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A member that loses its function will cease to thrive…

17 Nov

I am concerned about initiating institutions that, in an attempt to heal those seriously injured/violated or forced into abusive industry, it fails to allow the industry that is an essential component of a healthful life.

It is not the artifice of the environment precisely that is injurious… rather it is its lack of connection to anything else – a life support system that presumes extreme resources must be devoted to healing – but fails to supply it with the usual ingredients of life at the crucial moment when the life-forms within it are ready.

Some of these places believe that they must try to supply the lost of affection that the child had failed to receive. Yet the individuals they have before them are no longer children – and their CURRENT self is also in need of nourishment.

It is then that individuals fall into a state of enforced rest, yet the vital energies available in the individual continue running. Running on nothing, these vital energies instead turn on the self. Becoming destructive forces as the individual sinks into fantasy, acquisitiveness, self-doubt, physical abuse of self and, occasionally, on others.

The need for industry can even be seen in the Taiwanese man who wrote a book of his abusive experiences at the hands of his nanny, from when he was 3 years old. Upon recollection, and following narration to his wife, he first regressed into an infantile state, and then used writing as a means to heal. In fact, he wrote a book that was published. Everyone I know who has read it find it a shock to the system.

I do not see anything restful about writing a book. The expression of psyche may be cathartic, but it was definitely industry. In fact, I would say that the industry of writing was itself therapeutic.

I believe that it is necessary, as soon as feasible after removing an individual from a traumatic environment, to discover ways in which the individual can be effectively useful and involved in a new community which was formed for that purpose. Even more importantly, these works must be real.


To be a purist in the most essential questions of your faith…

3 Feb

A main function and attraction of religion is how it serves to develop community. It binds people together and makes them feel safe as they are able to trust and work with each other within a common, well-delineated culture.

I have found the arguments for and against purism in religion very murky water indeed to tread. If I were to believe in something, I believe that most of us do have an inner guide that can be developed to foster positive relationships with ourselves and with others. Many people have noted the existence of this inner guide. The monotheists tend to believe that it is the voice of God talking to them, whilst the animalists/spiritualists tend to structure such around a notion of give-and-take/ecosystem perspective of our role on earth.

There is a statement I once heard, which has yet to be proven, but may serve as something worth considering: “Those who are drawn to the study of psychiatry often feel that they have something wrong with themselves that they wish to understand.”

I would say that a similar situation holds true for religion. There are some very kind, thoughtful religious leaders who truly do their best to foster health, peace and love within their communities. And then, there are those who are drawn to it because they feel themselves lacking a moral compass, and perhaps by studying religion this thing called ‘a conscience’ should become clear to them.

The problem is that most of us, at one point or another, feel unsure or inadequate in understanding the scripture. We require leaders to set the pace, inspire our continued sense of shared purpose and feed this vein. This has made authority necessary in religion.

And this has made groups of people vulnerable to leaders who are perhaps not as well formed as they profess to be.

The problem with religion is that, because it is inherently a group activity, majority rules. This applies to various scenarios where group-think (or lack of judgement) prevails: You are in a meeting and someone says something erroneous. You look around, no one is voicing dissent. You leave the meeting and whisper to a friend : “By the way, when X said Y, I think there was something wrong with that statement?” and your friend says “Oh! I thought so too! But I thought everyone agreed…” but the decision has been made.

Often-times, this conversation never happens, because questioning is written into the unspoken creed as possibly blasphemous. And for the average believer, unless authority is gleaned through a life-long study of the holy writ, one does not have the right of  consulting one’s own conscience.

And when it behooves the faithful to be true to the scripture, even the objects within the text that go against our basic, innate conscience MUST be incorporated – often at the cost of our humanity.

I feel (at great offense to some friends), that in communities where the sectarian social mores are less secure, a higher percentage of people look to religion as the moral guide. In places where you feel no recourse to being leered at, from being touched without permission, from being spoken to disrespectfully and having the right to call out people on it… I am also talking about places where authority is abused regularly and is not called abuse – by policemen, by insurance companies, by teachers, by parents. This acceptance of authority poisons our ability to truly respect individuals, nor can we treat each other kindly. For if we cannot hold that everyone can be flawed, then how can we treat each other with charity? It is by suspending belief in the frailty, and strength, that each of us is capable of, are we able to elevate certain individuals over others.

