Erenlai - New Ethical Challenges 全球化之下的倫理重建
New Ethical Challenges 全球化之下的倫理重建

New Ethical Challenges 全球化之下的倫理重建

Here are testimonies and analyses that explore business ethics, life technology ethics, and environmental ethics - all fields that determine the way we conceive our nature, monitor our social conducts and foresee our future.

全球化的浪潮也捲起一波波對倫理重建的討論。從跨國企業到生命科學,從教育體系到宗教與社會倫理,我們窺見不同區域中的反省力量可能帶來的轉變與啟示!

 

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Taipei County Wetlands Projects

Interview with Shi-hui Chen from the Water Resources Bureau of Taipei County.
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Watch an interview of Prof. Chen (Academia Sinica) who explains how wetlands work

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Colonization without Colonialism?

When did European colonialism start? What were its original objectives? How did it develop and shape the destiny of the nations that would later be established on its ruins? The question resonates in various ways in different parts of the world. In East Asia, the Dutch were one of the early colonizers – or were they? The question of the original nature and purposes of Dutch Asian settlements remains a hotly debated question. Presently residing at Leiden University, I am surprised to see how sensitive the issue remains, both for Dutch historians and for scholars of the nations where the Dutch staged their expansion. Much of it has to do with the intricate relationship between commerce, military force and nation-building….

It has been argued that the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC), the forefront of Dutch expansion, went through a transition from commercial power to territorial empire in the second half of the 17th century. Arguably, the transition was mainly caused by the local political situation in Java, where Jan Pietersz Coen had established the company headquarters in 1619. Such a change would be the watershed through which the VOC was supposed to have evolved from a “mere commercial powerhouse” to a power “colonial” in nature.

However, the rapid expansion of the VOC in eastern Indonesia and the Far East already undertaken during the first decades of its existence indicates otherwise: the change of character, if any, occurred well before it was embroiled into Javanese politics. Patronized by the States-General of the Netherlands, the VOC was – to borrow Leonard Blussé’s words – a “strange company” ever since the time of its foundation. It was meant to compete with other European powers for the Oriental riches – and not only through pure commercial means. Besides a 21-year monopoly on all Dutch trade in Asia, the VOC was also given quasi-governmental powers, including the ability to wage war, negotiate treaties, coin money and even establish colonies. That is to say, even in terms of the character determined by its founders at the very beginning, the VOC was more than a company of commerce.

In fact, attempting to characterize or qualify an enterprise set up in pre-modern times through our modern categories might be utterly anachronistic – and this applies to the question of determining whether the VOC was or was not “colonial” in nature, as the word chiefly refers to an array of phenomena linked to European expansionism during the course of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the rich literature on this issue reveals how much the “nature” of the VOC has aroused the historian’s curiosity. Such curiosity might be linked to the perplexities we feel when confronted with the mindset of a time when international trade was not supposed to be inscribed into a world order regulated by civil laws and concord. In other words, the question of the nature of the VOC is to be understood as an interrogation on the way colonization was interwoven with trade in the pre-modern era. When dealing with such an issue we are thus led to revise our understanding of how a certain kind of activity (in this case, trade) is defined and takes place in a given temporal context.

We may begin our investigation with a statement made in 1685 by Coenraad van Beuningen, one of the Heeren XVII. In expressing his serious concern about the company’s ever increasing expenses, he explicitly admitted that “it is commonplace and to a certain extent the truth to say that the Dutch East India Company is not just a company of commerce but also of state.” With this acknowledgement of the twofold character of the VOC he further stressed: “it would be very wrong... if from this it were decided that for reasons of State, and not just for commercial profit, cost must be made for occupation, conquest, fortification.” To Van Beuningen, the employment of violence itself was not a problem – as long as it was justified by commercial incentives.

