Erenlai - Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現
Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現

Identity and Self-Realization 認同感與自我實現

 

 

Where do I come from? Where do I go?... These contributions offer tools to explore the complexities of identity, overcome contradictions and recognize one’s true self.

你的文化認同感很薄弱嗎?這裡的文章帶領你探索認同感的建立、矛盾的根源與自我意義的覺察。

 

 

Friday, 04 January 2008

故鄉

一直以來,我覺得自己是個沒有故鄉的人。

小時候,每回過農曆新年,最是羨慕那些「回鄉下」的同學。每回聽他們講起外婆家的稻田、厝邊的芭樂園、有曬穀場的四合院…我總是怨怪爸媽:為什麼同學都有鄉下可「回」,我卻沒有?

升上國中之後,我終於漸漸發現:「鄉下」並不等於「故鄉」。因為,有一位經常在演講比賽得第一名的女同學說她的故鄉在南京,另一位總是當班長的男同學則說他的故鄉在長沙。我感到非常困惑:原來,故鄉也可以是自己從來沒有去過的地方。

後來我年歲漸長,從學校畢了業、結了婚、當了母親、換過三份工作,仍然沒有時間去思考自己的故鄉究竟在哪,卻在一個大雨後的傍晚、牽著女兒走路回家的某一個瞬間,我終於看見了我的「故鄉」。

我的故鄉,捏在女兒小小的掌心裡,拂過我的面頰。

我的故鄉,在我所愛的人的眼瞳裡,凝視我的靈魂。

我的故鄉,就是我願意一直生活、行走、變老,終而死去的所在。

附加的多媒體:
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Monday, 31 December 2007

A proposal for resolution watchers

In many cultures the New Year is regarded as a time of renewal and rebirth. Poor bent over Old Father Time leaning on his staff reappears as a vivacious child full of energy and hope. It is as though everyone were being given a second chance to repair the mistakes of the past or to improve the present and the world is filled with New Year’s resolutions.

The proud and the bold and the righteous are not afraid to proclaim their good intentions to the public, not so much from any sincere conviction in their intention to be faithful to what they promise, but to put a better face upon their reputations which have probably gathered layers of dust throughout the past year. Besides, the resolutions they make really don’t acknowledge or touch upon those parts of their proud, bold, and righteous behavior that most require amendment or reform.

The proud and bold and righteous are usually so enamored with themselves the only thing that really bothers them is not their faults which they fail to see, but whatever complaints or difficulties might mar their reputations and influence. The resolutions they make are designed for face lifting, sprucing up the image they show to the world, while just going on being their un-mended flawed selves. They are rich enough and strong enough to do as they please without fear of retaliation or so proud they are actually blind to their defects and mistakes. Sometimes they are just so bad they don’t make resolutions, only declarations of defiance and contempt for the good.

The meek and the weak and the mediocre, on the other hand, keep their resolutions to themselves, ashamed of what of they know must change and acutely aware that however much they desire to improve, it will be a bitter struggle against the bad habits and ineffective efforts which every year usually bring an early end to their resolve.

Next year for most of us, both the strong and the weak, the proud and the meek, it will be time to make the same old resolutions all over again. Why? because the resolutions we usually make are the wrong resolutions, or promise too much or too little or because we keep our resolutions to ourselves without enlisting the advice, encouragement or assistance of our friends.

Anyone who seriously wants to improve should first honestly and humbly assess his or her lifestyle, actions and goals. Is there anything that makes one’s conscience uneasy? any attitudes, habits or traits that interfere with the efficiency or outcome of one’s efforts? anything that irritates or alienates others? any change called for in the direction of one’s life or in one’s priorities or immediate or distant goals?

The first big mistake would be to skip this self-assessment altogether as too threatening or arduous or unnecessary. The second big mistake would be to list every supposed shortcoming and write a corresponding resolution for each one. This would result in a list of resolutions so long that the mere size of it would spell its doom before it was even signed. A third big mistake would be to confine one’s resolution to something so small or trifling, that even its perfect realization really changes nothing of one’s real shortcomings. A fourth mistake would be to make a resolution so detailed or demanding that its execution would exhaust all one’s energy and disrupt the rest of one’s activities. A fifth mistake would be to make resolutions that carried no time line or sanctions for their infraction and/or no safety valve or timeouts for rest or relaxation. A last big mistake would be to keep one’s resolutions to oneself, which does more than just remove the possibility of anyone knowing of your failure when the resolution fails. It also deprives one of the support, encouragement and advice of companions who could help keep the resolution on track.

There are several important compartments in our lives that deserve attention and adjustment: our moral life, that part of us that tells us what is right and wrong, leaving us in peace or nagging us with guilt; our personal repertoire of information, attitudes, prejudices, judgments and opinions; our temperament, that amalgam of emotions, reactions and behavioral quirks that colors our actions; our set of priorities that determines the hierarchy and order of our desires, plans and intentions; our thinking department that plans and analyzes; our physical plant with its equipment, intake requirements, output and maintenance; our production department that executes all our activities; our communication center that monitors, manages and is responsible for all encounters, exchanges and cooperation with others.

If anyone takes seriously the responsibilities of being the CEO of one’s own life, then he or she should make regular periodic checks of these major systems. If there are any big problems they will usually stick out and should be the focus or foci of one’s resolutions.

