Focus: Living Together
|In the hustle and bustle of daily life, it is often easy to forget that we are living together with other people, and that we need to take their feelings and sensibilities into consideration. This month, inspired by the ongoing issues in the Shida Night Market area of Taipei, we have decided to focus on the problems that arise when living in close proximity with others, and how to best resolve those problems.|
Daphna has lived in the Shida Area for 6 years and studies at Chengchi University - here is her response to our September Focus on Living Together:
( Mandarin Training Center in NTNU)
Unlike in most in most Western countries, the mixture of residential and commercial areas is a significant characteristic of Taiwanese Cities. Most foreigners who have lived on this island for a while are sure to have discovered this charm and convenience already. How should people live and work together in this kind of lively sleepless streets is another question.
The well-known Shida Road and surrounding areas probably are the first stop for many foreign students in Taipei City. Since the war between a residents’ group and businesses began, rumors and mistrust have spread through the area. Shidahood Association (師大三里自救會) seems to be trying to shut down every illegal shop in the area, the illegal status of is often attributable to a rather complicated history.
The story continues still, and no one can be sure how this chapter will end. We try to locate the actual historical casual relationships of this controversy, starting in the 1960’s.
Going back to the 1960’s, the origins of the Shida night market area can be traced back to some lower class Mainlanders who came to Taiwan with the KMT. They occupied the open spaces between Jinshan South Rd., Heping east Rd. and the north part of Shida Rd. It was known as “Longquan night market” because Longquan Street was the main street at that time.
In 1967, the government expelled all squatters, knocked down illegal buildings in the area and built Shida Rd. Some businessmen moved to the Nan Ji Chang night market (南機場) and the Zhong Hua business Center (中華商場, in the Ximen area), other trader and food stalls gathered on Shida Rd (now the park).
In 1987, due to urban planning and requests from local residents, Taipei City Major Hung decided to expel vendors and built a park on Shida Rd. A few stall-keepers moved into the lanes and alleys on the east side of Shida Rd. The businesses requested to keep their house numbers and continue running their businesses.
(Every shop in Lane 13, Pucheng St. is closed now)
Enlarging the scale of business area
Boutique shops began opening in the area. The number of clothing stalls was growing.
A famous writer, Han Lianglu (韓良露) introduced and promoted the “Kang-Qing-Long” life area concept as a tourist attraction. This area stretched from Yongkang Street (永康街) to Qintian street (青田街) and Longquan street (龍泉街). The media began to promote culinary delicacies in the Shida area. The Longquan neighborhood tried to attract attention by holding a “shopkeepers’ beauty contest and a “best shop in Shida” contest.
In January the Longquan neighborhood began cooperating with the Taipei City Market Administration Office and the Taipei City Office of Commerce. Under the guidance of the city government, they planned to found an autonomous night market committee, to redesign street signboards and undertake an environmental cleaning program. They were forced to postpone parts of their project due to the objections of local residents.
The Taipei City Office of Commerce promoted Shida as one of the top five business areas in Taipei. Local shops enrolled in the “Beef Noodles Festival” and other official tourism events. The Shida area became a new tourist spot.
In September, the Tourism Bureau and the South Village company which belonged to Han Liang Lu (韓良露) launched the “Spotlight on Taipei” program to attract international tourists.
it has now been reverted to the original name.)
The Longquan neighborhood office founded an association of businesses in the Shida area and built a billboard, “Welcome to the Shida Business Area”. They even changed the formal name of the bus stop from “Shida 1” to “Shida Night Market” and began indicating the night market at the MRT Taipower Building Station. This move enraged local residents.
At the end of 2011, the Shida business area won the ‘most popular award’ in a Taipei City Office of Commerce contest. Meanwhile, the number of shops had increased from 200 to 700 in just two years and extended further into nearby residential districts. There was a rapid deterioration in the surrounding living environment with pollution from overcrowding, smells, noise and rubbish.
