Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Taiwan Culture Shock: Best to blame the wall after all

Taiwanese and westerners differing ideas of family inevitability are the source of endless debate. On this occasion i was watching Shine with the wife.
You remember Shine? The story of the brilliant Australian pianist who has a nervous breakdown, seemingly caused by his overbearing father who pushed him too hard.
We were at the crucial part of the movie where he sees his father again after many years and everyone hopes he won’t be bullied again.
“Why do you always blame your parents for everything?” said the wife.
“Not everything,” I replied. “But the old guy is a bastard. Even now he is not sorry and trying to tell him he is an idiot and needs his father.”
She didn’t seem convinced and so i took the bait.
“I guess we face reality and admit our parents aren’t gods.””
She shrugged. “He just wants the best for his son.”
If the truth be told i had foreseen this topic arising and a possible argument; picked the DVD up, put it down, but wasn’t able to leave it alone.
“I know compared to the average Taiwanese parent he is a hippy who doesn’t care if his children weave baskets while smoking pot for all eternity.”
I could see her getting into explode mode so i changed tact. “Anyway, when you are facing ten years for drug smuggling, and banging your head against a wall with self-loathing at your own stupidity, you need someone to blame for your actions, to make yourself feel better,” I replied.
“We take responsibility ourselves,” she replied smugly. “You westerners should try and learn that is only your fault in the end. No excuses.”
“No you don’t,” I said. “You blame luck or the moon. And you still do the murder or robbery. Just deny why.”
“You talk too much,” she said. “My sister is naughty and i am not. Both have the same parent.”
She had a point.
“I don’t know,” I replied trying to be sociological. “Perhaps we believe that by identifying the root of the problem, and facing it we can get closure and hopefully improve, be happier as a person. Improve our society.”
“Does it work?” she asked.
“Of course not. I would say almost never. We firmly identity our parents as the problem. Wallow in self-pity. Restrict ourselves. Talk about it all the time. Make it the center of our lives, but still die alone and bitter having been unable to do anything about it….In that case, you are right – We might as well blame the wall or the 3rd letter of our names.”

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