That coercion and trade could go hand in hand had been demonstrated a few decades earlier, when the dazzling profit of monopolized spice trade necessitated violent intervention in the Moluccas: the bloody conquest of Banda in 1621 left the islands practically depopulated. The introduction of Moluccan slavery and the creation of a “plantation colony” on Banda (very much similar to the Spanish colonies in the New World but unique in the Company’s history) were the inevitable consequences of the conquest - though the conquest itself was not motivated by the idea of building up a colony. As Els Jacobs has indicated, the “entire Dutch adventure in Asia, the founding of the VOC, and the building of an Asia trade network had originally been initiated for no other reason than the extremely lucrative trade in spices.” What happened in the Moluccas, from the Dutch takeover of Amboina from Portuguese hands in 1605 to “the solemn submission of Ternate” in 1648, was not done for gaining political prestige but for securing a profit. Still, there was no way of achieving such a goal without using violence and legitimizing its use through state-granted powers and privileges.

The same can be said about the curious Dutch colony on Formosa. A “sudden, relatively uncontested expansion,” says Leonard Blussé, and a seemingly unnecessary one for a commercial enterprise. The Formosan conquest makes sense only when understood as a part of Coen’s construction work – building up an intra-Asian network for the company. Initially, the Dutch settled in Taoyuan for no other reason than creating an entrepôt for trade with China and Japan. It proved to be a worthy investment, as a regular trade relationship gradually took shape in the following decade. But before the island was lost to Koxinga, the company (just as happened in the Moluccas and Java) became more and more affected by local politics, which eventually led the directors to cast their doubts on the necessity of expansion.

The VOC expansion in Asia was undoubtedly colonization, in the sense that it included the seizure and control of lands on which the natives were subjected to Dutch law and mere coercion, and also because the whole endeavour was depleting the resources of these lands for the sole benefit of Dutch merchants. However, as exemplified by the Moluccas and Formosa examples, it was mercantile in nature rather than colonialist. The term “colonialism” is understood and used today with rather vague Marxist undertones: it has become roughly interchangeable with the one of “imperialism” and relates to the development of capitalism rather than to the mercantilist era. When referring to this complex web of meaning, it is indeed problematic to say that the VOC was a colonial power if we cannot prove that its endeavour was guided by a colonialist/imperialist ideology.

Indeed, historical documents do not offer evidence that the enterprise was guided by such underlying ideology. Still, a last point needs to be made: the Company was founded also to finance the war against the Spanish Crown, namely, in the context and for the purpose of building the Dutch Republic. In that respect, though it cannot be described as a full-fledged colonial power, the VOC played a major role in the development of European colonialism: the contest of its creation provides us with the missing link between the formation of the European nation-state and the colonial expansion of the latter. Ultimately, the extent to which we use the term “colonial power” to define the nature and role of the VOC is closely related to our understanding of the Dutch Republic as an early case of nation-state building, long before the rise of nationalism in the 19th century.

Photo by N. Priniotakis

Thursday, 05 November 2009

The Earth's Kidneys

Professor Chen from the Biodiversity Center of the Academia Sinica (Taipei) talks about wetlands in Taiwan.

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Noble Nobel

Please enough already! I don’t know how many times I have heard this lately. The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that none other than the President of the USA, Barack Hussein Obama II, shall be awarded with the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. And it’s all wonderful and everyone is so happy about this. Finally some truth and justice is done in today’s corrupted world. On several occasions now I have heard, not only from Taiwanese, how great it is. And just like that, the future seems brighter already.

Naturally I’m all for following the herd and my applause is usually one of the loudest, but in this case I have to take one step back. Of course we all like the guy. He is the first African American to have ever been elected into the Oval Office in the White house and just the name of the building says how hard it must have been for him. He’s also young, charismatic and looks like he actually loves his wife. On the other hand he’s also conducting two wars and the U.S. still practices rendition, thus I really have to salute the Committee for their devotion and courage. I’m sure they will all be major candidates for ‘the greatest fan’ award. Unfortunately, I fear that I already undermined my own nomination, when I asked: “Is this really the right guy to be winning a peace prize?”

It’s not that bad though, I think the committee members heard just one of Barack’s brilliant speeches and their hearts were so moved that their whole bodies twitched and as they did, their brains jumped out and ran towards Obama to ask for an autograph. Maybe it’s my own character imperfection, that I can’t fully appreciate this memorable moment or the great significance of this prize. Never mind of course that they forgot to award a few people like Mahatma Gandhi or in the fields of science Nicola Tesla and Thomas Edison, they still managed to honour great names like Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Henry Kissinger and many others. It’s a great award.