On 26th October, due to the increase of clothes shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, residents from Taishun St. (east of the night market area) organized a public hearing to ask Taipei City Hall to ban illegal shops in residential areas, and formed the Shidahood Association (師大三里里民自救會). In response, Taipei City government formed a Special Shida Taskforce (師大專案小組) headed by deputy mayor Sherman Chen (陳雄文) and involving a wide array of government departments. They first banned all foreign restaurants on Lane 13, Pucheng St.
In February, some shops organized the “Shida Business Area League” petitioning to the government for their right to work, through different forms of protest such as stand-ins, kneel down and turning off all the lights on the street for 30 minutes.
In May, the Shidahood Association posted an article on the blog criticizing that Shida Park had been left abandoned as a dangerous and licentious zone.
On July 15th, the legendary live house Underworld was forced to close under pressure from the Shidahood Association.
In August, Roxy Jr. Café which had been running for 18 years on Shida Rd. hung a first banner to counter the protest banners of the Shidahood Association. Yet, on 19th August they nevertheless decided to close up temporarily.
("Legal businessman against fake neighbors' persecution" wrote by Jr. Cafe)
David Frazier, Dodgy dealings, TAIPEI TIMES, 2012.07.25
Edited by Nick Coulson
“Zhizou” (Go Straight) café opened in September 2009, but closed at the end of April 2012 due to the landlord being unwilling to re-sign a contract. The idea for the store was to provide a place for disorganised activists to assemble. For the most part members were young artists and students dissatisfied with certain aspects of society that hadn’t found any other group that suited their needs. The members then got involved in various causes, for example participating in the “No Nuke” group’s protests against nuclear energy; taking part in international “Occupy movement” protests and protesting the forced demolition of the Wang family house in Shilin by the Taipei government. They even took part in activities abroad, such as working with Japanese activist Matsumoto Hajime and doing promotion for his second hand and “Zhizou” sister store “Amateur Riot”.
”Zhizou” was located in an alley in a quiet residential area, and the neighbours eventually ran out of patience towards these strange, overactive young people, and slowly started to complain. After that, police officers often patrolled the area when customers talked our smoked outside late at night.
With the landlord receiving a lot of pressure from the neighbours, he contacted the owners of “Zhizou” just before their lease was to expire, and openly told them that the neighbours had grown more and more resentful towards the customers coming and going from the café, and therefore he wouldn’t be renewing their contract.
Even though in the last month before closing the owners took action, making the effort of going house to house to attempt to connect with the neighbours, the landlord maintained his position and decided to no longer extend their contract. In this way, “Zhizou”, less than three years since its conception, stopped doing business.
After the “Zhizou” farewell party, the cafe received an unexpected letter from the neighbours in its mailbox. They originally thought it was another complaint letter, and never thought that the contents of the letter would be of encouragement, expressing that they appreciated the owners’ efforts and good intentions. Even though it wasn’t signed, getting a response like this was very touching for “Zhizou”, so they would like us to help them say thanks to this sweet neighbour.
“Zhizou” will of course keep moving forward. Although there aren’t any immediate plans to reopen, “Zhizou” is always looking for possibilities to continue their activism in a new location, and keep providing young dissatisfied people in Taipei with a platform for expressing themselves.
Original article by Jiahe Lin and Zijie Yang. Translated by Daniel Pagan Murphy. Photos courtesy of Zhizou cafe
Watch an interview with members of the NoNuke movement at Zhizou cafe
Riding Taipei’s subway home from the recent Radiohead gig, I was struck by what should be a peculiar sight.
It was close to 11pm and the carriage had many more passengers than there were seats, yet no one was availing themselves of the dark blue Priority Seats reserved for elderly, frail and pregnant passengers, or those travelling with children. By the time I alighted the MRT eight stops later, not one passenger had taken a Priority Seat even though many remained standing.
