 27-hour voyage on separate planes. 

To make a long story short, I finally convinced the Cathay Pacific folks to let me go to immigrations and get proof that I was allowed to leave Taiwan, but this required me entering hastily with almost no time to say good-bye to Fanfan's mother and assure her that I would take care of Fanfan.  To make things even worse, Fanfan's father was stuck on the highway, so neither Fanfan nor I could say good-bye.   

 

In America

Seventeen hours later, we sat for nearly four hours in the cavernous belly of the Department of Homeland Security, watching all of the others from our plane from Tokyo trickle out as their files were checked.  Each time, the officer, in some sort of sick miracle, just happened to pass right over Fanfan's file and doomed us to wait another twenty minutes.  Asking questions was futile because they didn't give answers (claimed they didn't have them), so it wasn't until nearly three hours after everyone else who had arrived with us had left that Fanfan's name was called.  She gave her fingerprint, signed her name, and we were off to try to catch our connecting flight that was scheduled to leave in twenty five minutes.  Thankfully, it had been delayed another twenty minutes.

 

IMG_5536

So here we are, and as you've probably gathered, we're here "for good" (meaning, at least a couple of years).  I have applied for graduate programs in International Relations, and Fanfan is pursuing a teaching career.  She is volunteering full time at my old elementary school to get some experience in hopes of becoming a Mandarin/French teacher once we move to Boston, D.C., or New York, and I am working as a lab tech at a pharmacy in town, spending my free time on my economics studies. 

(From the Creation Museum)

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I cannot for the life of me figure out how the brick of coffee fits into this whole scene.

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We've also set a date for our wedding.  Getting married, as a couple who is already legally married, will be the last in the series of steps in our unconventional relationship. 

Fanfan, my mother, and I have also done a fair amount of cooking, trying to learn both some Asian favorites like 抓餅

and 餡餅

as wells as some Western fare like Coq au Vin

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all made from scratch. 

Alas, we are here, and, strangely, I find myself absolutely fascinated by the US.  Part of it has to do with seeing it through Fanfan's eyes and part of it has to do with having lived so many other places that I have come to see just how peculiar this place is--at times endearingly, at others frustratingly (might I again draw your attention to the Creation Museum).  While I miss Taiwan, I know that we will be back often, and I look forward to it.  For now, though, I am content in trying to understand the country that I left five years ago, believing it was the paradigm of ordinary.  

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

There are some things I will never understand about Taiwan...

I've had to deal with a Hello Kitty nightmare before, but I can't imagine doing it as I'm trying to give birth...

Yes, Hello Kitty is even on the children's birth certificates.  Alas, this is the culture of cute.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The China Desk sees my true colors: White, white, and white

Now, for a little self-flagellation. This is from May. I didn't see it because, at the time, I was in Thailand at the East West Center's Summer Institute for International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights:

The Only Redhead in Taiwan [sic!] yet another predictable "China is bad" blog by yet another expat Taiwan independence fellow traveler

You read that right. He really did name his blog "The Only Redhead in Taiwan."

Try not to laugh too hard. I wouldn't want you to hurt yourself.

But I really can't blame you. These 21st century versions of pith helmeted 19th century Bearers of the White Man's Burden really are full of themselves, aren't they?

Note how he chose to define himself in relation to the public on Taiwan? Remember, he chose to define himself in this manner, not me.

He seems utterly oblivious of his own colossal presumption. He actually believes his narcissistic view of himself as some sort of sharp-eyed, worldly wise, infinitely patient observer of the human folly swirling around him.

For these Bearers of the White Man's Burden, everything is about them. They are the leading men in the human drama unfolding on this planet. They are the Masters of the Universe. They are the final arbiters of Eternal Verity.

The "little brown brothers" are quaint extras, local colour, to be lifted up out of backwardness by these White Knights in Shining Armor.

See:
http://thechinadesk.blogspot.com/2000/08/white-knight-third-world-damsel-in.html

I considered taking some time out to rebut his "rebuttal" line by line, point by point. As readers of the China Desk know, I've done that with Taipei Times editorials often in the past. But that would have been a few hours taken away from learning a new aria or show tune.