 And if we attribute our own failings constantly to an outside source: “the devil made me do it.”, then we are never personally responsible for the necessary acts of restitution.

You know what makes me happy? Remembering, each day, that I have only one life. You know what pushes me to treat others carefully? Knowing that they, too, only have one life. There are transgressions beyond which I cannot pass, because I would be destroying the opportunities for others to experience their living with as much of the privilege I myself feel in the facts of being human and alive. So mine is not a state of insecurity, staring into the abyss. My understanding of life makes me treasure the very fact of it. My situation in life allows me to be generous and wish happiness for others. This for me is adequate. I do not like to complicate it by attributing acts and intentions to a separate entity, and feel so insecure of my understanding of His/Her intentions that I must seek a middle-man to elucidate what should be spoken directly to my heart. Nor spend my days spreading the message that is spoken to me which I ought rightfully to attribute to my own inner voice, and not mislead people by giving it the authority of a higher power.

And as much as we may all be hypocrites and fail to recycle. We may be able to strive within our limits to keep the sanctity of living intact.

I have a dream

17 Jan

Ihaven’t written on this blog for a while, and that is because I’ve been engrossed in the Montessori method. It’s an educational theory based on scientific observation of children. The goal is to help foster peaceful, independent learners and thinkers. So far in this journey in life, I have never met with something, however much I support it, that I agree with 100%. I am surprised to say that I think : Montessori could be it.

Today I was pushing a double stroller with our 2 year old and 5 month old in it, along the fine fair winter Doha weather. The roads are under construction, and there are a lot of too narrow sidewalks and makeshift bridges. Time after time, strangers would come up and help me carry the stroller over the bad spots. I thought of my husband at work, how he was doing, how nice it would be to concentrate on adult work and contributing to a community, and how nice it is being with our kids. And I was struck with an image of what the world could look like – what do you think it could look like, if children were more a part of our world.

If they could work alongside us.

If we designed all our public areas and homes to be also accessible to children.

If all parents could take their children to nursery where they worked.

If what we consider part time hours are regular hours, and the pay adequate for both parents to work, and have plenty of time to be with their children as well.

This is a video of Montessori classroom moments. It illustrates the beauty of a proper environment, in which you can almost hear the child humming with happiness from their purposeful activities.

I don’t think I can quite put in words precisely what it feels like. But I would like to be a part of making that a reality.

If enough of us hold a vision in our heads, we can change the course of humanity.

How I feel about race

1 Feb

Brent Staples, a writer at the New York Times, said that he whistles classical music when walking on the streets at night – to assuage the fears of white people. It sounds funny… and sad at the same time, that even today being black in America still provokes fear or loathing in (what should be) ordinary white strangers. However, I cannot be too quick to judge – I found my own shoulders tightening when traveling in the more ‘predominantly black’ communities of NYC.

Being ethnically Asian, I do feel that I am better off than my darker skinned peers, who are clearly distinguished, and frequently emotionally discriminated, upon sight. In several studies, doctors have been shown to diagnose and prescribe medication with racial bias… until asked to reconsider whether race had influenced their decision. Time and again in the justice system, racial bias has put more African Americans in jail than normal conviction rates would suggest. (In this article, authors Lilienfeld and Byron suggest ways to prevent that).

Xenophobia is ingrained. In his book The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond cites studies that show people who grew up among mono-ethnic societies frequently find difficulty later on in life to distinguish individuals from different races. Thus my favorite Stormfront quote “…besides, [Asians] all look the same.” I have the same difficulty: growing up in two different communities – one predominantly Taiwanese and one predominantly White (with some Hmong), I frequently have difficulty distinguishing one black person from another. In the beginning of dating a black boyfriend, I had some trouble picking his face out from his friends at first, which I covered up with myopia. Xenophobia is ingrained, but not impossible to overcome. With time, it is possible to rewire your brain to see these distinctions, as I had.One seems to need to be continuously reconditioned, however, when taken out of the environment again. Such as: When I see Bollywood posters, I still cannot readily tell that the leading female is a different one in the other movie, despite being able to do so while I was in India for a month.