The seats appeared to be saved for people who were not likely to board the train. Not many obasans ride in to Taipei Main Station at that late hour. Those passengers who were not elderly, frail or pregnant appeared unwilling to offend those that might sit in those seats, even though no such person was there. Perhaps though, the intended or possible presence of an obasan was enough to shape such cautionary behaviour. Such is the civil code of the MRT.
Officially labelled the Mass Rapid Transit, the MRT is an essential feature of daily life for those Taipei citizens without private transport. Only 15 years old and with new lines appearing every couple of years, the network is slowly diffusing throughout the bowels of the city. On an average June 2012 day, 1,588,700 people took advantage of the MRT’s punctual, clean and orderly service to travel around the system’s 101 stations .
More than just an ongoing civil engineering project, Taipei’s MRT is a civility engineering project.
It could be chaotic but it is not. Somehow the authorities have managed to instil a sense of cooperation into the riding public. Platform queues are orderly. Seats are yielded to those in need. Food and beverages are not consumed. Phone conversations are generally kept to a minimum.
For foreign visitors to Taipei, especially those unfamiliar with the Chinese language, the MRT is the easiest way to traverse the city. Were one to stay underground in the MRT system, one would think Taipei to be clean and cool; regimented and reliable. Such conceptions would be obliterated upon stepping up from the MRT station and into the frazzling pedestrian traffic and frying heat of the street. In that sense the train system underground serves as a panacea to the often frantic life above ground.
One part of the government’s project to train MRT passengers is an extensive set of posters hung in both trains and stations. These posters encourage proper behaviour both IN and OUT of the MRT.
Passengers are exposed to a range of advertisements that seek to influence their behaviour. Having control over the walls of the stations and trains gives the government the opportunity to monopolise the advertising medium. Of course much space is given over to commercial advertising, whose valuable remittances help keep the MRT system afloat. But the endless entreaties to behave better are what really created an impression on me. The captive audience of the MRT is ideal for the government to impress upon its ideals of how to create a better city.
Do people live together in the MRT? Yes, they do. An unspoken code of behaviour exists. This is not without contradictions. Someone could bring on a box of freshly fried stinky tofu, and while the odor might be a bit much for some, as long as the offending passenger does not eat any then this is OK. However, if someone is feeling in need of a drink, which is common in the summertime heat island of downtown Taipei, then he would be advised not to sip from his water bottle, lest he incur a sharp look of disapproval from the nearest righteous passenger.
Such a stringent code of behaviour is not without failing though. The Priority Seats can be contentious, especially if you are sitting in one and do not look old or injured, or are not wearing the appropriate sticker. Of course, many injuries or illnesses are not perceptible from the outside. If you are sick or sore but do not look it, then your fellow passengers might take umbrage at your bold occupation of a Priority Seat. I once saw a lady vehemently defend her right to sit in the Priority Seat, even though there was an older (and at least visibly, more frail passenger) standing nearby. Confrontations of this sort are uncomfortable for those nearby but, at least to my knowledge, rare.
In a city where almost every available inch of space is utilised and contested, the MRT exists as a zone of relative harmony and compromise. It is not only citizens who take the MRT, but the city of Taipei also rides it on the way to a more civilised society.
Living in a crowded city likeTaipei, often in close proximity to others, it is frequently inevitable to intrude on other people's privacy. In this video we interviewed a group of different people, talking about problems they may have had with neighbours due to noise or smell, and how they have attempted to resolve these conflicts.
Readers in China, please click here.
Let's face it, we've all written them at times, and at other times we have all pretended that they are not written about us, whether they be notes pinned to front doors, or slogans pasted across 5 stories of a building, passive aggressive notes are an unavoidable symptom of city life. Taipei is no different, being a city with a very dense population, people tend to get on each other's nerves. This mostly anonymous way of addressing the strangers that live around us is one of the easiest forms of communication to overlook, it tends to blend into the city scape except in extreme examples, but it also tells us a lot about what is acceptable and unacceptable about our behaviour, and the minute influences we have on the people who share the city with us. Here are a few examples of passive aggressive notes that I noticed around my neighbourhood, what about yours? Feel free to send any passive aggressive notes you find to eRenlai (conor_at_erenlai.com).