So I completely agree that Barack’s speeches are apparently award-winning and it reminds me a little about all the beauty contests like Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss Galaxy, Miss McDonald’s, Miss Small Small Town etc. that I have seen. During the interview part there is always some kind of sly question for the finalists like: “What is the one thing our society needs?” The answer naturally being: “World peace.” That’s the moment where I cry like a baby pulling my hair out and shouting exuberantly that it’s the right answer almost as much as every judge on that show. It’s a wonderful moment full of pride and hope. But then those judges usually settle down and want to see the girl’s ass. And if the ass is good, she’ll win.

I dare say that it may be possible for the Nobel Committee to do the same thing. I’m not particularly interested in Obama’s ass, nor do I think this is what we should be evaluating on the current US president. On the other hand if you must, suit yourself. But if you look at the bottom of Obama’s administration are you really sure that this contestant should be the one to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

Photo by C. Phiv


Friday, 25 September 2009

After the Winds of War

In 1971 the American Herman Wouk published his epic novel about the Second World War, The Winds of War. The novel (later a mini-series starring the late Robert Mitchum) deals with the early years of the war, before America’s entry into the conflict. Through the eyes of an American Navy officer named Henry and his family we are provided the landscape, physical and political, of Europe as the war breaks and boils. The story is a treat: it gracefully weaves a private meeting with Mussolini in Rome, an encounter with a nationalistic German waiter in Berlin, a Jewish wedding in Poland and a private talk with Churchill. There is, however, a rather striking disruption in the narrative. Towards the very end a new element is introduced, that of Asia. A minor character offhandedly mentions the Japanese to another. Most of the major characters suddenly find themselves in the Pacific after years of storyline that have them in Europe. Without acknowledging this, the book ends with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

What may be most surprising is that Herman Wouk served in the US Navy during World War II and spent his war in the Pacific theatre. Yet, when it came time to “throw a rope around the Second World War” (his words) his focus was almost exclusively on Europe in explaining how the war came about. In this I believe that Wouk was a man of his times. America in the 20th century most often poised itself towards Europe. This is understandable as the world economy was for so long centred around Europe and as most Americans can still describe themselves as of European extraction. But all of this may be changing as we speak. The day may come – it may be here already – when Europe is no longer where Americans instinctively face.

I have spent a large part of my adult life overseas, all of it in Asia. I first came to Europe a month ago, less Ernest Hemingway than Henry Miller. Let me first state the utterly obvious: Europe is amazing. All the tales are true and, if anything, understated. I am at Leiden University, in the Netherlands, in a town that dates back to the Roman era. I would challenge any sentient or sensible being to sit by one of the canals with a strong coffee, Paris only hours away by rail, enjoying Dutch hospitality in the autumn sun and not be enchanted. It really is not possible, absent a strong will otherwise.

But as wonderful as Holland is it has roughly the same population as Cambodia and it is simply dwarfed by its former colony, Indonesia. And Europe can no longer rely on economic superiority to command attention; the rising powers of Asia have seen to that. Europe is changing from the inside as well. The streets of the major cities are filled with immigrants from Africa and Asia and their European born children. It is reasonable to wonder if Europe should still receive the attention Wouk gave it, or if after years of immigration Europe will even be recognizable as we understand it from the 20th century. These are large questions, and any certain answers are far beyond an outsider who has been here very scant time. But I can hazard a guess and it actually is a very hopeful one.

I do not think that the splendour of Europe is found in any set of fixed traditions. I think it is to be found in a place that not only gave birth to the Enlightenment but lives by it still, by a European tradition that produced the culture of today. I see the children of immigrants and the children of native Europeans accepting one another in a way that is very familiar to my understanding of American idealism and I see it transpiring in a way that does not seem to sacrifice the European sense of self. Europe is responding to the changing economic world by binding itself ever closer in the European Union which as a unit rivals India, China, and the United States. In short, I think that the corrective to Wouk’s focus on Europe is not to discount this vibrant place but to recognize the vitality of other places, to embrace a multi-polar world and not simply to shift to a different uni-polar one. What will become of Europe? I think it will be here for dazzled newcomers to ask that question of it for a very, very long time.

