Thursday, September 25, 2008

Another One Bites the Intellectual Upper Crust

The Liberty Times reports that another foreign university instructor, this one at beautiful Chinan University in Puli, is being publicly sued instead of privately reprimanded, for intemperate remarks.... it's yet another sign that the stuff Americans say to each other all the time is legally actionable here in Taiwan -- so watch your mouth!

罵系主任「UP YOURS」 暨大洋教師被訴

〔記者陳鳳麗∕南投報導〕罵人「UP YOURS」是會吃上官司的!

南投地檢署檢察官請專家翻譯後,24日依妨害名譽罪嫌起訴罵同系老師「UP YOURS」的國立暨南大學外文系外籍老師。

辯「隨便你」否認侮辱

起訴書指出,該案發生在去年8月,當時擔任暨大外文系系主任的男副教授周曉青,在該系辦公室內要同系美籍男教師LOREN ALLEN BILLINGS歸還系上的吸塵器,美籍教師不悅地指責系主任不該鎖上系會議室和儲物室,雙方為此起爭執。外籍老師以英文對著周曉青說:「UP YOURS」及「YOU ARE THE MOST BARBARIC CHINESE.(你是最野蠻的中國人)」,周曉青認為他公然污辱,遂向埔里警分局提告。

美籍教師應訊時否認他說了「YOU ARE THE MOST BARBARIC CHINESE.」等語,但承認說了「UP YOURS」。而他辯稱該句英文的意思是「別管了」、「隨便你」的意思。

檢察官請學者翻譯解釋

周曉青向偵辦該案的檢察官劉仁慈指出,「UP YOURS」是極粗野的話,有「比出中指且做出攪動的動作」。劉仁慈檢察官為慎重起見,函請國立台灣師範大學的學者幫忙翻譯解釋,經該校回函表明該語的確是不雅粗魯之語後,確認這名外籍老師的說法不可採信,昨日偵結該案,認為該外師有妨害名譽之嫌而起訴。

周曉青表示,提告並非排外、仇外,也不是為了要報復,而是希望藉此嚴正要求外籍老師絕不能對同事或學生使用語言暴力,更希望有關單位能正視外國人在台灣產生的負面情緒或不當行徑的問題。

周曉青說,LOREN ALLEN BILLINGS在系上已不是第一次出現不雅的話語及動作,過去就有老師提出,也有學生反映過;知識份子絕不能用語言暴力傷害知識份子。


According to the report, Billings admits saying "Up yours" but denies saying "You are the most barbaric Chinese" -- which is extremely awkward English, and would be a highly unusual construction for an educated native speaker to evolve. On the face of it, I don't believe Billings ever made that remark (god knows what was actually said); it also has a made-up ring to it because it appears to push so many cultural buttons (similar to the utterly false accusation that a teacher at my university had used the term "Chinese dog" directed at a student). From my totally uninvolved angle this looks like a typical blown up university incident, in which from some tiny nub of truth evolves a fantastic and elaborate tale of abuse. The remark in the concluding paragraph that Billings has done this before is a signal that he is probably not a popular teacher and therefore an easy target.

My favorite part of this is the plaintiff's remarks:

周曉青表示,提告並非排外、仇外,也不是為了要報復,而是希望藉此嚴正要求外籍老師絕不能對同事或學生使用語言暴力,更希望有關單位能正視外國人在台灣產生的負面情緒或不當行徑的問題。

Chou Shao-ching said that the suit was not a rejection of foreigners or prejudice, nor was it about revenge, but in the hope that through this, it would be seriously demanded that foreign teachers not speak to their coworkers or students using violent language, and also that the authorities should pay attention to the negative mood produced by, and inappropriate behavior of, foreigners in Taiwan.

ROFLMAO. Although this suit is not about ethnic prejudices, nevertheless the plaintiff hopes that the authorities would pay attention to the problems foreigners cause. You just can't make up dialogue like that....

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Question: Would the makers of this soft drink commercial be open to a lawsuit in Taiwan? --->

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsMFZBDIcFs

marc said...

Is there any federation for foreign university teachers in Taiwan?

Seems like foreign teachers at universites can be sitting ducks.

Michael Turton said...

No union yet.

Michael

insectlin said...

I agree with you, as a Taiwanese living in USA, I never heard/saw "barbaric". Is it supposed to be barbarian/barbarous?

There must be something wrong with that department head, I think.