[Main writings] "Only animals pee here"
[Added writings on the right] "I am an animal"
[Message in black] Dear residents, please make sure the door is well closed in order to prevent unwanted people from entering. Our safety depends on your vigilance. Thank you for your cooperation!
[Message added on the right side] Some people often forget to close the door. If anything happens, these people should pay full responsibility! This is terrible and outrageous!
The new residents are kindly requested not to throw their garbage here, not to mention cigarette butts as they may increase the risk of fire. Please show more consideration for our public environment.
Thank you for your cooperation."
"To the residents of the building:
In order to maintain the quality of our living environment,
please do not throw trash here."
"LITTERING AND POLLUTING BUSINESSES,
LEAVE MY HOME ASAP"
[Left] "SAY NO TO SMOKE AND NOISE"
[Right] "FOR A RESIDENTIAL AREA WITHOUT SMOKE AND NOISE POLLUTION"
"SAY NO TO SMOKE AND NOISE"
[Left] "DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO A BETTER LIVING ENVIRONMENT"
[Right] "SAY NO TO SMOKE AND NOISE"
SUPPORT THE SHIDA COMMERICAL CIRCLE"
"Why is it only the Shida Commercial Area being closed down?... Do you think its really fair?"
Please do not feed dogs over here"
The white characters on the blue door say:
"Notice: In order to keep the arcades of this building clean, it is strictly forbidden to install any stand, to spit betelnut juice and to throw cigarette butts."
"Please do not sit on this scooter unless you're a cat of the shop"
But nowadays the young particularly have appropriated the word to themselves. Things or people are cool if they conform to one’s expectations, are agreeable to one’s standards. “That’s cool” or “you’re cool, man.” Or something is excellent or first rate like a cool sports car. As a verb it means to calm down and relax or even slow down or stop altogether what you are doing: “cool it.”
As a slang expression “cool” is rather egocentric. Those within one’s own circle of approval are cool, while others are not. The young and their values are cool; grownups with their old fashioned ideas and practices are not. Neither side understands or trusts the other. Communication is difficult because their idioms and standards are different. Adults want the young to grow up and be like them. The young resist assimilation because they are put off by the apparent contradictions and hypocrisy they seem to find in much of adult social, political and moral behavior.
There has always been a tension between the growing up and the already grown up. But up to a few generations ago relations were relatively quiet. Children were to be “seen and not heard.” It was their role to play among themselves, go to school and study hard or in some societies work in the fields or early begin an apprenticeship or training or labor in a workshop. There were, of course, varying degrees of intimacy between a child and parents depending on culture and personality, but for the most part there was little communication with elders other than listening to their instructions and following their directions. It was generally out of place to speak out or complain or offer one’s own opinions. That’s just the way things were, so one just accepted one’s lot. There was little incentive or expectation of success in rebelling. There was little if any contact with children in other places or even between children in the same place of different classes and no communication or exchange of ideas.
As compulsory education became more universal and schools opened their doors to children of all classes and cultural backgrounds, children began to see that their particular ways of living and understanding were not the only way. This opening of their eyes was accelerated by the advent of movies and radio and the phonograph. Soon there was a whole range of popular songs and singers who especially catered to the young audience. It became fashionable to imitate the hair styles and clothes of movie stars and singers. Most parents had little time to watch movies, disliked the popular music and the hairstyles and clothing fads which often put them on collision courses with their children, who began to question and disagree with a much wider range of parental beliefs and behavior. Parents, of course, were very disturbed and wanted their children to avoid the break away rebellious hippie movement and were alarmed about the easy availability of drugs and pornography, but even when these were not an issue there was a growing rift between parents and offspring as the gaps between each generation’s values, interests and expectations grew.