Illustration from movie poster ’Lady Kungfu’ on the website wrongsideoftheart.com


Saturday, 19 September 2009

謊言中的自我危機──說謊的心理機制

攝影/Emilio Labrador
本文為節錄,完整內容請見2009年10月號《人籟》月刊


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人為何說謊?說謊是解決問題,還是製造問題?
擺盪於謊言與事實之間,真與假的界線也益發模糊,此時又該如何自處?
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說謊是自我保護的捷徑
每個人都說過或大或小的謊言。隨著原因不同,每個說謊者內心面對說謊產生的壓力也不盡相同,而最極致的謊言是連說謊者自己都信以為真。

說謊就像是包著糖衣的毒藥,它能輕鬆化解困境,但同時卻也帶來宛如毒藥一般的罪惡感。在第一個謊言即將說出口的當下,人的內心會去分析說謊與誠實的成本與代價;一個小小的謊言就能輕易解決眼前的困境,讓我們短暫地從尷尬的矛盾中逃脫。但是謊言不僅有被拆穿的可能性,更令人擔憂的是被戳破後那赤裸裸的窘境、眾人鄙夷的眼光,令我們極端難堪。於是,當人不斷擺盪在誠實與說謊之間,內心的掙扎變成了所謂的罪惡感。可是,倘若第一個謊言順利過關,第二個、第三個謊言就會悄然成形,甚至逐漸變成一種習慣;一旦謊言到達潛意識,那麼說謊者就不會再感受到任何罪惡感。

大部分人說謊的原因是為了保護自己、逃避責難,只有少部分是侵害別人,甚或透過說謊獲得私利。保護自己是人的本性,從孩童階段起,我們就已經開始透過說謊來爭取生存的空間。最常見的是對長輩說謊以逃避被責難的壓力。此外有些小孩生活在兄弟姊妹眾多的家庭中,或是父母特別忙碌的家庭裡;他們自幼便非常會察言觀色,以避免在錯誤的時間點惹父母生氣,甚至必須要透過說謊才能獲得更多的關
心。


孩童說謊以掌握世界
其實小孩子說謊是很普遍的行為,約莫七成的學齡兒童都曾經有說謊、偷竊的經驗,但幼年時期的說謊並非全然罪不可赦,有時也是成長必經的過程之一,所以其實不必過度擔憂會發生「小時偷摘瓠,長大偷牽牛」的情況。過去曾有研究從較抽象的心理層面解釋,發現小孩子之所以說謊,是因為在他們的成長過程中,曾經以為媽媽的懷抱就是全世界,他不需要擔憂太多;但是隨著與外界的接觸越來越多,他發現世界原來並非如同自己想像,於是開始撒謊偷竊,試圖藉此掌握外在世界。這時如果他察覺撒謊偷竊的代價很大(譬如被父母師長責罵),他便會逐漸轉向另一個擁有世界的方法,例如認真讀書去贏得想要的東西。相對的,倘若一個小孩從小就循規蹈矩、從不說謊,他可能反而喪失了想要懷抱世界的欲望,害怕被孤立、不敢要這個世界。太容易滿足於自己現有的事物,某方面來說可能會抑制小孩子的成長。


在網路上操演謊言
然而,當我們成熟懂事、能分辨是非後,偶爾還是會面臨該不該說謊的煎熬時刻,尤其是在目前這個說謊變得越來越容易的社會中,謊言不僅被重新定義,真實與虛假的界線更是模糊地令人感慨。在過去的社會,由於人際關係的重疊性很高,所以說話的內容很容易被驗證,謊言也因此容易被拆穿。但是現代社會的人際關係越來越疏離,加上缺乏傳統人際網路驗證的狀況下,說謊變得輕而易舉,甚至可以透過網際網路「練習」說謊的內容。由於網路的虛擬身份缺乏重複確認的機制,使得許多人可以在網路上說謊而不必負責,即使謊言被戳破,網路的匿名特性也降低了說謊的成本,只要在網路上重新註冊、換個身分,立即又可以開始一段新的人生,跟過去的自己疏離。



想知道王浩威如何探討謊言背後的心理機制,請看10月號《人籟》論辨月刊。

附加的多媒體:
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Saturday, 19 September 2009

