TV news aired on the morning of June 6, 2016 in Taipei says that legislators find unacceptable the Taoyuan International Airport staff clocking out at 5 p.m. sharp despite their workplace looking like a disaster zone after being flash flooded by the first wave of the monsoon (aka Plum Rain) this year. The incident also plunged one of the terminals into blackout to turn the entire building into an oven without air conditioning.
Having derailed the travel plans of some 30,000 passengers aside according to TV news, the snafu at the airport, which its general manger has valiantly tried to deflect with excuses that made little sense in front of the TV reporters, actually exposes a much more worrying, insidious phenomenon in Taiwan. Passing the buck is just one more behavioral issue rarely discussed openly by politicians for obvious reasons, academics for even they have only a monotone perspective due to having only lived in Taiwan, or Taiwanese psychiatrists for they take for granted all the sociopathic, neurotic, psychopathic behaviors that are parts of life in a tiny, insular nation. One that has grown too rapidly from the agrarian to information tech stage to result in mind-bending stretch marks, or have even snapped its umbilical cord.
Only in the last 2 weeks, while keeping in mind the size and population of Taiwan that totals only about 23 million, TV news in Taipei have reported at least a couple more psychopaths with homicidal tendency. Relatively young Taiwanese males and females have resorted to, by conspiring with friends as is typical Taiwanese behavior to also display sheepishness, physical violence to exact vengeance. One 20ish female reportedly, with help from friends, assaulted her ex-boyfriend with knives to even the score for he used to beat her up regularly.
And practically not a day goes by without TV news reporting in Taipei of gangsterism or hooliganism.
It seems almost acceptable practice in Taiwan, instead of relying on law enforcement and the judiciary, for small businesses of all kinds as well as individuals to round up gangs to resolve all manners of dispute as bad debt, by destroying personal property via pouring paint on doors of residences and businesses, as well as causing bodily harm to sometimes result in death.
And what a nation of dubious behaviors to be the topic at the annual convention of global shrinks. They should be shown the news report a few years ago of the cunning feat pulled off by the staff of the Taiwan High Speed Rail Corporation, who colluded to preemptively buy up all the discount tickets that were supposed to be offered to potential passengers.
One certainly can’t fault the THSRC for not showing incredible teamwork.
And 99 percent of hopelessly impoverished Filipinos, Indians and Bangladeshis would be awe-struck by the occurrences reported in Taiwanese media of fully-grown, freeloading Taiwanese males (aka Parent-Sucking Leeches in local media). They physically assault mom and dad to also sometimes committed patricide or matricide.
One more case study tailor-made for the American Psychiatric Association.
There are also countless incidents of inside theft and errant behavior among Taiwanese corporations, many of which turn a blind eye to avoid embarrassment depending on the scale of unacceptability or illegality. And such incidences are routinely swept under the proverbial rug or skillfully whitewashed by so-called public relations staff, or damage-controllers.
Taiwanese business schools don’t need to look at high-profile cases as the subprime mortgage crisis, the recently exposed hacking, theft via SWIFT of a few major banks, Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme that caught ample airtime to tease out the finer points to improve internal controls in the financial and securities sectors.
The only problem is, among many others, finding Taiwanese staffers who dare risk their jobs to do what’s right or ethical.
However ethics in Taiwan, as is in many parts of the world, is a 4-letter word.
Most Taiwanese, except those who have seen the movie Silkwood to be so moved to swear to martyrdom, typically behave according to the timelessly practical mantra: as long as it ain’t in my backyard. And the Chinese equivalent that is basically interpreted as “thou shalt keep only one’s own porch swept” was proven by the Taoyuan International Airport staffers.
Before computerization in the mid-1980s Taiwan, this small exporter with a staff of about a dozen in Taipei, while interviewing me for a routine merchandiser position openly said that a female employee had vanished overnight with a file folder in tow. The folder contained all the details of an account that would theoretically enable an ambitious but disloyal staffer to steal the customer. Such is said to be one of the oldest tactics in the trade.