Then came the Vietnam War. It wasn’t only the young people who questioned the legitimacy of the war or objected to the way it was being waged and the tragic loss of life both of soldiers and civilians and the widespread destruction of the countryside for decades to come, but these things seemed to unite the youth especially and moved them to very vocal criticism of those promoting and defending the war. From that time on, our young people have remained skeptical of their government’s policies and practices, critical of how their elders run their businesses and shown greater concern for the plights of the poor and oppressed and the problems of pollution, ecology and conservation of the earth’s resources.
What does all this have to do with being cool?
It’s cool to espouse justice and honesty.
It’s cool to patiently confront problems and enter into communication and discussion with those responsible for the problems and those responsible for solving them.
It’s cool to cooperate in carrying out group decisions even when they are not what one voted for.
It’s cool to listen respectfully to what others have to say, especially those who are close to you.
It’s cool to be able to express what you believe and do what interests you.
It’s cool to listen respectfully to those who aren’t cool.
It’s cool for parents to listen to their children and give them leeway to be different.
If you are not cool in the presence of the cool, then put on a warm sweater and listen to what they have to say and translate what you want to say into language the cool will understand and respect.
If you are not cool in the presence of someone not cool, then heat up the tone of what you say and do, lest you freeze shut their ears or make them so uncomfortable that they will turn against you.
It’s cool to be cool so long as you don’t hate or avoid or look down on those who aren’t cool.
It’s also cool not to be cool if you aren’t cool so long as you don’t turnoff or alienate those who are cool.
It’s cool to be cool and cool not to be cool toward those who are not cool.
It’s cool not to be cool so long as you are not cool toward those who are cool.
If those who are cool are willing to warm up a bit toward those who are not cool and those who are not cool are willing to tone down a bit their reservations and antagonism toward those who are cool, then the temperature will be just right for both sides to sit down together in an atmosphere congenial to both. “And that’s cool, baby!”
Sometimes the most unlikely people become friends. Their backgrounds are different, their interests are not the same, but they seem to like and trust each other and complement one another. Sometimes acquaintances become friends by association: they don’t know anyone else, there is no one else to play with, one of them needs protection and the other needs someone to protect, or circumstances just pulled them together and no new circumstance has happened yet to pull them apart. A friendship built only on gratitude or personal need or one that is not equally reciprocated is on shaky ground.
Not all our acquaintances are friends. Some people we just don’t like, others we just can’t get along with, some disgust or repel us, some there is no reason or opportunity to associate with. Not everyone we don’t like or try to avoid is an enemy. We generally reserve that term for those who wish us harm or are standing in the way of our goals deliberately obstructing us.
An enemy is someone who hates you or wants you dead or transpires to defraud you of what is rightfully yours. An enemy is someone you hate or fear because you believe he or she is a threat to your life or livelihood. An enemy is someone who refuses to come to your aid in time or need. An enemy is anyone who is the enemy of a dear friend. An enemy is someone who insulted you or embarrassed you in front of others. An enemy is anyone you want to overcome or destroy.
It sometimes happens that circumstances change, events intervene that turn friends into enemies or former enemies into friends. There are several sure ways of alienating and losing a friend. Fall in love and run away with your friend’s fiancée before the wedding or seduce her to run away with you after the wedding. Divulge your friend’s deepest secret to his or her enemy or someone sure to be offended by it or get him in trouble. Help your friend to reach the top and then take it for yourself tossing him or her out on his or her ear. Refuse to help when urgently needed. Betray him to his enemy or creditor. Appropriate for yourself what he or she depends upon. Throw in the towel with his or her worst enemy.
The first step of turning an enemy into a friend is to begin treating him or her as a friend. Then the rest is up to him or her to reciprocate.
Some people have trouble making friends. Some people have trouble keeping their friends. Some friends stay close through thick and thin. Some friends stick through the thick and run from the thin.
Having a dear good friend is a blessing that we must cherish and preserve.