解讀謠言──假作真時真亦假

攝影/Redvers, via flickr.com - CC-BY
本文為節錄,完整內容請見2009年10月號《人籟》月刊


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「旅行途中腎臟竟然被偷走!」「喝下重複煮沸的水會致癌?」
謠言瀰漫於生活之中,在真實與虛假間流動,然而隱藏在曖昧言語的背後,卻是人們對真實訊息的渴望。
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許多人或許都有這樣的經驗:在打開電子郵件信箱時,看到一些頗為聳動的信件標題,例如:「喝下重複煮沸的水會致癌?」「旅行途中腎臟竟然被偷走!」「吃蝦子同時喝柳橙汁等於自殺!」「海洋深層水不能喝,裡面有萬年前的浮游生物。」這種信誓旦旦的語氣看來不容置疑,也常促使讀者忍不住好奇而一窺究竟,並在看完之後半信半疑地想:「裡面的內容是真的嗎?」


最古老的傳媒
雖然中國有句俗諺說「謠言止於智者」,其實謠言始終沒有從生活中消失,甚至可以說跟人類歷史一樣悠久。法國巴黎高等商學院教授Jean-Noël Kpaferer就曾經說過:「謠言是世界最古老的傳媒」,認為謠言並非隨意出現,而是有特定的社會脈絡可循。「謠言」一詞有兩個意義:一是指民間流傳的歌謠,另一則是指虛構不實的傳聞。當我們聽到「謠言」這兩個字時,多半都會想到後者。然而在過去沒有任何傳播媒介,僅以口耳相傳消息的年代裡,所謂的「謠言」卻是主要的資訊來源,而傳播這些謠言的人甚至是重要的社會工具。所以人類學家Gluckman才會說,人們每天生活大部分的時間都和謠言有關。

不過對人類學家而言,謠言的功用可不只限於傳遞生活中的訊息。在傳統社會中謠言的意義與傳說類似,提供一套信仰的價值體系,並透過流傳的故事與歌謠在人際間傳唱,產生約束人心的作用並提供生活的規範。至於社會學家則視謠言為直接溝通的模式,他們認為謠言除了提供人們生活的規範與價值,也會提醒在位者民意所趨。人們以歌謠的方式傳唱自己真實的生活景況與不假掩飾的情感。在傳播工具不發達的時代,也無如今日的申訴管道時,在位者透過採集「謠言」,才能夠得知人民的聲音,所以古代中國上位者為了解民風,甚至會指派官員至民間採集歌謠。而在現代科學尚未發展,啟蒙的鐘聲尚未敲響前,人們無從驗證這些謠言的真實性。

不過時至今日,「謠言」一詞多含貶義,泛指未經證實的傳言。如果仔細觀察,可以發現許多廣泛流傳的謠言都有一個共同的特點:其內容多半與生活息息相關,而且看起來似是而非,缺乏具體的來源。正是這種曖昧不明的特性,使得謠言能夠反覆出現、不斷流傳。


謠言的心理學公式
心理學者曾經提出一個有趣的公式「R (Rumor)= i(importance)× a(ambiguity)說明謠言流傳的強度。「i」代表個人認為該謠言與自己相關的重要程度,「a」則是謠言缺乏確切證據的曖昧性。由此可見「相關性」與「曖昧性」決定了謠言的影響力。好比說常見的謠言有「某家速食店的雞肉其實沒有腳也沒有羽毛,只是一種單純的有機體」、「蟑螂會溶解在可樂裡」或是「烤一次肉相當於吸入兩百根香煙」。這些驚悚的故事因為關乎食衣住行等基本需求,很容易引發大眾的共鳴與恐慌。其中有的情節雖然略顯荒誕,但好像又存在某種可能性;而在一切尚未經過科學的驗證前,誰都不好妄下定論。因此大家只好抱持「寧可信其有,不可信其無」的態度,將消息迅速傳播出去,造成謠言滿天飛的情況。



想知道李怡慧如何分析謠言流傳的機制,請看10月號《人籟》論辨月刊。

附加的多媒體:
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Monday, 07 September 2009