Diamond also mentions studies that show we have a preference to mate (and marry) people who look like the people we grew up with, which may be why mixed children (and communities, chicken and egg?) are still not as prevalent in such a diverse country as the U.S. as one might expect from random mate choice.

In dealing with the dilemma of my natural biases, I may overcompensate: When narrating incidences in my life, I am intensely focused on not mentioning race, or descriptive words relevant to race, instead focused on obliterating the need to mention race at all. On ‘my own people’ or Eastern Asians I am less concerned, and readily make distinctions between Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean and Japanese. However, I do not make clear distinctions when it comes to Filipinos, Indonesians, Islanders…etc. Besides knowing less about them from a cultural perspective and feeling the need to tread cautiously on such distinctions, Taiwan is a place where many migrant workers come from these nations, and they are frequently discriminated against, which makes me more cautious not to do. In actuality, some of my friends may find this disrespectful, as they may feel they are quite proud as a Filipino or Indonesian. For me, I change the tact according to listener… if I suspect that my distinction of the nationality may make my listener think less of the subject, I would do away with such national distinctions altogether, instead saying that he/she is a ‘foreigner’, and or qualifying a description of them with the great things that they do.

In a way, rewording the narration in this manner has helped me see strangers in a different light, and helped me realize that I still frequently function by racial biases – without being aware of it. As in many things, it takes work to overcome yourself and live consciously.

Logical Genocide

28 Dec

I started following Israeli-Palestinian conflict news since High School. At the time, post furor of 9-11, a great deal of attention was put on the middle east, particularly the negative and extreme. I was intrigued by the complexity of the situation, the conflicts between the tribes, the wide spread of Islam and how the different sects held sway over the hearts and minds of the people living in Islamic communities. I wanted to understand if there were ways to reach peace. Around the same time, I came across a book called The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World, which was written by an Iraqi-born British/Israeli historian based on diplomatic correspondence from the released archives of Israeli history, drawing a long saga since the post WWII founding of Israel. It helped me understand the diplomatic environment at the time, the different roots that spun into the form of the conflict it is today, and battle of wills within the Israeli government that shaped a (throughout 50 years) basically consistent policy of strong defense and pre-emptive offense.

Prior to reading the book, I had many sympathies for Israel. My family raised us Christian and I whiled my incredibly bored Sunday mornings in church away reading the bible, front to back, several times. This proud people that was handpicked by god, that overcame slavery and successfully conquered cities during their long years of wandering so that they finally came to settle in a land they were promised. This people who were scattered to the winds by the Roman empire and faced one of the most well-documented massacres in recent history. There may not be time in our primary school educations to learn about the extermination of the Tasmanians, the Cherokee trail of tears, the U.S. puppeteering of Latin America…etc. But there was definitely time, and plenty of material available, for learning about the Holocaust. I’m not saying that it isn’t a vital story. The message of “Never Again” should never be far from our hearts. But the pervasiveness of this story as (frequently) the only story on genocide that a primary student learns doesn’t help us comprehend the diversity of genocide in other situations, facing different people of different races, cultures and disparity of economic or political situations… or even help us contemplate the possibility that: the the victims could someday act as the perpetrators.

So before I understood the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the triumphs of the 6-day war struck a thrill to my heart. After reading the history, I felt less sure of where I stood, but vastly more sympathetic towards the Palestinians.

Back to today. I feel that there are solutions. I feel there are measures that can be taken to foster peace. I feel that it is possible either for Israel to integrate Palestinians into their nation and offer them equal rights, or recognize Palestine and halt illegal settlements and pestering/blockading methods that continuously open up new sores. I believe it is still possible for Palestinians to gradually mend their wounds and lose their hatred of the Israelis, that it can be possible, with a healthier environment, for the Palestinians to form a democratic government that can best represent their interests.

