Monday, 16 February 2009

Can Asians be White Supremacists?

It was a glorious, sunny afternoon in Taipei that accompanied me on an aimless wandering when a particularly odd object caught my eye. At a "punk rock" shop among the stickers and patches was a small Nazi flag. The sky ominously darkened as I began pondering the white supremacist movement's supreme accomplishment of successfully indoctrinating Asians to believe in the superiority of the white race.

Obviously, Taiwanese are not race - confused proponents of white supremacy who fly Nazi flags from every awning. Swastikas can be spotted in Buddhist temples and used to identify food that is vegetarian. In Asia, no other symbol can be as perplexing to Westerners. Those who went to college should have learned that Hitler and his national socialists were not the inventors of the symbol but perhaps the hijackers. Once the swastika became the major identifying symbol for the Nazi's it was destined to become the quintessential badge of white supremacy and racial cleansing. Although the swastika has a completely different meaning in Asia and should not be considered offensive on its own in Taiwan ( or China) , a Nazi flag is more than just a swastika. Its a flag that will forever be a symbol for fascism and white supremacy. I find its presence in Taipei bizarre. History has sealed the fate of this symbol for westerners and will most likely never take on a positive meaning for a long time to come.

On the second thought...McDonalds, KFC, Nazi flags, Linkin Park, belly button rings...

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Special Treatment

Middle fingers, spitting, and hand gestures do not always carry the same meaning in different countries. One hand gesture that does have the same meaning in Taiwan and China as it has in the United States is the signal for "Jerk off". If you don't know what that means then you were probably the home schooled child of a religious bigot (and closet homo).

One night while at an "entertainment club", a gentleman approached my friend and I and said something in Chinese that was spoken with a thick Taiwanese accent. I didn't understand what he had said and looked at my friend for a little translation help,
"He asked if we want the special treatment".
The man then asked again and made the gesture for hand job.
I sat there a little drunk and a little bewildered why this man was asking me this. Neither of us replied so the man began talking and doing the gesture again. Without looking at the stranger I said out loud, "yeah I get it. I understand what this means (doing gesture). No, I don't need the special treatment."

We translated simply with "we don't want" and proceeded to be entertained without the special treatment.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A Light in the Sky

During the new year holiday I took a day trip to Ping Shi with a couple of friends. From Taipei, it takes the train about an hour or so to arrive in the mountainous town. Ping Shi is famous for tian dun, sky lanterns, and is a popular destination for the lantern festival.

The four of us arrived in Ping Shi on a rainy afternoon. We ate and then headed toward one of the shops that specializes in sky lanterns. We bought one that was white, appropriate for a rainy night so we could watch it as it ascends the sky. Traditionally, the belief is that the lantern takes the wishes (and curses) to the gods. I hope the gods are bilingual because there are few traditional wish related phrases that I can write in Chinese. If they aren't, some gods they turned out to be! In the least, I'm sure they will enjoy my picture of a serpent monster eating the Chinese characters for peace.

When we finished decorating the tian dun, we walked to the bridge that crosses the river and lit the special paper inside the lantern. The lantern fills up with gas or smoke emitted from the paper and then lifts off into the sky like a helium balloon. After about ten minutes we saw our lantern become brighter as it began descending in the far off distance. Occasionally, an unfortunate local finds themselves under a curse or on the wrong end of a wish when their house is set on fire by a plummeting lantern from the sky.

On ordinary clear nights, the sky lanterns can travel out of sight. In the rain however, it will still go an extensive distance, but will not disappear from sight. Perhaps it is better to go in the rain because you get to watch you lantern fall out of the sky as it disintegrates. Hopefully, you won't curse any of the locals.