說謊者:戴上面具的日子──不能說的頭銜

採訪/張茵惠 攝影/Scott Robinson
本文為節錄,完整內容請見2009年10月號《人籟》月刊

受訪者
小毛,非訟律師,二十六歲的女性。

訪談內容
我是某知名國際律師事務所的受雇律師,屬於M&A(mergers and acquisitions,亦即企業併購)部門,負責「非訟」的業務。「非訟」顧名思義就是無關訴訟的意思,因此我跟一般人刻板印象中的律師不一樣,自從執業開始,一張狀子都沒寫過。大部分的時間我都在與各個政府單位周旋,假扮成各種身分、旁敲側擊試圖取得客戶需要的資訊。

進入企業併購部門並不是我的選擇,只是當初錄取進入事務所之後被分發的結果。工作內容其實跟一開始想像的不太一樣,跟在學校裡讀到的幾乎毫不相關。我每天必須打很多的電話,想盡辦法在期限內收集到上司要求的資料,內容千奇百怪,從某種類型的外商投資是否非法,到化妝品成分、濃度的相關法律規定都有。這些關鍵的情報大多掌握在政府機關手裡,但就經驗看來,承辦相關事宜的公務人員通常並不樂意跟律師講話,若透露自己的職業,對話很快就會不了了之,因此我會視情形假裝成寫報告的研究生、會計師、投資顧問、外商公司人員等各種身分去討資料。

不能洩露自己身分似乎是這一行心照不宣的規矩。當我一進事務所,就被上司諄諄教誨,在蒐集情報時千萬不要傻傻的洩漏自己的身分,不只不能說自己是律師,更不能洩露事務所的名字。公務人員抗拒提供資訊給律師是其中一個原因,另一個原因是我的工作內容有些真的很敏感,遊走於白領犯罪的邊緣,諸如陸資進入台灣市場、外國資金轉投資項目與上限的問題等等,一不小心就會涉及違法而被罰錢。
我曾想過為什麼公務人員寧可提供資料給學生和會計師,卻對律師防備森嚴。我認為這跟律師給人的社會觀感有關,有些公務人員會有一種排斥權威的態度:「哦!你是律師,那你很厲害嘛!還來問我幹嘛!」然後就什麼都不告訴你。律師拿掉執照其實也只是一般人,對於各種法規的細節不見得比起其他人懂到那裡去,所以他們不肯提供分明應該是公開的政府資訊給我,我也很無奈呀!

直到現在都工作好久了,要騙對方自己不是律師還是會緊張。記得有一次我向某個政府單位要資料,謊稱是台北大學的學生,對方問我是什麼系的,我隨便說了一個,沒想到他又追問:「你的指導教授是誰?」我真的嚇得半死,只好亂編一個名字搪塞過去。經歷這次教訓之後,我一定會先查好偽裝身分的細節才打電話。

有時對方信以為真,說謊的人心裡反而不見得好過。像是有次為了任務需求,我跟同事偽裝成想要融資的客戶,向各個銀行索取表單。其中有個小銀行的業務不僅很熱心的把相關文件傳給我們,還一直打電話來,真的把我們當成客戶在經營,這就讓我感覺到有點難過,覺得糟蹋了別人。然而,比起說謊的罪惡感,無法完成工作的壓力恐怕更大一些,只要想到不能在時限內取得資料的下場,就硬著頭皮什麼都願意講了!



想知道更多謊言面具底下的告白,請看10月號《人籟》論辨月刊。

附加的多媒體:
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Sunday, 06 September 2009

片刻真實——電視機為何對你說謊?

攝影/Dean Leu
本文為節錄,完整內容請見2009年10月號《人籟》月刊


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若說台灣的新聞節目僅僅是一場實境秀,或許言過其實,但千萬不要輕易相信你眼前看見的事物。你看見的很可能是一個劇場:虛擬的剪刀穿梭,由細線操縱的人物演出預先決定的腳本。最糟糕的是,這場戲的導演不知道自己想呈現什麼。
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任何一個略具懷疑精神的觀眾,可能都曾經對新聞報導的可信度感到不安。但我們卻生活在這樣堪稱奇幻的景象裡:接近百分之一百的電視覆蓋率、七家新聞電視台、一百個有線電視頻道、兩百個廣播電台、兩千多份報紙、和四千份以上的雜誌(資料來源:行政院新聞局資訊網),擠在只有兩千三百萬人的小島上。這意味著我們正在經歷一些不可思議的世界之最:全世界密度最高的新聞頻道,以及全世界密度最高的SNG車。