Would it be worthwhile?

Not really.

Besides, readers are smart enough to make up their own minds, not on debating skill, but on objective merits.

Read "What Do You Want From Us?" Watch the video versions of "What Do You Want from Us?" posted at YouTube.

Then read the "rebuttal" by the aforementioned Bearer of the White Man's Burden, whereby he magnanimously removes the blinders from our eyes.

Ask yourself if he didn't unwittingly demonstrate precisely the point he was attempting to deny, that he and his ilk are determined to "make China wrong" and that he and his ilk "just don't get it?"

Upton Sinclair once quipped that "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

Permit me to paraphrase Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his self-image depends upon his not understanding it."

As some of you might remember, at the time, I had referenced some posts written by Mr. Chu at the China Desk, trying to make an argument for why I disagreed with him in hopes of starting a dialogue between two people with different perspectives on the same subject. I got emails from a lot of people saying I was wasting my time with Chu--an American whose late father was Tsing-kang Chu, a long-serving diplomat under Chiang-Kai Shek--but I figured I would try.

I didn't expect to change Mr. Chu's opinion on anything, but I supposed that if anyone was going to tell me I was wrong, it would be him. In my search for criticism in what is arguably a green-leaning English blogosphere in Taiwan, I thought I had found the most likely person to school me the hard way in the perspectives of the under-represented. I can't help but think though, that anyone who would files this site under "'China is bad' blog" and me as a "Taiwan independence fellow traveller" has trouble distinguishing anything on the spectrum between black and white.

[I'd love proof of these claims, as (1) for some time I've thought (erroneously) that I was fascinated by China and Asia in general, despite having problems with many government policies--as I do with every other country, indiscriminately, especially my own--and (2) it's news to me that being neither for or against China-Taiwan unification is pro-Independence, unless believing that the Taiwanese should be allowed to choose for themselves automatically makes me pro-Independence, which would mean that Chu doesn't believe the Taiwanese would choose to become part of China.]

Though Chu never addressed any of my arguments and only did so once that I can find when I left comments on his site, I will say--in my "magnanimity"--that I learned a lot from him and the biting comments that conspicuously started popping up on my site after my indirect correspondences with him: It was, after all, through those comments that I began to see a correlation with what I was studying at the seminar in Thailand.

Studying human rights with people from all over Asia, I was concentrating on America's role in many of these issues while also running over the comments about "expats"--who are apparently so similar one to another that they can be easily grouped together--and I got to thinking about all the people who come abroad, hoping to make things better for others, but who rarely are ever anything more than outsiders. It was then that I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to try to change what I can about how America interacts with the world, rather than lending a hand to causes in other parts of the world.

Though I already knew I would apply for graduate programs in international relations this coming January, it was there, in Thailand, that I decided that my studies would focus on American foreign policy and how the negative consequences of past exceptionalist policies--which are now arguably greater than they've ever been--can be minimized. In the end, if I tried to go anywhere else, no matter how hard I worked or how good my intentions, I would always be an outsider. Of course, in whatever I do, I look forward to travelling and working with people all over the world on the problems that transcend the borders and identities we draw around ourselves, like terrorism and climate change. This is my passion, and no one should get the wrong idea that anyone can that.

Anyhow, thank you, Bevin Chu, for doing that little bit of sorting out for me. Feel free to comment any time, send me emails, or write about me on your site, as I always need to challange my perspectives. However, I hope, next time, you'll take me to task on some of the things that I actually said, poking holes in my dogmatism, so that I can see things from your perspective. Don't be gentle, I love criticism of what I say, and I'll readily admit when I'm wrong.

On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of the superficial, personal attacks, but I can take those with a smile too.

Have a good one! ;-)

 

UPDATE: I neglected to include a link to The China Desk post.

For those who may be at the Brookings CNAP seminar on Wednesday...

I'll be there.  Don't know if any other bloggers or other folks I may out there are going, but if you're there, please look for me and come say hello.  I always go to these seminars alone, so it's always nice to run into someone I know (or meet someone new).

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, take a look at Michael's announcement.