But with every single peaceful solution that is out there, there are always voices that disagree. You can say that the hatred has run too deep. That mainstream Israelis are have conflict fatigue and just want to live their lives in prosperity. That Palestinians have standing-down fatigue and cannot see how giving one more inch could serve them well. The central issue of the conflict is one that is impossible to solve without a compromise: that the Palestinians want to reclaim the orchards and wells of their ancestors, and the Israelis want that too.

What can the final solution to the conflict be? I once asked the Israeli representative to Taiwan on a campus speech why the Israelis are blockading Gaza. He gave me a long-winded answer the justified the blockade and bombing based on the idea that “What the western media never shows you are the many missile attacks on the borders that take Israeli lives. We are tired of this. We believe it must stop.”

Does Palestinian attacks justify Israeli counter-attacks? Here is a 2000~2012 August statistic on the Israeli v.s. Palestinian deaths:

What does this statistic show you? I believe it shows the final solution that hawkish factions of Israeli parliament has been pushing for in recent decades: a gradual genocide. This is part of the reason for the blockade: so it is impossible for tourists and reporters to see this taking place. This is why, after repeated petitions and protests both by the International community and Israeli citizens, the Israeli government still refuses to take strong action when it comes to settlements. Push the Palestinians off the land; plan public roads and facilities through their orchards, that have to be cut down, to starve them out; make every single attack on an Israeli life an excuse for ‘retaliation’ and ‘investigation’ and kill more of them off. Call the extra deaths ‘collusion with terrorists’ or ‘collateral damage’ or ‘brainwashed children’.

Two years into the blockade, I came across a film of an orphaned little girl wandering among the debris that used to be her home and neighborhood. Rebuilding efforts have been difficult due to the fact that it is hard to get materials into Gaza. She spoke of hating the Israelis. That when she grew up she would kill the Israelis. Looking at her surroundings, I do not think her sentiments required brainwashing to have formulated.


18 Dec
據外交系的同學指出,中華民國(Republic of China)這個名稱,是我國外交部和國際交涉的官方名稱。從蔣中正的時候就開始了。這也是我國以往跟聯合國爭取的名稱,未曾動搖。這個立場第一次傷害我們台灣的時候,就是當政府為了堅持這樣的立場,於1971年退出聯合國。從此,我們與國際交涉的機會,步步委屈,寸寸艱辛。中國在聯合國中的經營,我們半個邊都無法吭聲:聯合國裡的中文,正式換為簡體字,各個受聯合國支持的組織,儘管是號稱超越政府的,也都默默地在各項活動的報名表中列台灣為:Taiwan, Province of China,或者根本剔除這個選項。台灣學生參加國際活動,只要裡面有中國代表,不管是否與聯合國有關,常常會面臨這樣“突然被改國籍“的錯愕。這次張良伊參選與國家代表最沒有關係的非政府組織聯絡人,都被強冠上這樣的背景,著實令人心酸。
所以你說,堅持這個字眼裡含”中國“名稱,對我們有什麼好處?Republic of China 可以混水摸魚進去聯合國假裝自己是安理會理事國中國的代表嗎?還是被抽換,裡外不是人。另個觀點來看:中共哪肯容許任何國家對其中國領土宣誓主權?
我現在說的不是台獨,因為我相信台灣不需要做獨立的動作:台灣已經獨立了,獨立了超過五載。我現在是說我們集體對中國人做得極其不合理的事:當我們堅持我們叫做Taiwan, Republic of China的時候,我們不僅堅持我們是中國的一部份,我們跟中國做一樣的事情,壓迫中國人,說“你們是我們的一部分!”  這,不是霸凌,是什麼?