A good resolution needs to be concrete and explicit. “I resolve to improve” leaves out what it is that should improve. “I resolve to get better and better”, but better than what? Everyone has limits. The time will come when one’s better finally reaches one’s best and futile attempts to get better will fail.

Suppose that your major fault right now (the one you want to work on first) is lying or swearing or procrastinating or losing your temper. Now you have something very concrete and it is countable, so you can measure your progress from day to day. The first thing to do is to set up a baseline. How many times a day do you swear or lie or lose your temper or procrastinate: 5, 10, 25?

I don’t believe that the resolution “I will never lie or swear or lose my temper or procrastinate again” is very good. In the first place, a good white lie or mental reservation is often quite appropriate and there are times when strong language and a show of anger are needed and often a little timely procrastination is just what our bodies and spirits need for a little rest and relaxation. In the second place, if the usual number of our daily or weekly infractions is quite high, setting the immediate target at once to zero is almost surely to result in discouraging failure. It all depends on how strong and impulsive the bad habit is. Perhaps something like
“I resolve to cut down my swearing by 50% this year or whatever period seems feasible.” Thus, if I swear 10 times a day, then by the end of the set period of time, I should be swearing no more than 5 times a day.

So, once a day or once a week according to a plan and schedule that is written down carefully, I examine my progress, record my infractions, and reward or punish myself according to what was decided at the beginning. It is very good reinforcement for our progress to receive an award, while knowing our failure will result in some penalty is also an incentive to try harder, but the penalty should not be so severe that it drives the person to abandon the program.

Makers and keepers of resolutions can learn much from the principles and practices employed by most Weight Watchers Clubs and other such support groups. Their resolutions, commitments to lose weight and methods are concrete, explicit, goal-oriented, step by step, measurable, recorded, and rewarded or punished and maintained after the target is reached. But most of all, the weight watching programs are group-oriented. One’s weight losing resolution and goal are in the open; no hiding or cheating or quitting in secret. One is surrounded with companions who all have similar goals and are there to support and advise and to share recipes and information and tricks they have learned to make losing and/or maintaining weight both successful and enjoyable.

Perhaps what each of us needs every year is to enlist a small circle of friends into a Resolution Watcher’s Club to share our resolutions and support one another through the arduous steps that will lead to the fulfillment of our goals for ourselves.

Attached media :
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Monday, 17 December 2007

Unidentified Flying Objects

Every so often, someone announces that they have seen a U.F.O., an Unidentified Flying Object. That is a very daring thing to do, because at once, the claim will be challenged, the person labeled as a fraud or hoodwinked or gullible or a visionary or at best mistaken. Soon there may show up at his or her door an amazing array of investigators, scientists, psychologists, military men, government agencies worried about national security; the evidence may even be confiscated and the person may even be restrained under various dire consequences to never say anything again about what he thought he saw, because, he is told, he never really saw what he thinks he saw. Quite a most remarkable way to react, if there really was nothing to cover up.
If there is a movie or book that I don’t want people to know about or to view or to read, I would ignore it, because the moment I went public to voice my concern, I would turn the world’s attention to what would possibly have remained unknown and alerted every chaser after controversy, every seeker of the naughty or questionable, every foe of censorship, every curious spectator and turned what I wished few would see into a sought after sensation.
It is the same with UFOs. Somebody sees something strange and they report it, perhaps even photograph it. There is a moment of notoriety and sensation. The moment passes and the instance is recorded as one more item in the centuries old list of unexplained or strange or extraordinary events. Those people who like to investigate further will do so. Those who believe there is a simply ordinary explanation will try to replicate what was seen. And the world goes on till the next curious event, titillating the curious, boring the disinterested.
But then comes along the passionate advocates of extraterrestrial intervention or the almost paranoid deniers and denunciators in high official circles and you begin to wonder if perhaps there is something they are trying to hide, some object out there that they know about, but don’t want us to discover.
So, what are the known facts about UFOs?
From the beginning of mankind’s presence on earth there have been mysterious or unexplainable phenomena that have astonished or terrified the observers. It is the same today, except that we are in a better position with the advancements of science and technology to investigate them. Quite honestly, many, perhaps even most of them, can be shown to have very plausible natural explanations and some have proven to be hoaxes. But there are still those that up to now have defied explanation based on our present knowledge and technology. Perhaps the day will come when there is a perfectly plausible reason for every sighting, meaning that there is nothing out there strange or extraordinary or foreign to our mundane experience. I would much rather believe that there are still things and worlds out there that will blow our minds and expand our horizons once we discover them.
Why can’t we calmly talk about and dispassionately investigate UFOs? Let the facts fall as they may. What is so threatening or mysterious about the unknown, that we would rather deny it than face it? I, for one, am glad that there are things that we still don’t know, facts we cannot yet explain. What a small world, what a limited universe it would be, if it was only what I can see or presently comprehend!