Any shrink worthy of charging US$200 hourly for couch time could spend eons to dissect the cause and effect of and correlations between unethical behavior and unsound mind. Or was that female staffer who stole the account folder merely acting under financial pressure in the Taiwanese reality that could easily marginalize a woman of humble background into poverty should she chooses spinsterhood?
One also can’t help to wonder if that TV ad placed by a certain English-as-a-second-language school in Taiwan narrated by a well-known American preacher that accentuates the importance of “character” actually insinuates the dire lack of such trait on the island.
Again the erudite, seasoned experts at the American Psychiatric Association should be consulted to address an issue that actually impacts the overall mood in Taiwan, business climate for all except civil servants. Only those who try to pitch products and ideas cold in Taipei are treated to responses as warm as dry ice against one’s skin.
But not before some of the above-mentioned schools in Taiwan come clean to tell their naïve Taiwanese students that many of their so-called “American” teachers are not card-carrying Democrats nor Republicans. Instead they’re often Taiwanese (perhaps college grads?) who have travelled to the West (maybe including the USA and perhaps “bought” college diplomas) to be able to feign a North American accent.
But it’s not because I won’t tell the truth, it’s just how the Taiwanese TESOL market works, whined one such female “American” teacher in Taipei recently in not so many words, who also didn’t know the acronym ABC.
Anecdotal evidence shows the extent of damage on the Taiwanese reputation and mindset due to irrational, sociopathic, psychopathic behaviors often reported in media, to have even wracked the perception of at least one Singaporean woman. She tried to promote a relatively new line of nutritional beverage as a multi-level marketing product via a chat app and said that her Malaysian associates are in Taiwan on a roadshow. I commented casually that Malaysia has a lousy reputation for scamming, to which she countered ditto for Taiwan to show her damaged perception.
Telemarketers who call to promote a potentially promising firm, say in the 3C sector, that looks to go public in Taiwan that, under “normal” circumstances, would be perfectly legitimate and attractive to investors. But damaged perception due to errant behaviors result in my not giving the time of day to such callers.
In fact and not often openly admitted among Taiwanese and foreigners, this island is generally seen bathed in paranoia, disbelief and distrust.
A female lottery ticket vendor is her late 50s in Taipei even said that some customers believe jackpot winners in Taiwan are fabricated and don’t actually exist.
Such sentiment is also fueled by one TV show that seemed popular in Taipei about a year ago. This appraiser running a pawnshop hosted a program that invited Taiwanese to show various collectibles as jewelry that are assessed for market value on-the-spot. It turns out that many of the jade bangles and carvings bought for substantial prices due to doctoring, hype from neighborhood retailers, well-known and seen as “friends,” are basically worthless, to also make the owners seem ignorant, gullible buffoons.
Meanwhile one recent media report says that some 3 million Taiwanese are “unhappy,” a significant percentage out of some 23 million people.
How can one be happy in a land where people constantly fear being scammed? Where employees fear behaving ethically due to tacit pressure from movers and shakers to prioritize profit and reputation over all else. Where gangs are used as pawns to destroy property to derail rivalry. Where even school principals stoop to take kickbacks from lunch suppliers. Book publishers unveil new titles that are mostly existing books with minor revisions (according to a Taiwanese woman who had worked in the sector daring enough to expose such pathetic truth). Incompetent clowns with hyperbolized titles, track-records of all stripes are routinely promoted to be emperor-without-clothes.
Some of the answers may lie with one 30ish female Asian-American with a PhD in psychology. She stayed in Taipei many years ago to, among other stints, have taught at a well-known university (formerly an all-girls polytech) but adamantly refused to talk about her counseling work on campus due to both professional ethics and the surreal, frightening nature of the cases she heard.
Here is the kicker. These well-adjusted, highly-educated, seemingly rational, healthy youths make up Team Taiwan, with some…gulp…destined to be decision makers.