but expert at what?
For much of May 2021, Taiwan was a nation on edge. And as we move into mid-June, things are pretty much the same.
Millions around the country have been living under a form of COVID-induced quasi-lockdown for several weeks. Increasing numbers are dying, and several hundred new cases are added to the national tally of infections on a daily basis.
The CDC are proving more reactionary than proactive on the surface. Little emerging from the depths seems to indicate otherwise, especially as the weeks trundle on.
Figures of those infected were for a long time backdated in an interesting at best, bizarre at worst, record keeping methodology seen in few other developed nations.
At present the jury is out on whether or not things will improve in the near future.
Taiwan being Taiwan though, it depends who you ask as to whether or not the country is slipping into the pandemic abyss occupied by so many other unfortunate nations around the world for so long.
So-called ‘Pan-Blue’ media, would have us believe the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of President Tsai Ing-wen is doing nothing to alleviate the shortage of vaccines as it plays politics and shuns offers of help in any way, shape or form – if linked to our overbearing cousin across the Taiwan Strait.
For many supporters of Pan-Blue media, Tsai is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t.
Pan-Green types are equally blinkered and monotone in their rhetoric.
Few in this camp get through a paragraph of written commentary without trying to accuse the once almighty Kuomintang (KMT) of trying to derail the ruling party’s efforts at vaccine acquisition, whilst simultaneously avoiding anything even slightly critical of President Tsai and her party.
The Chinese language media in Taiwan offers up examples of both versions of the ‘truth’ and is reasonably well balanced. But newspaper A – you know you are getting the Blue Truth. Newspaper B offers up the Green Truth.
The reality lies somewhere in the middle.
However, the English language media covering Taiwan offers far slimmer pickings overall, but is almost entirely made up of Pan-Green types – albeit most without a vote – blinkers firmly attached, keyboards set to ‘viridi‘.
There is but one rather bland print newspaper in the English language in Taiwan – The Taipei Times – and a handful of online news sites and blogs of varying levels of journalistic integrity and balance. Some demonstrate investigative talents, others publish pieces seemingly written in an alcoholic stupor.
All lean left. None lean right.
Few ever get near the middle ground on a political ranking chart.
This in itself should serve as a warning that little coming out of Taiwan, in English at least, is balanced, let alone fair.
It is much the same with international correspondents for big name media with just one or two notable exceptions who at times seek to venture back towards the middle ground of journalism/reporting they once learned about.
Praise for President Tsai – often justified, not always – abounds in coverage sent to foreign newsrooms. Criticism, when due, is on a par with sightings of Formosan black bears – in the wild! Very hard to find indeed.
As a result the majority of those covering Taiwan in English, either based here in Taiwan, or elsewhere but for media around the globe, are now struggling with how to address issues the arrival of COVID on these shores is throwing up.
WFH – the popular abbreviation nowadays for Work From Home – has now become a focal point for many in Taiwan’s comfortably-off western led foreign community to rally around and criticize the society – but rarely the government – that could do no wrong for the past year.
As we enjoyed open air events, indoor get togethers, and zero limitations on travel, shopping, dining out etc., those now decrying societal approaches to working in Taiwan were silent. They quite happily pocketed paychecks above and beyond those enjoyed by their neighbors, but said nothing about the working conditions these neighbors endured – and continue to endure.
Now that the virus has come knocking in audible tones though, the English language ranks of Taiwan’s social media is full of experts on how the WFH concept should work, should have already been set up, and how backward employers in Taiwan are for not immediately allowing everyone to clock-in from their sofa, while still in their PJs.
And none of this blame is being attributed to those in power for the past five years.
Employers only being ‘encouraged‘ by the ruling elite to allow WFH is ignored.
The blame for not acting lies with the employers themselves. Imagine that – business types for whom money matters most doing what brings them the most money.
That ‘unseeing, unidentifiable’ go-to when nothing else will fit the bill is to blame – society.
A safe will o’ the wisp type scapegoat if you will.
At the same time, the party that the majority of said ‘Taiwanese society’ opted for as their leaders in the past two elections remains largely unchallenged by those western raised or educated greens without a vote.
So, where was this expertise and concern for labor issues, this activism and these demands over the last year when these same hard-done-by souls were promoting pineapple diplomacy, and oftentimes boasting, cringingly so, on Facebook and Twitter of how ‘normal’ life here in Taiwan was?
How many were WFHing last summer, as the seasons turned and the nights became darker? How many lost sleep over the dormitories and working conditions migrant workers have long been forced to endure?
The intricacies of epidemiology and global medical supply systems are other areas of expertise so many in the western foreign community in particular now espouse and take to the WWW to demonstrate.
Soon after the daily 2:00 pm CDC press conference at which we learn of the latest stats, the numbers of those infected, those now dead, and of new hotspots, up pop the experts to ‘interpret’ the truth behind the numbers; experts with, one might cynically say, more time spent propping up bars around Taipei in the past 12 months, than hours spent studying the method in which viruses spread, mutate and generally cause mischief.
How is it then, with so many experts in such fields as varied as virology, pandemic management, labor rights and pineapples, that we in Taiwan were not able to sidestep the virus altogether?
How are so many green leaning, foreign experts able to offer immediate solutions to this pandemic, but not know at whose feet societal responsibilities for these woes we now face should be placed?
Unless – they are not experts – and never were.