Taiwan is an island. Literally and, often, figuratively. One thing you must do battle with here is provincial attitudes that are sometimes quite surprising. Many people here have no clue about world history and culture. I’m not sure if it is due to having been educated with KMT blinders on, or just blissful and lazy ignorance. There is so much to teach people here—mostly young adults—about the world. It’s frightening.
I just had a student come into my office looking for my office mate. She was wearing a necklace with a friggin’ Nazi swastika on it. It’s not the first time I have seen it. A guy last week biked by me wearing a swastika shirt, and I didn’t have time to question him, but it seems to be part of a “fashion” to wear them.
I remember hearing a story once my friend told me about a Taiwanese guy who showed up to watch a German soccer match in a local pub while wearing a Nazi swastika shirt as an emblem of his support for the German team. The Germans (as well as all other foreigners) who were there were horrified, and finally my friend told this guy that it just isn’t appropriate due to its symbolic meaning. I think he went to the bathroom and reversed his shirt and all was fine. But the Taiwanese staff didn’t think anything of the fact that he was wearing it and was deeply offending half the bar.
So when this girl walked in, I could question her about why she was wearing a swastika around her neck. I explained that in the rest of the world, that would be likely to anger and offend many people. Her response? She said that she wouldn’t wear it in Europe or the U.S., but “Here is Taiwan.” What, is there no meaning to this symbol in Taiwan? Is Taiwan exempt from responsible actions? What is she thinking? I went on to explain that the symbol still has meaning in Taiwan, and she needs to think what message she is sending. Even after explaining that it is basically a symbol representing her support of the killing of 6 million people, she said “I know” and tucked it in her shirt. On what planet does it become acceptable as a fashion statement to wear the Nazi swastika? And why was I the first person to make her feel embarrassed enough to hide it?
Sometimes this place is just so disconnected with reality, so myopic. It’s no wonder international news here lasts a pitifully short time, with the rest of the news focusing on ridiculous and unsubstantiated local news stories, inevitably resulting in the ceaseless badgering of some poor soul.
It's an island. Then again, England is an island, and it has the BBC.