Why I can not call myself a feminist

11 Dec
I recently happened across a short clip, where a comedienne pointed out that she is appalled that there are women who say they are not feminists.
It is true that I can count with my hand how many times I know I have been discriminated against on a gender-based level. The point should be: why should anyone have less opportunities than someone else based on some arbitrary factor of life that they cannot control? And here is why I cannot call myself a feminist. Because this sort of polarization is subjective, a victim mind-state, and could be harmful to the real social dialogue we want to have.
I believe the term feminism, is inherently reactionary: it’s us versus them. It is inevitable that, at some point, the argument will lose perspective. In the field of reason, to claim certain absolutes is considered dogmatic, which can have horrible societal consequences (look at communism v.s. capitalism!). For this reason, I disagree with the canonization of feminism in the academic field as a study. I do believe, however, that women’s rights should be included in the the study of social movements and social phenomenon. It is part and parcel of the continued effort to make our communities more just, more reasonable, with equal respect and opportunities for as many people in a population as possible.
I am grateful for the women activists and social resistors who have insisted on (and are insisting on) our rights to vote, to property, to children, to family time, to equal pay…etc. I stand with them on every issue today. But I have a brother, I have a son, I have a husband and a father. And do I want them to be treated any lesser (or more) than a woman? No. The language is at fault. To call ourselves For One Side inherently says I Oppose the Other. Which can be facile and dangerous. And which will eventually work to undermine the greater picture that we want for our society. I believe that it is important for there to be people fighting for certain groups that have traditionally been vulnerable to discrimination, for women, for immigrants, for people of different skin color or beliefs that those generally in power… I believe it is more powerful to have individuals and groups dedicated to exposing the problems and showing support for one group of people. I believe in many of the work that self-claimed feminists groups do. But I do not believe that the message should be translated into : Because I am female, I am a feminist. Because I am African American, I am an abolitionist… it hurts the conversation because you are also saying Because he is male, he can be a masochist. Because she is Christian, she should be a pro-lifer… To say that absolutely, is to categorize people based on their circumstances. And you would be falling into the same habits as those you oppose.
People are diverse, with diverse inclinations, beliefs, interests in status/non-status quo. My challenge is always to live the world you want it to be. And if there is a name I have to define myself with, I would call myself a humanist.
~ Grace En-Tien Chang
update: Great article I came across that illustrates a female viewpoint without mentioning feminism Men Who Explain Things, by Rebecca Solnit
Update 2013/March 6th Recently came across this article explaining feminism as a civic rights movement. It seems to act as a good counterpoint to my thesis here.
On another note:
This also brought me back to my freshman year in University, when I was interviewed by a professor of gender studies. She wanted to understand what enabled me to study biology. But I was brought to her attention not only because I chose to pursue my undergrad degree in biology, as there were many many other girls who had been admitted to this major, but also because I have had a clear track record of being active in other fields. Of volunteer work, of starting a club to discuss international issues in my high school…etc.
On my part, choosing Biology was simply interest in the pursuit of knowledge in a field that emphasized evidence-based research, had clearer (compared to sociology) facts, and which helped me enjoy and understand life better. That is, I liked it.
I do not think I was a very interesting study subject for her. As to the various questions concerning repression of my interests, I consistently said no. I did not feel gender-based pressure in my high school studies of biology (our Biology teacher was, in fact, female). My parents did not feel the need to guide me in my chosen field (though my uncle did suggest that I should study English, but I thought it was silly as I was already proficient in English and it would be a waste of my time). Gradually I engaged her in conversation about what she was trying to accomplish through the interviews. She was not very clear (I suppose this might do with the fact that I was a study subject). But I was left with the impression that there was a certain bias she wanted to demonstrate, a struggle that females had to undergo in order to reach certain achievements. She wanted to find out why there were still more men in Taiwan going into the sciences than women, starting out from high school. I do not understand why she could not be satisfied that, in certain instances, it may be simply a matter of interest preference. And perhaps, this preference was guided by (or informed) a difference in capacity concerning certain studies such as math, physics and chemistry. Of course you can also say that this difference was enhanced by the way our high school system was designed. I have never claimed to do well in math, physics and chemistry. But I found biology interesting. And I was unwilling to be corralled into a high school class that would teach a less advanced form of biology (plus restrict my college application options) by choosing the humanities class (which, btw, put a greater stress on history, geography, and Chinese which was taught in memorization form in our curricula here and I found memorization very stressful for me. The system designed here in Taiwan is so that, even if you chose the sciences class, you could still apply for the humanities in college and have a reasonable (perhaps even better, because professors find it flattering and rare that a science student would choose humanities) chance of success. Whereas it is more of an uphill battle vice versa. So a third reason for her inquiry may be related to the way the system was designed… which did not do away with the fact that I was quite inept (and rather uninterested) in the other fields of hard sciences besides Biology. You could probably say I was not the proper study subject for her based on my chosen field. The point I want to make here though, is that: I believe her inquiry had an inherent bias towards wanting to put the blame on societal pressures rather than personal interest.