Attached media :
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Tuesday, 04 December 2007

我是亚洲人

我是亚洲人,我和你一样来自日本、印度、中国、台湾、菲律宾、南韩、泰国、印尼、缅甸、马来西亚、越南、尼泊尔…

「亚洲」的面目有时令人看不清,有时又十分写实。「身为亚洲人」意味著我们的历史与欧洲、美洲或非洲人都不相同,也表示我们所属的精神与宗教氛围,迥异于其他洲陆。而且,经济急速成长和贫富差距扩大是亚洲国家的共同经验,现在我们更要一起因应都市化所带来的生态破坏、社会不安以及文化冲突等问题。

作为亚洲人,意味著我们生活在一个被分割的洲陆。第二次世界大战和冷战时期的阴影,使得亚洲分崩离析。现今的亚洲仍在寻索、厘定自身的疆界,努力寻求团结与合作,即使有些国家仍不时陷于战火的蹂躏…

生活在亚洲的年轻人,如何看待自己的「亚洲身分」?他们梦想著什么样的亚洲?亚洲各国是否能化解冲突,创造跨越国界的亚洲联盟?除了经济合作之外,亚洲在政治、文化、环境和社会等方面,能不能建立崭新的合作模式?未来二十年,我们对亚洲有何展望?

亚洲的一份子──台湾,在国际上常遭受牵制,因自己越来越被边缘化而感到愤慨。在共绘亚洲蓝图的过程中,重塑并超越国家认同的台湾经验弥足珍贵,是借镜给其他国家的珍贵宝藏。台湾不能画地自限,台湾必须与亚洲的行动者牵手出航。对于二十一世纪中全球重要的「亚洲论辨」,《人籁》期盼能与大家一起写历史。

附加的多媒体:
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Tuesday, 04 December 2007

我是亞洲人

我是亞洲人,我和你一樣來自日本、印度、中國、台灣、菲律賓、南韓、泰國、印尼、緬甸、馬來西亞、越南、尼泊爾…

「亞洲」的面目有時令人看不清,有時又十分寫實。「身為亞洲人」意味著我們的歷史與歐洲、美洲或非洲人都不相同,也表示我們所屬的精神與宗教氛圍,迥異於其他洲陸。而且,經濟急速成長和貧富差距擴大是亞洲國家的共同經驗,現在我們更要一起因應都市化所帶來的生態破壞、社會不安以及文化衝突等問題。

作為亞洲人,意味著我們生活在一個被分割的洲陸。第二次世界大戰和冷戰時期的陰影,使得亞洲分崩離析。現今的亞洲仍在尋索、釐定自身的疆界,努力尋求團結與合作,即使有些國家仍不時陷於戰火的蹂躪…

生活在亞洲的年輕人,如何看待自己的「亞洲身分」?他們夢想著什麼樣的亞洲?亞洲各國是否能化解衝突,創造跨越國界的亞洲聯盟?除了經濟合作之外,亞洲在政治、文化、環境和社會等方面,能不能建立嶄新的合作模式?未來二十年,我們對亞洲有何展望?

亞洲的一份子──台灣,在國際上常遭受牽制,因自己越來越被邊緣化而感到憤慨。在共繪亞洲藍圖的過程中,重塑並超越國家認同的台灣經驗彌足珍貴,是借鏡給其他國家的珍貴寶藏。台灣不能畫地自限,台灣必須與亞洲的行動者牽手出航。對於二十一世紀中全球重要的「亞洲論辨」,《人籟》期盼能與大家一起寫歷史。

附加的多媒體:
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Friday, 30 November 2007

亞洲認同的方向

唯有當我們開始分享對彼此的了解,
亞洲共同體才有出現的可能。

【蕭新煌教授 主述】
【柯蕾莉 採訪 撰文】【Nakao Eki 翻譯】

人籟:當您於一九七○年代末在美國求學時,是否認為經濟發展蓬勃的的亞洲將可能繼而建立聯盟(union)?

蕭:我在紐約求學的時候,美國以超級強權之姿鶴立國際舞台,社會科學的各個領域正在尋找世上其他地區的發展可能,且視亞洲的發展為「亞洲奇蹟」。首先是日本,隨後「四小龍」(台灣、香港、新加坡、南韓)經濟起飛,隱然預示著亞洲其他地區將是全球發展的希望。
一九六○年代的西方視儒家學說為很糟糕的東西,阻礙了所有華人社會在資本主義和民主方面的發展。但若是看看台灣,現在的台灣是個臻於成熟的資本主義經濟體系,也有充滿活力的民主政治。所謂的中華儒家文化依然存在,但文化和發展二者之間並沒有什麼阻礙性的因果關係。我於一九八○年代開始教授「發展社會學」,並開始思考「亞洲為何得以發展」的課題,自那時起,亞洲一直在成長,但是整體而言,亞洲並未發展成任何形式的地區性共同體或聯盟。換言之,單純的經濟發展不能帶來地區性的政治整合。亞太經合會(APEC)的確是個正式的經濟合作組織,重組了亞洲國家,但是它絕對不是一個聯盟。

人籟:一個更為統整的亞洲,勢必將政治與經濟上各有差異的國家(如日本、韓國、印度)都包括在內。您認為這些國家合作的基礎為何?

