Sunday, March 23, 2008

The basic rules of life to Taiwanese and Japanese people


To Taiwanese and Japanese people, the basic rules of life are simply as follows:

1) The purpose of life is to work hard and long in order to be secure, successful and virtuous in life.

2) Even after you become successful, wealthy or financially independent, you should still continue working long and hard for the rest of your life to remain a virtuous and noble person, or “just because” that’s how Chinese people like it.

3) One is permitted to have enjoyment and pleasure in life, but only for brief moments. Such must be strictly limited and controlled, lest they destroy society and make everyone lazy and idle. For there is no virtue in enjoyment or pleasure, only in working hard and toiling long hours is there virtue. When you are too old to work hard, then you may start enjoying life, relaxing and traveling, somewhat, but only in an inhibited proper way.

4) A normal decent person conforms to society, obeys authority, and “follows the pack”. There is a right proper way of doing everything. If anyone deviates from it, they must be fixed, corrected, and controlled into doing it the right proper way.

Needless to say, I don't agree with these rules. Instead, I believe that the purpose of life is to enjoy it and do what you love, regardless of the outcome. In my book, anything else is a wasted life.

Of course, there are some in the Western world who share such beliefs about the rules of life as well. They are the strict, conservative, conformist, socially inept, workaholic, all work and no play, robotic, shallow, materialistic types with no understanding or interest in the deeper dimensions of life, that we have all met one way or another. Obviously, I don’t vibe or jive with such people. The types of people I get along with best are artist types, freespirits, freethinkers, intellectuals, writers, actors, travelers, existentialists, etc. I must say though, that one can be one of these types while being responsible, sensible, and practical at the same time, as I myself am an example.

Their purpose in life is to work to death, literally

Taiwanese generally also love working to death, literally. Many work 7 days a week with no days off, for their whole life, and actually enjoy it that way. And this even includes those who are rich or financially independent. I can’t understand how anyone can be that way. But as my advisors explained, they measure everything by their practical worth, they do not live for the romantic, passionate or wild side. To them, the purpose of life is to work hard and long, suffering during the process, in order to be successful and make money. There’s a certain honor and glory in being a workaholic in their eyes. That’s what they live and breathe. Like many Americans, they live to work. They don’t know how to live life any other way. It’s even part of their culture to constantly chant to each other “work hard!” (“pah-biah” in Taiwanese) as if it were some kind of religion or mantra.

To me, that’s just insane. I've always believed that the purpose of life is to enjoy it. And if you don't, then it's a wasted life, no matter how much you attain materially. Likewise, I believe that people should do what they love most. And if they can make money doing what they love, then great. But if not, they should still continue doing it, because not doing what you really love in your heart and passion, is a wasted life in my book. In short, I'd rather be broke doing what I love, than make a good living not doing what I love. I know that some will argue that in an ideal world, everyone would be doing what they love, but the reality is that sometimes you have to do what you don't love in order to make ends meet and pay the bills. I don't agree though. Even if I have no way of doing what I love to make ends meet, there are always choices in life, and I'd still choose to go for broke doing what I love and reap the consequences. That's how I am. Regardless of the tangible outcome, I prefer to live according to my beliefs and integrity, rather than in fear following what society dictates.

From my perspective, the Taiwanese populace are like robots without independent thought. But from their point of view, they probably think I’m weird as well, cause I’m not like them. What a strange mismatch. If I were white, they’d be less surprised that I was different than them, but being a Taiwanese Asian, it shocks their paradigm completely it seems.

Another thing that I don’t get is that since the economy of Taiwan has boomed the past decade, greatly improving their standard of living, why do they still have to work so hard and suffer with little freedom or enjoyment outside of that. Well one answer is of course, that like Americans, they “live to work” so no matter how well off they are, their purpose of life is still to work hard, even if they’re already rich, for the glory and honor of its own sake. But it can be argued that they wouldn’t have become a rich country if it wasn’t for their workaholic busy-bee lifestyle and mentality in the first place.

One of my advisors explained that Taiwan, like other Oriental countries, is a robot society engineered strictly to make money and fuel the world’s economy. And thus, its citizens become like busy-bee ants laboring perpetually for that purpose. Of course, a typical Taiwanese person who’s never left the country would think this is normal, unless he/she has experienced life otherwise elsewhere.

Perhaps it’s all a matter of perspective, depending on where you’re coming from. From a typical Taiwanese person’s view, these things are normal and I’m the “strange one”. Oh well. Maybe I am.

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