Anonymous said...

"should pay attention to the negative mood produced by, and inappropriate behavior of, foreigners in Taiwan."

Then they can move on to the negative mood produced by, and inappropriate behavior of, Taiwanese in Taiwan? WTF

Mark said...

I hate dishonesty. "You are the most barbaric Chinese" is absurdly unnatural and there's no way an upset English speaker would blurt that out.

That said, lying and persecuting the foreigner sounds pretty "barbaric" to me.

vin said...

Yet another manifestation of the "harmony" value as secular religion in Chinese culture. And what a wierd religion it is: abusive language (if there was some) constitutes blasphemy and invites legal sanction while lying usually does not. Why was there ever a need to in the first place to formalize "harmony" as a "value" in Chinese culture? Answer: there was never any need, but the formalization into a "value" over 2000 years ago of the notion of enforced "harmony" (swathed in a host of taboos and lots of metaphysical bunk) as a social good has given authority a tool it can capriciously employ to preserve and reinforce power and prerogative -- long-term costs and other overall consequences to any more universalist definitions of "social good" be damned.

Arguably, no amount of economic success or scientific achievement can render modern any Chinese peoples who retain allegiance to the dogma of "harmony." And almost inarguably, developed economies such as Taiwan's cannot enjoy further economic development and success so long as a "value" such as this one continues to hold sway (perhaps unless the global neo-liberal model is dropped or significantly altered).

Say it once, twice, and a thousand times: "harmony" equals "harm many." But remember, too, that saying and acting on this understanding can easily bring authority down on your head in the form of a lawsuit of something else.

Chip said...

According to the article, this Billings knob admits he said "up yours," but Billings tries to explain it away with BS translations of "up yours" as "別管了" or "隨便你."

This sort of excuse is laughable: "up yours" means nothing like "別管了" or "隨便你." It means sth like, "去你的," which in my experience is perceived as pretty offensive.

Of course, the helpful explanations including in the report of "up yours" as being "worse than giving somebody the finger" are also more amusing than accurate.

But assuming the report is true, and Billings did say "up yours" to a colleague, Billings deserves to get fired.

I don't think an American university would accept that sort of non-professional conduct from a member of its teaching staff.

Now, if you're saying "Take this job and shove it" as you walk out, never to return, you will at least have my respect. But you can't talk like that to people and expect to stick around. (Not unless you're tenured :).)

Of course, foreigners generally have little or no power in Taiwan and can be subject to all sorts of bad treatment from employers (much as the majority of Taiwanese are). But that doesn't end the responsibility of a teacher to act in a manner consistent with basic collegial respect (yes, even when s/he doesn't always receive that from others).

Anita Kao said...

Could you try to connect this teacher at Chinan university and maybe he can explain it by himself.I think foreign teachers have right to express their experiences and opinions in Taiwan, and Taiwanese will judge this event by our own reason, not by that report.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a case of ugly Chinese nationalism in Taiwan- a side effect of a rising China and post-Olympic euphoria. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

What Vin pointed out about the "harmony" value is true and that value confuses many Chinese

in many events of conflict in family, society, at work and so on. It's frustructed to hear

"以和為貴" "事緩則圓" when actually a person is deprived from the right of fighting for his own justice or arguing for finding the truth.

If "up yours" is bad language used during the quarrel, we should ask" Did it come out to provocate or to fight back?" This was not mendtioned in the report. I think this news didn't fairly report the incident and only presented one side of story and has no benefit to any reader but producing bias and confusion.

Anonymous said...

I am Chinese, I am Chinese,
I am the divine blood of the Yellow Emperor,
I came from the highest place in the world,
Pamir is my ancestral place,
My race is like the Yellow River,
We flow down the Kunlun mountain slope,
We flow across the Asian continent,
From us have flowed exquisite customs.
Mighty nation! Mighty nation!

Wen Yiduo-1928

Yes, the Chinese nationalist tradition of eugenic theory is alive and well. In the 1920's and 1930's the modernizing elites in the KMT incorporated this discourse into concepts of "the national people" and made it the nation's job to ensure strong citizens by encouraging selective breeding of "the race". Foreigners are a threat to the purity of the race. This isn't just confined to the 20's and 30's. During the advent of the AIDS epidemic Chinese nationalists on both sides of the strait concocted all kinds of theories about black people and the diseases they spread.

準共犯 said...

