Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Correcting Chen Guangbiao


Is not the timing of the recent little furore in your letters pages over allegations of racism in Taiwan (McGovern et al) perhaps somewhat serendipitous given the revelation in today's headliner of just what will be inscribed on the red envelopes Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) plans to give out prior to this Lunar New Year?
“The day is cold, the ground freezing, but the people’s hearts are warm. The Chinese race is one family and a fire in the winter (中華民族一家親,冬天裡的一把火).”
To ascribe the term "family" (with its implicit connotation of moral obligations) to other people on the basis of racial membership alone is pure racial collectivism and ought to be condemned by every decent person. Whether a person is Chinese, American, Japanese, English, Vietnamese, French, or whatever other nationality in origin or whether they are black, white or yellow in the colour of their skin is of no moral import whatever. What is of moral import is, in the words of Martin Luther King, the "content of a person's character". Period.

I do not condemn Chen Guangbiao's (陳光標) wish to help the poor per se, even though I suspect this particular help may be partly a propaganda stunt, but he could have easily phrased that description differently, for instance replacing the words "The Chinese race is one family and a fire in the winter" (中華民族一家親,冬天裡的一把火) with the non-collectivist and non-racialist "Everyone needs a fire in the winter" (人人 在 冬天 需要 火爐). Such an inscription would preserve the benevolent nature of his intentions in handing out red envelopes to the poor whilst rejecting the unfortunate racial collectivist propaganda.

As it stands, Chen's inscription is not a little ironic - a fire is indeed a likely outcome when one member of the "family" threatens the other member with over a thousand missiles.

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan

(Sent: Wednesday 26th January 2011. Published in the Taipei Times Friday 28th January 2011).

There are one or two curious editorial changes to my letter - curious in that they add to the word-count without really adding much of importance to the meaning, or of significantly altering the meaning. I prefer my own wording. I also dislike the title which has been affixed to my letter - 'Racist Propaganda' - since it almost looks like a perverse declaration of content; I much prefer my own title since it reflects the tenor of what I wrote.

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