蕭:亞洲國家必須轉換思維模式,由雙邊合作改為多邊合作。
東協成立已有四十年,但其所堅持之非干預主義,卻是處理衝突或侵害(如緬甸當前的危機)的阻礙。除非在亞洲內能凝聚更廣更深的共識,否則我不認為亞洲國家能建立超國家的組織。從社會科學研究者的角度來看,我認為亞洲仍未出現建立共同體的需求。
一個「聯盟」需要有獲得會員國信任的強力領導。亞洲有三個國家有潛力扮演此一角色,就是日本、中國和印度,但是在這三個國家中,無一獲得國際間的信任能夠領導這項任務。在東協內也沒有值得信任的強大領導國。有些東協成員國在國內實行極權政治,東協也無計可施。亞洲國家目前必須建立共識,一如荷蘭、法國、德國在歐盟概念建構之初所做的。東協的領導國需要著手在這個議題上統合大家的意見。
最近十到十五年,東北亞國家彼此間的合作比過去為多,但大多數都是雙邊合作。因此我們可以很清楚地說,亞洲國家還需要更多時間來彼此學習、了解和合作,然後才有可能產生地區性的整合。

人籟:亞洲主要權力之間的平衡是否提供了組成聯盟的基礎,或是增強了亞洲共同體(Asian Unity)的感覺?

蕭:建構亞洲聯盟有一些先決條件。中國、印度和日本是亞洲的三大強權,但基於各自不同的因素,它們均被質疑能否領導這個聯盟的過程,而且三國之間也時有相互爭鬥的情況。這三個國家必須重新檢視對其他國家的態度及影響,並且學習對彼此有更多的信賴。
日本人背負著二戰的包袱,東南亞國家很難相信他們,若是他們不處理這個戰爭問題,韓國人更是永遠都不會原諒他們,北京政府也會在政治賽局當中利用反日的仇恨情緒。不過,中國的崛起亦引起其他亞洲人對局勢不安的焦慮。東協由於互不信賴,仍處於分裂的狀態,東亞人民缺乏與南亞的溝通,再者巴基斯坦和斯里蘭卡,與其鄰居印度之間的衝突也時有所聞。
我只看到一種亞洲共同體出現的可能,那就是我們開始分享對彼此的了解。東北亞有必要增進對東南亞的了解、印度必須增進對亞洲其他地區的了解、佛教徒必須對穆斯林有更多的認識…反之亦然。此外,我們也必須密切注意中國,目前看來一切表現良好,因為中國要全力辦好二○○八年奧運,唯其奧運後之表現,才能為全界測試出中國真正的勢態。

人籟:越來越多亞洲人從貧困的國家移居至經濟力較強的國家。您認為這些變動會進一步使亞洲人有所連結嗎?

蕭:亞洲區域內的移民,的確能夠提高亞洲人的集體意識和身分認同,透過每個國家內不同文化的匯聚,能對「亞洲身分」有所體驗,試著去了解這些文化,便是踏出體驗亞洲過程的第一步。
舉例而言,台灣的移工和外籍配偶共計有七十萬人,這比原住民人口還多出許多,形成台灣的「第五族群」。韓國歡迎更多外籍配偶和勞工;日本也有許多東南亞移民,但卻難於對這些異文化敞開大門;泰國也雇用許多緬甸勞工。這些例子都顯示出大量的區域性遷徙,在這個意義上而言,每一個亞洲國家確實變得越來越具多元文化性質。
不過,這還是一個相當新的現象,亞洲才剛開始體會這在社會上所造成的衝擊。並且,亞洲人一直以來傾向於尊重白人,卻輕視來自東南亞國家的外籍人士。亞洲人必須超越成見,糾正面對西方人時所產生的自卑情結,以促進國內的異國文化整合。

人籟:您認為亞洲青年應該扮演何種角色?何種位置有助於提高他們身為亞洲人的自覺,並連結亞洲不同的文化?

蕭:亞洲年輕人對本國以外的亞洲人越來越具好奇心,也有興趣更深地認識他們。就文化的角度而言,他們的互動定會進一步發展出共同的連結。如今他們比過去任何時候都擁有更多機會認識彼此。
對青年人來說,流行文化是可以匯集不同文化的中介,MTV、戲劇、報章、旅遊節目都是他們增進彼此認識的機會。比方說,目前台灣就有一股看韓劇、聽日本歌曲的狂熱;東南亞和東北亞的文化融合也可以在台灣的泡湯文化中體驗到,如日式的溫泉度假旅館、印尼或泰式的SPA等等。由此日常生活促使他們更常思考身為亞洲人的意義,也開啟他們的心胸。
不過,青年人之間較有彼此分享和攝取新知的精神,但這並不表示他們想要形成一個聯盟;藉由與更多亞洲人的談話和會面,亞洲青年會慢慢增加共識,未來他們或許會嚮往建構一個共同體。

人籟:您與另一位香港學者將在《日本政治科學期刊》共同發表一篇論文,其中討論到「亞洲的國家/超國家認同」。您對此議題的觀察為何?

