Tuesday, March 08, 2005

New blogger, first post.

Hello, readers of Rank. And thanks, Hyatt, for allowing me to blog here.

Among the oddities of being a foreigner in Taiwan — and I’m using “foreigner” as shorthand for “English-speaking male” — is how easily you can position yourself as an expert on a wide range of issues about which you know virtually nothing. Boiled dumplings, the martial-law era, public graft, street dogs, Taiwanese womanhood, notions of face, ineffectual policemen, brief naps at lunchtime — no matter the topic, your opinion somehow matters. I, for one, didn’t know when I arrived in this country who its president was; within months I was providing analysis of Taiwanese politics to publications on two continents. Even earlier than that I was writing instruction manuals for electronics devices that I did not understand how to operate. And of course, many of Taiwan’s English classes are taught by near-illiterates, not all of them Australians. Why is this sort of foolishness tolerated? Why are foreigners not prevented from broadcasting their ignorance, from perpetrating their incompetence? Can foreigners not be educated? Or trained in some useful skill?

We probably can’t — because Taiwanese people consider us indispensable. If it weren’t for us, after all, who would edit wretched Chinglish texts until they are grammatically perfect and perfectly incomprehensible? In teaching English as a second language, who would establish the international impression that white people wake up every afternoon in a puddle of beer and dirt? In journalism, who would compose the error-filled news pieces, the meandering features, the wrong-headed editorials — all of them suffused with that weary nonchalance, the product of not having one’s self-regard challenged when a challenge is exactly what it needs? And even in romance, who would date those vastly forbearing Taiwanese girls who see in us something that’s invisible in our peers?

We get away with a lot. It’s why some of us are here. But ignorance unchallenged grows braver and more pronounced, like a patch of mold in the shower. That said, two or three times every week starting now, I’m going to post Taiwan-related pieces in this space. Let me know if I seem to be forgetting what I’ve written today.

1 comment:

Feiren said...

Rock on Dog!