You are the most barbaric Chinese??
-------
如果此言屬實
那位教授顯然是被洗腦
或是在中國夢遊
難道要大膽懷疑是長期服用
三氯氰安的症狀嗎?

Thomas said...

"there's no way an upset English speaker would blurt that out."

Well, they might, but they would be laughed at among native speakers if they did. I would hope a semi-intelligent English speaker would at least use a more biting way to vent his anger. When was the last time you were able to offend someone by saying: Bill, you are the most barbaric man here! Such a barbarian you!

Thomas said...

"Arguably, no amount of economic success or scientific achievement can render modern any Chinese peoples who retain allegiance to the dogma of "harmony."

Which is why I cringe when I hear of the renaissance of Confucianism in China.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it was feared that the degree of offensiveness of "up yours" would be a bit too difficult to impress upon Taiwanese, and so the extra "You are the most barbaric Chinese" was therefore added to the charge just for good measure (apparently by someone unfamiliar with colloquial English).

They obviously want the guy outta there completely, and not just reprimanded.

FOARP said...

A friend of mine who used to write for the Taiwan News (before moving on [hopefully] to do sub-editing at the Guardian) did as story on this last year. An American woman who had been involved in a dispute with a Taiwanese lady had been taken to court after allegedly insulting her adversary. The American lady had broken her arm, and whilst leaving the hospital with her arm in a cast had been approach by the Taiwanese lady, the lady had asked her how she was feeling, and when the American answered that hse had broken her arm, the Taiwanese lady said "good". The American then allegedly responded "Fuck You!", although she claims that what she actually said was "well forget you!". The judge ruled that in either case it was insulting behaviour, and that the American was to pay a fine of 6,000 NT.

An friend of mine (let's call him B. O.) was also arrested whilst teaching and doing his doctorate in a Taiwanese university. Suffice it to say that I know that he was entirely guilty of the charges (possession of stolen scooters), but whilst he was under arrest in police cells (i.e., before he had been tried) a photographer took a picture of him in hand-cuffs without asking for permission. This picture was then spread all over every tabloid newspaper in Taiwan, and all of these stories addressed him as a 'foreign criminal' and carried helpful information boxes pointing out that the law in Taiwan also applies to foreigners. Now, like I said, B.O. was guilty with a capital T, but he had not been tried and found guilty when these reports came out. Of course, on being given bail, he promptly fled the country, so I guess the newspapers had it wrong - the law actually doesn't apply to foreigners!

Anonymous said...

I'm a student at that department and I wanna say something. That Chou teacher, he specialize at making things up and pissing ppl off, he think he's a big shot. Neither native nor foreign teacher like him at all. He just likes to be in the center of attention. Billings was just pissed off, that's all. Chou himself always criticizes the education system in Taiwan, he think that Taiwan students don't use their brain too much, and one more thing, he's from Hong Kong.

Michael Turton said...

Of course, on being given bail, he promptly fled the country, so I guess the newspapers had it wrong - the law actually doesn't apply to foreigners!

What? Fleeing the country on bail is a time-honored Taiwan legal practice!

Anonymous said...

"You are the most barbaric Chinese" - If any foreign teacher, and by this I am assuming English teacher, says such a thing then they shouldn't be employed in a University or for that matter even a buxiban due to their appalling verbiage.

Readin said...

The awkwardness of the English isn't really a solid defense. When trying to hurt someone with words, people naturally use words they think will hurt.

Calling someone who speaks English poorly a "gullible nincompoop" will elicit little more than a puzzled look. But if I'm irritated to someone who I know feels strongly about Chinese superiority over western barbarians, then "Chinese barbarian" might be just the right words to use.

Of course, from a non-barbaric legal standpoint it shouldn't matter whether or not he said those words, freedom of speech should be respected by the law (though not necessarily by his employer).

If he gets fined for this, will not the Chinese government (at least its Chinese with Ma in charge) have proven he was right to talk about "Chinese barbarians"?

Readin said...

What? Fleeing the country on bail is a time-honored Taiwan legal practice!

Not just Taiwan. I've known foreign visitors to flee the U.S. to avoid financial obligations.

Anonymous said...

The professor has his own sweet little web page:

http://www.flld.ncnu.edu.tw/flld2004/teacher.asp?no=4

Anonymous said...

And here is the profile for the foreign teacher in question:

http://www.flld.ncnu.edu.tw/flld2004/teacher.asp?no=8