蕭:當我們開始討論哪些因素使得亞洲聯盟有可能(或不可能)建構起來,會面對一大堆關於此種結構的難題;但如果去想亞洲認同正在提高,那我們仍會看到許多光明的面向。
亞洲人的亞洲歸屬感確實越來越強。我們的案例研究檢視了二○○六年時七個不同地區的情形:中國、越南、香港、日本、南韓、新加坡及台灣。研究的目的是要度量受訪者的國家認同及超國家認同,也包括他們對亞洲廣義上的認同感。
越南人的亞洲認同最高,有87.2%。台灣人有60.6%,也具有高度的亞洲認同。台灣位處東北亞和東南亞的交界,因此島上人民具有一種雙重的亞洲認同。相比之下,只有21.3%的日本人和32%的韓國人對於亞洲歸屬感有正面的回應。此種低比率,尤其是日本,顯示出他們面對其他亞洲國家所抱有的國家保護主義。
不過,這篇論文並不能代表全亞洲的情況。如果在東南亞國家進行類似的調查,我想那些國家的人民一定對東南亞地區有很深的認同感,但我懷疑他們對整體而言的亞洲身分是否也有同樣的高度認同。

人籟:您認為亞洲國家的國家政策是否應透過各種方式(如教育),使亞洲青年更深切地了解,他們與其他亞洲國家除了經濟上的關聯外,還有更多可以共同分享的面向?

蕭:我認為,向亞洲年輕人提供更多關於鄰國背景的教育是一種基本需要,因為在短期內,我看不到政治人物就亞洲共同體議題達成協議的可能,資本家也沒有這樣的理念。我想,要靠著NGO、文化團體和知識份子來啟動。
例如,應該鼓勵年輕人加入NGO,比方說擁有國際網絡的環保團體。亞洲的年輕人也應該多注意、多關心他們的「亞洲表親」;在台灣,如果年輕人喜歡看越南電影,那何不多與在此生活的越南人有所互動?亞洲年輕人也可以參加和平運動,關注宗教交流和族群對話。
不論是在族群、文化還是宗教方面,亞洲都是個很豐富的大陸,因此亞洲人也要花較多的時間才能了解彼此。此種複雜性可能是建立政治經濟聯盟的障礙,但也同時讓整個過程變得更有意思、更加精彩!

附加的多媒體:
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Thursday, 29 November 2007

Oedipus Complex with Chinese Characteristics

Qiu Xiaolong, author of “Death of a Red Heroine” and other crime novels set in Shanghai, has recently published his latest book: “Red Mandarin Dress”, a story in which the victims are all young women wearing red qipaos, or traditional Chinese dresses. The main character of the series, Inspector Chen Cao, is also a poet, whom, this time, explores classical love stories for a literary project. Of course, his academic research will help in solving the criminal case.

I do not intend to discuss here the merits of the novels – as usual with Qiu Xialong, it is a very entertaining one, though somehow hastily edited and with a far from perfect plot. However, the general background – psychological consequences of traumatic episodes of the Cultural Revolution – is compelling and extremely plausible. Above all, Qiu takes this opportunity to develop an intriguing and amusing theory of “Oedipus complex with Chinese characteristics” as he puts it. Basically, the love for one’s mother would be tainted with fear or hatred brought by the characterization of women as “femmes fatales” turning into monsters for the men who succumb to them – a consequence of Confucianism and the institution of arranged marriage… In other words, while in the Greek myth Oedipus’ mother appears as a victim, in the “virtual” Chinese version of the same myth she would stand as a culprit as well!

Let us not take a crime story too seriously… However, Qiu does try to make use of psychoanalysis in Chinese cultural context, elaborating on what could be of universal value in psychoanalytic intuitions and also on the twists that different traditions could bring to them. And, as Lu Xun had done before, he points out that the responsibility for disasters in Chinese history is always attributed to a woman archetype – its latest incarnation in date being Mao’s wife. According to Qiu, the Chinese collective unconscious sees rituals as created for controlling the daemonic element in women’s nature, and turning away from proper rites always signifies looming disasters brought by women’s affinity with lust and death.

The author’s reliance on “collective unconscious” and “archetypes” shows that his approach is far from being exclusively Freudian. It would be amusing to see whether the study of modern literature still confirms what he pretends, i.e. that, in classical stories, romantic love is always associated with fear towards women’s deathly powers. If this is not true anymore in modern Chinese literature, does it means that traditional archetypes have been changed or abolished by the passing of times and historical traumas? Is China’s Oedipus still endowed “with Chinese characteristics” or are we now dealing with a globalized Oedipus? That would be sad news for literary inventiveness but (possibly) good news for Chinese women…

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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Asian Youth: Unity Among Diversity?

Thursday, October 11, 3pm, Chinese teacher Hsiao and her students discuss about ‘Asia development’ during a Chinese class at National Taiwan University, Chinese Language Training and Testing Center.

“In the past, conflicts used to unite or separate Asian nations. Now, economic ties link some Asian countries, while excluding others from this dynamic.”
--Hsiao, a young Taiwanese woman

“Constructing an Asian identity requires the combined efforts of all Asians. Japan has to give up its historical imperialistic role, and opens up to a new vision of Asia.”
--Zhaozi, a young Japanese woman

“South Koreans are culturally close to Chinese, but I hope China could step down from communism to help better Asia to develop”
--Xianmei, a young Korean woman

“In the trend of booming economies in Asia, I hope governments will take actions to promote sustainable development, using our European experience. I believe Asia development can affect the whole world, positively but also in a negative way”
Laura, a young British woman


Dialogue is the key to increase understanding
--------------------------------------------
When young Asians interact, exchange ideas, they increase common understanding, and raise their awareness of the heritage they share. They bring the sense of ‘being Asian’ to a higher level. They all come from different Asian countries, have diverse backgrounds, but they overcome their differences through face-to-face dialogue. Living in Taiwan and learning Chinese, another Asian language, they start to think of what Asia means to them, and what links them to each other. By doing so, together, they take the first step towards building a common identity, a ‘we identity’. These young Asians might not become economists or politicians with direct influence on decision making, but they have wishes for Asia’s future development and possible unity. In this sense, their thinking is at the root of tomorrow’s multi-cultural face of Asia.

