A well-known Taiwanese writer and film director came to give a talk last night to share his life story: how a son of a miner grew into an extremely productive and popular writer, director and producer. His early life as a child from a miner village, as a teenage who moved to the big city as an apprentice, as a young soldier sent to a remote island for two years, is way too intriguing and interesting.
I pondered particularly over one story he mentioned. One day he, at boy age, was peeing on the street. A middle-aged man in his village saw it and gave him a slap “How dare you!’. He went home punished and said nothing after. The next week, the man met his father on the street. Thanks to a good memory, he brought up the peeing story. That is how the boy got his second slap, from his father, ‘How dare you!”. Eight months later, he was doing homework at home. The slapping man’s wife came to visit his mom and the peeing story slipped again. ‘How dare you’. This third slap was from his mother. We all laughed out loud over it but I did continue to probe a bit deeper a few conceptions behind the slaps on a pee story.
There is a strong sense of shared responsibility to infuse the right conduct in the story. A man who is not the father of the particular boy, immediately took up the role of a father when the boy demonstrated an in appropriate behaviour. I am sure he is not the only one who would do such among the others of the same village. Obviously this small village has a standard code of conduct (what to do and what not to do) as well as stanford culture. The disciplinary function is shared among all adults towards children.
There is also very little sense of privacy here. The man could have kept the story between himself and the boy. However apparently privacy is not even an idea occurred to him. He shared the incident with his wife, the boy’s father and indirectly the boy’s mother. Life is very transparent in that community. There is pros and cons to it. At least I am sure the boy never peed on the street again.
I assume the reason for those two conceptions is economic. When households have to rely on each other to survive economically, the role of a community outweighs the significance of individualism and privacy. People took similar roles before specialisation came to shape. But why certain cultures move out of this mode and certain cultures otherwise, remains an enigma to me still.