— A Young Canadian’s View on Why Taiwan is So Safe —
By Rebecca G. Kehl
When I was 17 and a 1/2, my good-humored, maverick father came over to Taiwan and lived here for a year. Then he came back and taught me his limited Mandarin, haha!: 我要, 好吃, and 你好嗎, and brought me back with him, telling me it was much safer than Canada. The only thing he said residents of Taiwan had to watch out for were people who steal at night. He said people would actually climb up the buildings to get in and that was why all the homes had cages over their windows, even on very high floors! The shops also had massive, steel garage doors that they pulled up in the morning and pulled down at night. There was very little of breaking rules happening in Taiwan like there is in westernized countries regarding vandalism, petty crime, physical assaults, and even day-to-day societal mores. Yet, there is still a lot of social freedom like free speech, especially since political reforms in the mid-1980’s.
In terms of one’s physical safety out-of-doors, it was and is very, very safe at any time of day or night, in any part of Taipei or Taiwan. It’s not scary at all, and I’ve never felt or been bothered or threatened by any Taiwanese person in the 3+ years total that I’ve lived in Taiwan.. Whether I was coming home late, or stepping out in the middle of the night to the local Family Mart for a snack, it’s never felt out of the ordinary. I’ll admit, I was stalked once by an older Taiwanese man when I was 19, but it wasn’t scary or threatening, only angering.
Here is a list from worldatlas.com of the top 50 most dangerous cities of the world, country by country, in terms of # of murders:
- Venezuela (Caracas, Maturin, Valencia, Ciudad Guyana, Barquisimeto, Cumana, Gran Barcelona, Maracaibo)
- Honduras (San Pedro Sula, Distrito Central)
- El Salvador (San Salvador)
- Mexico (Acapulco, Culiacan, Tijuana, Victoria, Obregon)
- Colombia (Palmira, Cali, Pereira)
- South Africa (Cape Town, Durban, Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg)
- Brazil (Fortaleza, Natal, Salvador, Joao Pessoa, Maceio, Sao Luis, Cuiaba, Manaus, Belem, Feira de Santana, Goiania, Teresina, Vitoria, Vitória da Conquista,Recife, Aracaju, Campos dos Goytacazes, Campina Grande, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Macapa)
- U.S.A. (St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans)
- Guatemala (Guatemala)
- Jamaica (Kingston)
So, the big question: why are Taiwanese citizens so safe compared to citizens of some other countries?
What I’m noticing the most is Taiwanese people don’t abandon each other. Parents don’t shove their kids out the door for good at age 16, 18 if the child is rebellious. Taiwanese parents aren’t as hard on their kids or push them to grow up so quickly as in the west. They shelter their kids and watch out for them moreso. Their families also stick together more with grandparents hugely apart of their children and grandchildren’s lives, and there is less divorce. Taiwanese parents often go to great lengths in their working years to give their kids a university education, even sending them overseas to study in a western country where tuition for non-residents is double or even triple the amount that citizens pay! That’s a great feat! Parents in Taiwan make huge efforts to make sure their kids are successful, including pushing them in school to study hard for long hours to do well on exams. I would say the Taiwanese education system really needs an upgrade, but even the school system is set up where it is almost impossible for a child to fall through the cracks; Taiwan currently has a no-child-left-behind policy where they have created extra programs and classes for students who aren’t getting it, to make it through the state curriculum. So at least, according to Taiwan’s education system, the child has not failed.
The next biggest thing I’ve noticed in Taiwan is if you threaten or actually hurt someone, the person who was threatened or hit will tell EVERYONE about it, and the abuser will lose status, big time. Even when there is a player or cheater in the midst, women and men here make a big fuss compared to the typical western woman and man. Here, anyone will openly warn you about people (I was protected on two occasions from guys who showed interest in me whose dealings with other women weren’t good). Your peer group and the community will shake their heads and talk about you when you’re just a table away. You will lose face.
Here’s a TED about a man who runs men’s leadership program for the U.S. Marines Corp and American Football leagues. He is also an anti-sexism educator. His main question when it comes to physical and sexual assault of women, boys, and girls is, “What’s going on with men?”
A few months ago I was sitting in a woman’s small outdoor café. She makes delicious coffee and offers cookies on the side. There was a group of us chatting about random news of a man who hurt people on the MRT in Taipei, and how he will be in jail for life. I asked how long lifetime sentences are here in Taiwan, and she said literally, the rest of the person’s life (although I believe it depends on intent). In North America, spending life in jail usually means 15-25 years. In Taiwan, I’ve heard it said at least 3 times from different Taiwanese citizens that if someone murders someone in Taiwan, if that person isn’t picked up by the police and sent to jail, the people of Taiwan will beat that person to death themselves: 他會被薹灣人打死。They’re not actually beaten to death, but beaten up quite well for revenge. Essentially, Taiwanese people take care of societal problem societally. I’ve also heard the laws around murder is actually not that strict compared to their laws around drugs, but these are general opinions of people I’ve asked.
So, why did I write this article?