Asia is diversity
-----------------
Asia is a combination of many cultures, countries with different stages of development and diverse economic levels. Geographically, Asia is the biggest continent in the world, is home to 60% percent of the human’s population, and is largely a succession of islands, which makes it harder for the people to interact and cooperate with each other. Most of the young Asians interviewed in this issue drew different borders while conceptualizing Asia. On the one hand, Northeast Asians often failed to integrate Western Asian countries in their vision of Asia. Indians and Pakistanis, on the other hand, were tempted to consider Afghanistans and Turkish people in the global picture of Asia.
China and Japan have displayed their economic power in East Asia, they contributed to strengthened intra-regional identities in this part of Asia. Now, they need to learn to accept diversity in Asia and integrate regional cooperation, up to West Asia. The merging economy of India makes it a new regional leader country. Hence, current coordination in Asia also needs to include Western Asia and its population in the Asian dynamic.

China and India learn to work together
--------------------------------------
Many of the young interviewees expressed their concern over the fast growing economies of these two big countries in Asia. Jointly, China and India inhabit 40 percent of the world’s population. However, their development is a recent phenomenon and the countries will need many more years to grow mature and learn how to work together. Indeed, a pre-condition to ensure regional stability and peace is to have strong and stable countries which can lead the construction of an Asian Union. It is also important that this leadership can take interventionist actions in case a conflict happens in Asia, unlike ASEAN which loses of its credibility in the current Myanmar crisis.
In the interviews, some of the young were concerned with the military buildup of China, which, along with its economic growth, creates a ‘non peaceful development’ process, generating fear and mistrust. And India has undergone conflicts with its big neighbor Pakistan. The two countries need to learn to accept open regionalism to achieve their strategic role in Asia. At the national level, they are very good example of diversity in which ethnic groups unite as a nation. The national motto of India is ‘Unity among diversity’. Multi-cultural interaction is part of daily life and it gives hope for Asians to reproduce this model at a supra-national level.

Peace is the driving motto
--------------------------
The young Asians interviewed in this issue come from Vietnam, India, Japan, Taiwan, Pakistan…. Some grew up in communist developing countries, while some others enjoy freedom in developed countries. However, they all shared the same wishes for Asia in twenty years. They like to envision an Asia more homogeneously developed, in which poverty will be reduced to a great extend. They also wish for a better access to education for all Asians, and above all they wished for an Asia in which ‘peace’ is the driving motto. One can all learn from their thinking and their awareness of what nowadays development will turn into tomorrow’s challenges. A general raise in the education of Asians would improve their capacity to face together critical issues as global warming or protection of the environment. It would also contribute to raise their sense of responsibility in a global Asian community.
Reading the interviews Ali the Pakistani and Dennis from the Philippines, one will understand how religions, deeply rooted in Asian cultures, can promote common understanding between Asians. Through the interview of Manoj, the Nepalese, one will see how he implements actions with other Asians in NGOs to preserve the environment of his country, and allow education access for Nepalese orphans. Hopefully, their actions will be a source of inspiration for others to follow their path and take action now in favor of a more united Asia.

Towards the construction of Asian Union
---------------------------------------
In many ways, Asia seems too diverse to unite and the main powers in Asia are not ready to lead other towards unity yet. Politicians encounter difficulties when trying to make different political regimes work together, and economic ties fail to bring integration. However, Asians travel and experience multi-cultural lives. Three of our young interviewees, Liana from Indonesia, Minh Thanh Vu from Vietnam, and Ali Khan came to Taiwan to get a better education or a better job opportunity. They want to reproduce in their home country the positive sides they saw in Taiwan, and they believe they can learn from their Asian cousins.
In this sense, they rethink Asia and imagine strategic roles their home country could play in the process of the construction of an Asia Union. Even if their wishes are not always realistic; the spirit among the Asian youth is here, and at this early stage of the Asian Unity process, Asia need young visionaries. Diversity is a challenge, but it is also the richness from which people can imagine a future that is truly theirs.
=============================================
Young Asians’ interviews

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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Asia As Its Youth Dreams It

Japan, India, China, Taiwan, The Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Vietnam, Nepal…

Asia is a fuzzy concept but a felt reality. “Being Asian” means to relate to history in a way that differs from the one that is proper to Europe, America or Africa. It means also to relate to an array of spiritual and religious ethos that differs from the ones that have taken shape in the other continents. Asia is also united by its shared experience both of poverty and of accelerated growth. And it now has to deal with the ecological and social consequences of development and urbanization.

Being Asian means also to live in a divided continent, still torn apart by the consequences of WWII and the Cold War, a continent that is looking for its frontiers and its unity, a continent where risks of war are still serious.

What kind of Asia is its youth dreaming of? Can Asia reconcile with itself and invent a model of transnational cooperation? Can the Asian model go beyond economic growth and include politics, culture and the environment as well?