And is it not possible that gender can have an effect on interest? Why not also question why some fields in some societies are more well-regarded than others. For it is not ‘easy’ to be a teacher and guide young children. The challenges are different, but not less, than the rigors of being a physicist.


Calling all plutocrats…

26 Nov


from the book Povert and Progress by George Henry. A good oldie.


To employers in the US: Why becoming a Christian Scientist will Lower your Bottom Line

23 Nov

One of the debates in health care in the US now concerns the right of Catholic employers not to pay for birth control and abortions for their employees. Employers feel that they have sinned against God if they are forced to include birth control in their employee health benefits.

This is yet another example of the wonderful diversity and protection of minority rights that exists in the US of A. Catholic employers should not have to bear the sinful weight of preventing a rightful life to being born, or even conceived, on their shoulders.

But why stop here? The trait of an advanced society is its constant progress and inclusion of minority rights. In this case, it would not do to give only preferential treatment for Catholic employers, but also other employers with different beliefs. Take Christian Scientists. Christian Scientists believe that we should not interfere with the natural states of the human body with medicines.Instead, you show your faith in God when you pray for healing in sickness and injury, and if it is not God’s will to keep your beloved alive then you must accept this with humility and thanks in God’s providence.

It should be important for such legislators considering the rights and feelings of catholic employers to also include rights of other religious employers, otherwise these legislators may very well be accused of favoritism on affirmative action. So employers who are Christian Scientists should not be forced to offer their employees any health benefits at all. Instead, these conscientious employers will give their employees the benefit of their prayers.

Voting Third Party, How to make your vote count

2 Nov

 Democracy doesn’t mean much if people have to confront concentrated systems of economic power as isolated individuals. Democracy means something if people can organize to gain information, to have thoughts for that matter, to make plans, to enter into the political system in some active way, to put forth programs and so on. If organizations of that kind exist, then democracy can exist too. Otherwise it’s a matter of pushing a lever every couple of years; it’s like having the choice between Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola.   ~ Noam Chomsky

People who are new to voting in the United States may be surprised when they receive the presidential ballot: That there are more than two candidates on the ballot. For most states this year, for example, there is also the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, Americans Elect, and the Constitution Party…etc. A brief web search will give you the main platforms of these parties, and many Americans may discover that these alternative parties are proposing policies that are closer to their ideals of what role the government should or should not play in our lives, as opposed to the current two party polarization where issues that are vital to some people’s hearts (support for families, environmental sustainability, downsizing of big government, regulation of banks … to quote a few disparate examples) are not part of the agenda of either party this year.


The frequent argument against voting for these parties is that it is futile: because they never have and never will win the majority of the votes. And in fact if you vote for them, you may divide the votes for the preferred candidate among your two choices. The close win of George W. Bush over Al Gore was a disappointment to many people who would have preferred Gore as a second choice to their third party vote, for example.

However, there are two main reasons that third parties need votes. First, having a percentage of the votes can help these parties stay on the ballot for the next election. Second, and more importantly, even if they are never elected due to the constraints of the current system, seeing that the third parties are receiving most of the independent votes will force the current two major parties to reconsider their current platforms. This has happened in the past. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, a previously unseen turnout for The Socialist Party scared the Democratic Party under Franklin Roosevelt into formulating The New Deal, with strong regulations for banks and large employment plans that bolstered the middle class, bringing on another golden age.

So how can you prevent a splitting of the vote while making your voice heard through a third party vote?

If you live in a state where, in the past and according to polls, a clear majority has consistently voted for one party or the other… Say New York has nearly always voted for a Democratic candidate. You could consider voting for a third party – as your one vote is unlikely to change the vote of your state. In this day and age where corporations contribute equally to both parties to ensure their future, here is your way of ensuring yours.