I recently have had infrequent communication with a young man I went to junior high and high school with in the province of Alberta, Canada. He’s apparently been unhappy with his life and himself for some time. I remember him in junior high school as having unique behavioral characteristics that some may label as slow (I hardly know how to describe it, we’re all so different…) or learning challenges, perhaps. I remember him being good to others and generous, though. When people asked him for gum or something he had, he would hesitate, but then share. Such resources can be precious in school as a student. 🙂 We had an English class together with Mr. Beatty in grade 8 I think, and a Visual Arts class as well. I remember him being himself, speaking his unique opinions with his own humor, and never hurting or being a threat to others. He was native I think, had a slight punk/grunge look, not flamboyant though, wearing all black clothing, not caring about rips, and keeping his hair grown to his shoulders.
So, what happened with him? Until now he’s never kissed a girl, and neither said I love you to a girl nor heard those words repeated back to him. He said he is giving himself 3 years more to live because he can’t fathom a life lived alone, unloved, unappreciated, invisible. He said he’s already been out to meet people, but that his fate has already been decided, that there is no place in his life for love and friendship. He said some people try and try and never get friendship or love, and others don’t have to try and they never have a shortage of it.
I was a bit shocked, it came out of nowhere. Some people are happy with a simple life and others are searching for more, I guess. But my first response was just suggesting he start loving and appreciating himself, to ask himself often, how he can take care of himself, his needs, wants, etc.
His response was, “sorry, I can’t love myself”. That response right there was the end.
The sob stories continued.
I acknowledged the depression, but emphasized more than anything that he’s got to love and care for himself, otherwise how can he expect others to? The undeniable fact is he’s lovable, end of story.
We went back and forth a little, getting to the heart of it: he felt worthless; on the bottom of the Darwinism totem pole; at the feet of the elites like dirt. He asked why couldn’t he have been an animal or something else, because he can’t even interact with his own species. He said, humans need social interaction, and the best he can do is write to someone from another country (me). He continues, all he wants are real friends, not the fake ones, and the love of a good woman, which he thinks could cure everything in his life and set him at ease. So, we’re teasing out some deep, universal needs: true friends and a good partner to love and to be loved by – basic stuff! However, because he can’t have (get) these things, he’s set his expiration date for 2019 Nov 20 at 6:30.
I told him it sounds like he needs to talk to someone professionally on a regular basis. I let him know a little bit about the period in my life where I felt depressed and that I went to talk to someone about it. Heartbreak, struggling with self-confidence, feeling unsupported, unseen… I think I looked fine, I had friends, dates, I was getting my degree, and I was attractive and fairly active. But, everyone has periods of weakness and sadness in this life, and sometimes we can’t and shouldn’t bare the burden alone. We need to talk to someone whose job it is to listen and help us fix our lives and feel better from the inside out. There is nothing shameful in this. We got to get on our feet.
Later on, this man’s messages were getting a little more extreme and I responded more slowly because I felt that he was trying to emotionally manipulate me to get my attention and sympathy. Who likes that? Instead of waiting for me to get back to him, he sent worse correspondences to get a response, like his attempted suicide by hanging. I can be an accepting friend to someone, but I cannot pull them out of the trench they themselves wish to stay in, and use, to get needs met.
The final correspondence I got from him before I blocked and reported him was:
“to funny someone just tried to label me as a sociopath/serial killer more like it. I only could say I wish I was a serial killer they have it all or more then I do. They can blend into society with ease. have the power of charm and other delights/illusions I could only wish for. example the most famous of all of them Ted Bundy. This guy had it all somehow, has a gf/wife, friends here and there as well. He raped and killed I think 40+ woman in a span of 4 years. He was caught and convicted to jail. Now heres the real kicker when he was in jail women still lined up and wanted him after knowing his convictions against women. All and all it’s the charm/illusions skill want real life magicians.”
In my last message I said that esteeming a man who committed horrendous crimes against women is where we draw the line. I asked him to check himself, characterized that this is not the direction he wants to be headed, and that this behaviour is not okay. We all want attention, but messing with women, the very creatures he wishes to love, isn’t the way. I pointed him in the direction of a good, holistic healing clinic in the area he lives, and let him know I will be telling people back home. I asled him to start looking around and noticing others’ struggles – notice that he isn’t the only one.
There isn’t a soul that hasn’t suffered.
What distinguishes certain souls from others? Those who take the lemons and make lemonade. I said, if he really wants to feel better, helping others feels really good. Who needs help? Old people, animals in shelters, invalids. And the earth, what about the few billion trees it needs in order to bring down the CO2 in the atmosphere? I challenged him: How are you helping? I said, The idea is, instead of seeing how everyone can give to you, how can you give to them? Instead of trying to get someone to love you, how can you love others? Not the love that demands something in return, but pure love that loves for the sheer joy of it.
I truly hope westerners can travel a little more to parts of the world where family values, connection, and community is important… Additionally, I hope the return of front-porch culture, knowing your neighbours, including others, and generosity comes back; a culture based on friendships and relationships, rather than the individual; where we stick by one another loyally, and draw healthy boundaries so the people around us know what is OK, and what is not. I believe the more connections we have, the less loneliness and separation we will feel. The more support we have and provide, the more inclusion in and contribution to the society we will feel. It means placing less importance on the things that provide you with a sense of status and false-popularity, and giving more importance to the living world: people, animals, plants, nature.
Congratulations Taiwan, for having a society that maintains these ideals, and by doing so, the people are happier, and therefore safer. 🙂 xo