For several months now, Renlai has been asking a number of young Asians to tell us about the continent they are dreaming of: what territory does it encompass? Can Asia reconcile with itself? What kind of cooperation would make Asia a more united and cooperative continent: elimination of tariffs barriers? New military or political alliances? Cultural or inter-religious cooperation? Citizens’ coalitions focusing on the environment? How do they envision the state of the Asian continent twenty years from now?

Their answers look like a mosaic or a puzzle: they seem to be little pieces hard to connect together but, when you find the way, they do show us a larger design, a composition and purpose that may awaken in all of us hope and a sense of action.

For sure, Taiwan, in Asia, feels itself cornered in a very uncomfortable situation and resents the fact to be somehow marginalized. However, Taiwan needs to connect with the thinkers and activists who make Asia slowly become a more concrete reality. The worst-case scenario for Taiwan would be to encourage its own isolation by putting itself apart of Asian currents of thought. The Taiwanese experience can enrich the debate on the way national identities need to be reshaped and transcended so as to invent the Asia of tomorrow. May this issue of Renlai contribute to a debate that will prove to be of vital importance in the global history of the twenty-first century.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2007

The little things in life

I have a good friend who is always saying “Eat well and be happy.” To which I add “Even if you aren’t able to eat well, be happy.”
I think that what my friend is trying to say by eating well to be happy is that the way to be happy is to be content with enjoying the little pleasures of life without trying to outdo others or reach for the moon. Good food is near the top of his priorities because he is a gourmet chef with a girlfriend who is a first-class pastry chef.
I add that you can be happy even without eating well, because there is more to happiness than a full stomach. I am not a chef. People don’t come to me to plan their menus, but to get other advice.
But both my friend and I agree on the reverse of that saying: “Be happy and eat well.” You can only retain and preserve your happiness by taking proper care of yourself, which means adequate nourishment as well as sufficient rest, leisure and amusement. We could also add having others to share your joy with and engagement in activities that bring a sense of achievement and self-worth.
One doesn’t have to look very far to read about unhappy people who seemingly have everything that money can buy except contentment and purpose. And there are happy people who have practically nothing but face misery and struggle with enthusiasm and courage.
The miserable rich never seem to have learned that happiness does not consist in what one accumulates, but in what one shares, a lesson that the happy poor don’t need to be taught. They appreciate so much the little they have it is natural for them to share it with others.
And one doesn’t have to look far to read about unhappy people who though blessed with every advantage of health and intelligence and potential skills squander what they have because they never discovered a purpose in life worth striving for and never had trusted friends to show them the way.
And there are the happy people who in spite of poor health, physical and mental disabilities, face life with hope and determination because they have a worthy goal and trusted friends to help them along the way.
To those who place beauty, physical perfection and normality, mobility and dexterity at the top of their lists of the ingredients for success and acceptance and who put money and good food at the top of their lists of the ingredients of happiness, the poor and the disabled are all considered to be unfortunate, unhappy losers. But to those poor and disabled, who consider that true greatness is not what others think of them nor even what they think of themselves, true happiness is not having everything, but being content with what they have and true success and happiness is not measured by how much they achieve, but depends upon the degree to which they strive to achieve the fullness of their potentials and ideals.
The really fortunate people in life are those who believe in themselves and their self-worth; have concrete goals worth striving for; have family and friends who encourage and support their efforts; have some skill or aptitude that they are able to develop and utilize; have the opportunities they need for the advancement of their goals.
On the Day of Judgment, they won’t be asked how many pounds they could lift or how much money they made but only about what they did with what they had. Even if they tried, but failed, the Judge will say “You did great”, because true greatness is not found in the success, but in the effort. One doesn’t need physical strength to be strong. True happiness is not having the whole pie, but being content with and enjoying the piece that you have.
=============================================
Here is another piece of advice by Bob

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Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Knowing yoursef and revealing yourself

PDF version of the article
* * *
Sometimes when we look at ourselves, we only see what we want to see. We show to others only what we want them to see. The truth is that there is more to us than the way we look, and much more of us than we would like to admit even to ourselves.

A little subterfuge might be useful at times for the sake of harmony or cooperation, but if I myself am blind to my shortcomings, ignorant of how I appear to others or pay attention only to the parts of me that shine and hide from myself the parts that are dark, dusty, or unbecoming, then there is no way that I will ever know the real me or have any chance of becoming better.

I am a composite of many Selves or perhaps I should say my Self has many faces.

There is my ’Ideal Self’, the one that I would like to become, but never will, because it is too unrealistic.

There is my ’Potential Self’, the one I could become, if I were to develop my attributes and amend my shortcomings.

There is my ’Essential Self’, the one that underlies my being, containing in embryo my abilities and aptitudes, which often lie unrecognized or untouched.

There is my ’Behaving Self’, the one that keeps me engaged in activity, subject to bouts of over-exertion and laziness.

There is my ’Emotional Self’, the one with its highs and its lows, that alternately bolsters or gets in the way of my efficiency.

There is my ’Thinking Self’, the one that would tell me, if I listened, when and how to act.

There is my ’Reflecting Self’, the one that could help me, if I let it, to learn from my mistakes and improve my performance.

There is my ’CEO Executive Self’, the one that for better or worse makes the decisions that determine what I want and how to get it.

