On Friday evening, Roy, Wayde and I did a panel discussion with three Taiwanese writers– Hao Yu-Hsiang, Lin Wenchi and Feng Pin-Chia, moderated by Liao Hsien-Hao, the Commissioner for the Taipei City Government Deparment of Cultural Affairs. The Canadian writers were to talk about our impressions of Taiwan; the Taiwanese writers were to talk about their impressions of Canada.

Our respective assumptions about the content of the talks was as interesting as the talks themselves. In our inimitable activist way, we were critical and perhaps somewhat rude, laying out all the tough stuff– 228, aboriginal issues, betel nut girls. In their open and generous way, they were kind and personal. I wondered afterwards if we’d offended. In Asia, I am sometimes very aware (though always after the fact) of my clumsy blunt North Americanness. I’m coming from a good place. But what if my drive towards liberation is rude? Are in-your-face politics always productive?

1 Comment

  1. Frances Kruk on November 25, 2005 at 6:37 am

    but being too polite and gracious doesn’t really help all that much either?

    there’s a lot of politesse and beating around the bush over here. so nothing ever gets done. no progress. you can’t kill (or nurse, whichever may be the case) the beast if you don’t approach it head on and touch it.

    a few weeks ago, a girl was hit and killed by a bus somewhere in london, and about a week afterwards there was outrage in the headlines that transport london and the city hadn’t put in more effort to try to call witnesses forward. the normal practice after such an incident would be to put up posters near the site to ask witnesses to come forward, in order to help with the investigation. no posters went up because the officials in question were “concerned that the wording of the poster might be inappropriate.” why? because they might have had to list the facts? (a south asian girl was hit and killed by a bus…yes, it’s ugly, but it must be stated. especially if witnesses are needed).

    then again, if you’re not excessively polite (albeit very obviously fakely so) around here, people will not even give you the time of day.

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