Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cultural Sensitivity and Ethnic Identity: the Unintentional Politicization of Chinese New Year's

For someone who has lived outside the the Chinese-speaking world for the past however many Chinese New Year's, the author already lost a real concept of what Chinese New Year's ought to look except hearing frequent news of people who accidentally injure themselves with fireworks.  But thankfully, walking around the old town of Taipei on this warm New Year's eve, he felt that, for some reason in the back of his mind, what he saw is what Chinese New Year's should look like if it is authentic.  The crowds praying at temples and buying New Year's snacks like pumpkin seeds looks legit enough.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

How Discipline and Institutions Reinforce Each Other: a Case of Taiwan

Recent posts on this blog has been strongly focused on the role of institutions, both political and socio-economic, on the development (or lack thereof) of a national entity or a community.  But instead of just focusing on what institutions are needed, as done before, it is probably more pertinent to consider how to make those institutions "stick," i.e. their rules enforced, followed, and respected by the vast majority of leaders and people so that the institutions remain relevant and central to the operation of the society in question.  A quick examination of Taiwan for few days may give an answer, even if incomplete.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Last Assessment of Philippines: A Nation Oblivious to Incoming Economic Dangers

As the author reaches the few final hours of being in the Philippines before flying off to Taipei for his new job and life, it would be pertinent to give a last minute advice to the country that he somehow managed to call home for more than a year continuously (for those who don't know, this is the longest continued residence in one place for the author since his undergrad years at Yale).  Not to say the author haven't wrote plenty about the country already, but little of the previous writing touched on the future of the country from an economic perspective, with focus primarily on its social side.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In Dealing with Grassroots Activism, Active Response, Rather than Passivity, is the Correct Response

In recent news, the annual "slaughter" of dolphins in Japan's Wakayama Prefecture has been splashing headlines in many news outlets, drawing widespread criticism from manly Western audiences.  The author feels particularly at home discussing this topic as his summer internship at Wakayama's municipal government, where he personally encountered whale-hunters and retailers, gave him a perspective on this previously little-known facet of Japanese tradition.  And the author is a fan of whale meat, and possibly dolphin too, had he the chance to taste.

Monday, January 20, 2014

A Nation Constantly Feeling Sorry for Itself is Partly Responsible for Racism against Its Diaspora

It is apt that this post falls on the day after the annual celebrations of Martin Luther King Jr's birthday in the US and around the world.  The African-American activist, decades ago, led the civic rights movement that marked the tentative (albeit trouble-filled) first steps of blacks being recognized as legal equals in America.  More importantly, he created a culture in the US that made overt or covert racism against blacks all but taboo, making it completely normal for blacks to publicly launch dignified campaigns against any scent of assaults on their racial dignity by other races.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How Can Migrant Laborers Increase Bargaining Power for Self-Protection?

In recent news, while India has been busy perceptively becoming the rape capital of the world, Hong Kong has been taking definite steps toward the title of "maid-abuse capital."  High-profile physical violence of foreign domestic workers, one of which involving a to-level administration official at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has brought forth a small but increasing focus on the plight of the lowly, underpaid migrant workers from Third World countries, toiling away in a strange land far from home, while little legal protection from authority both in Hong Kong or their home countries.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Institutional Robustness as a Prerequisite for Democratic Maturity

The ongoing political stalemate in Thailand, entering an even grander stage of opposition protests and incumbent counter-protests to paralyze Bangkok, seems to see no end.  Fueled by continued anger over talks of inappropriate use of national funds, hidden corruption, and unjustifiable grips on political power by the so-called "Thaksin regime", the opposition seems to still have plenty of firepower left despite private murmurs among its supporters that they are pushing too far with their demands, and that their lives are increasingly being disrupted by the constant need to be on the streets.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From What and Whom are Adventure Travelers Escaping?

The line between being alone and being lonely can become really blurred when one remains on the road at an almost semi-permanent basis.  Physically being in new, strange places constantly, a traveler become a "floater," a being without a group of long-known acquaintances that give one the reason to remain in that place for long time.  That idea of being physically alone and friendless at times, more often than not, begin to affect one's mental state toward a sense of confusion as to whether that sense of being alone is voluntary or forced, and whether willingly accepted as a side effect of traveling.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What is and Should be the Place of "Honor" in Modern Politics?

The ideas of fighting for honor, to modern human beings, seem like obsolete ideas of the past fit for history books but anachronistic in modern societies where rational considerations for individual and collective interests trump what is often perceived an overtly emotional exercise of avenging wrongdoings for vague moral purposes.  And indeed, the last Hollywood blockbuster "47 Ronin," a sci-fi-tinged retelling of a Japanese true story about a group of master-less samurai revenge-killing a rival lord for their dead master, cannot get more medieval in context.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How American Mission Abroad Propagate Its Self-Righteous Sense of Superiority

U.S. embassies all over the world tend to have a shared characteristic: they strive to look like military barracks, surrounded with heavily armed guards and barbed wires to fight off terrorist attacks at any given notice, rather than a diplomatically positive representation of America as a socially advanced and politically liberal place that its politicians seem to tirelessly promote when abroad.  Usually taking up prime real estate in highly urbanized areas, these American missions demonstrate American power, but in the most off-putting and scarily unapproachable fashion possible in everyone's eyes.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

First Post of 2014: Lamenting the Fast Passing of Times

It is not particularly surprisingly that as people get older and older, their attitude toward the coming of a new year turn from excitement and anticipation to something more akin to avoidance, nostalgia, or in extreme cases, hatred.  When one starts to become more aware of age and less aware of concrete progress in life, the passage of time, as symbolized by coming of a new year, becomes more and more a sign of meaningless aging, of another year passed without significant accomplishments or achievements, and, again, in extreme cases, another step closer to that inevitable end of human life.