There is my ’Unbecoming Self’, the one that contains all the mistakes and misdemeanors I want to hide from others and too often end up hiding even from myself, but which others are sometimes more likely to see before I do myself.

There is my ’Projected Self’, the one that I want others to see, which is sometimes just a misleading portrait of what I wish I were and only fools strangers, because my friends can see right through it.

There is the ’Self That I Myself See’, which may or may not correspond to any of my other Selves, perhaps just a product of wishful thinking or unrealistic assessment.

Finally, there is the ’Self That Others See’, which may not be the self I wish to be.


Why is it so difficult for me to see my one and only ’True Real Self’, the one that nakedly shows what I really am today in all my glory and my ignominy, all my strengths and ambitions, all my foibles and my faults, the Self that might be more apparent to others than to myself?

Well, for one thing I am afraid of what I might find if I look too carefully. I am reluctant to undertake the trouble that would have to be exerted to make all the repairs that might be necessary. I seem to be getting along well enough the way things are and just don’t have the time or energy for an overhaul. The people that seem to count are more or less satisfied with me and those who don’t like me don’t count for much so I can afford to ignore them.

The best possible scenario would be for my ’True Real Self’ to evolve into and develop to the fullest degree the potential qualities and abilities of my ’Potential Self’. The only way to accomplish this is to concentrate on developing the aptitudes and talents that make up my ’Essential Self’ and calmly focusing on my ’Unbecoming Self’ to fix what I can of what may be leading me astray. My ’Thinking Self’ needs to begin every day with a plan of action and my ’Reflecting Self’ to end each day by asking if I accomplished what I set out to, what might have gone wrong and what to watch out for next time.

The only way a gardener can take good care of a plant so it will grow properly and reach its full stature is to nourish its roots and pull out the weeds. It is the same for us who are the gardeners of our lives. We will fail in our duty, if we are afraid to examine our own roots fearful of what we may find or we hesitate to fertilize sufficiently, prune the branches and remove the distractions.

Let the gardening begin!
PDF version of the article

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Wednesday, 24 October 2007

注視者與被注視者

衣服和髮型都是會看膩的,於是我們與過去的自己撞衫,與過去的自己爭奇鬥艷…

偶爾到服飾店買洋裝,店員常常對我不聞不問。不過,她們大多禮貌地招呼我,指了指試衣間,忙著把衣服收好,疊好,排好。等我一出來,我看到對方的眼睛出現閃光,口中連連贊美,還低下身幫我拉裙擺,為我打漂亮蝴蝶結,才幾分鐘的時間,我像是被捧上了天。我真不知道是要高興自己能夠撐起這件衣服,還是要感謝這件衣服給我受人注目的光環?如果被我們忽略的衣服會說話的話,它們是不是會說:「看著我,你怎麼沒發現我的潛力?」
衣服與女人互載光環,如癡如醉。談到女人與衣服,就像談到「驚豔、狂喜、滿足」:「我們會跟各種不同的衣服一次又一次的一見鐘情。買衣服的經驗是,千千萬萬裡,一看就看到了它,沒錯,就是它。這次不買它,下次也不買它,最後還是買了它。」(《下午茶話題》,頁21)
朱天文寫出這般的心情轉折,相信很多女人其實會感到羨慕,因為她們打扮成另一半喜歡的模樣,或是複製雜誌上的時尚風:穿著勉強喜歡但不合腳的高跟鞋,心儀甚久但不合腿長的花苞裙,加上讓人心動但顯得過大的配件。
然而,不管是悅己或是悅人,腦海中多半有一個注視過的原型,同時喜歡自己這樣被人注視。為了能完美地被注視,女人曾經付出很多代價:記得讀高中時,老師常說當她年輕時是迷你裙的瘋狂年代,滿街只找得到迷你裙可穿,外出不但不敢彎腰駝背,公車上連坐也不敢坐。記得我讀大學的時候,完美的直髮是尾端內捲的長髮,同學洗髮後忙一個小時,用吹風機理出不外翹的飄逸髮型。過去的人大概會嘆口氣說,現在有人穿民族風長裙,有人穿熱褲,頭髮盡情打層次,還可染髮,選擇真是多。
不幸的是,衣服和髮型都是會看膩的,我們與過去的自己撞衫,與過去的自己爭奇鬥艷…
一九八○年,羅蘭.巴特(Roland Barthes)談到對照片的獨特興趣,他認為照片打動他來自兩個元素,第一個是延伸面,一個場景或是一個畫面的擴展,讓注視者掌握,投注熱忱,以文化觀點來體會人物的神情、姿態、佈景和劇情,正如拉丁文中Studium「知面」的意涵;第二個元素打破知面,它從景象中,彷彿箭一般飛來,射中了注視者,正如拉丁文中Punctum「刺點」這個字一樣。「知面」是一種教養,「刺點」是一種機遇。(《明室.攝影札記》,頁34-36)
雖然這是靜觀攝影作品的文字,但讓我們體會到注視者與被注視者之間的深層關係:造就相遇。記憶、才識、信仰、內在價值讓相遇變得深刻,一件平凡無奇的衣服忽然變得好看起來。
「你剛看到誰?」「就是某某某啊!」「他穿什麼衣服?」「糟糕,我忘了…」

附加的多媒體:
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