或許台灣人很難想像,遠比台灣幅員更為廣大的美國只有三個純新聞電視台,英國也是三個,日本則是一個也沒有。必須負擔高額衛星轉播費用的SNG車無論在哪都是稀有的資源,但對台灣來說則不然:兩千三百萬的人口便擁有八十二台SNG轉播車,遠遠超過日本1.2億人/71輛、香港700萬人/1輛、韓國4800萬人/40輛、印度10億人/300輛。

「資訊爆炸」這個詞套用在台灣現今的景況上,或許根本不是一個誇飾的說法;但令人失望的是,極度的競爭並沒有帶來更好的品質。新聞造假時有所聞,腳尾飯事件、總統大選轉播灌票等前例使人們質疑自己眼睛看到、耳朵聽到的東西。在這樣的氣氛下,批評媒體似乎是一件輕鬆容易而且政治正確的事情。然而到底是什麼讓我們陷入如今的處境?


謊言製造者
「為了收視率」,傳播媒體堂而皇之地生產謊言,而且很快就原諒了自己。某些媒體從業者認為,說謊是生存的必要之惡。我曾親耳聽到某新聞台某位組長在一堂擠滿新聞所學生的演講課上,滔滔不絕地解釋,2004總統大選轉播時灌票灌到爆表不是他們的錯。「因為跟其他電視台比起來,我們灌得不算最多」、「收視率很現實,你數字跳得不夠快,觀眾就轉台了。」

「我們沒有錯,因為大家都這麼做」、「我們沒有錯,因為觀眾愛看,我們提供他們想要的東西」,這樣的邏輯是傳播媒體界最常使用的辯護,而這背後的潛台詞便是:「為什麼我們媒體說謊?因為你們消費者喜歡被騙」。這基本上是一種雞生蛋、蛋生雞的論證,因為你永遠不會知道究竟是媒體內容決定了觀眾的品味,還是觀眾的品味決定了媒體內容。這樣的觀點或許落實了某些學術理論對大眾文化的看法:「市場性」與「商業化」對任何文化而言都是一場悲劇;因為普羅大眾(也就是消費者)傾向於接受庸俗的產品和訊息,如此最終將導致高雅文化的式微。

或許我們應該先拋開悲觀又高傲的理論家,先來看看為何媒體工作者會如此輕易原諒自己的謊言:跟大多數的年輕人一樣,許多媒體工作者剛從學校畢業時都充滿理想,但進入職場後卻要處理各種不得不妥協的情況。起初他們很惶恐,但日子一久便逐漸麻痺,一點一點撕去自己理想的表皮,學會面對最不願意接受的真相。

我有一位朋友在電視台擔任外電新聞編譯剪輯的工作。她的主管不停退掉關於戰爭跟國際情勢的稿件,「給我刺激的畫面!給我有趣的東西!」她被要求搜尋關於中國生出三隻腳的雞、或者落雷擊斃伊朗的一群羊這樣的新聞,更不斷被要求剪輯出造假的精彩刺激畫面。有些新聞僅僅來自一則簡短的外電,要是沒有畫面怎麼辦?主管告訴她:「去捏造它。」最後,觀眾看見的是波灣戰爭的爆炸畫面,配上內蒙草原的羊群,但旁白朗朗訴說著:「今天伊朗某處高原的羊群意外遭落雷擊斃」。這就是一個記者如何變成謊言製造者的過程;她知道「應該」報導更重要或更有意義的事情,但是她的主管認為那不夠「有趣」,不足以吸引觀眾的目光。



想知道張茵惠對電視媒體生態的進一步分析,請看10月號《人籟》論辨月刊。

更多關於作者
張茵惠的部落格【星光詠嘆調】

附加的多媒體:
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Saturday, 05 September 2009

數字與真實

翻譯/沈秀臻、謝靜雯 攝影/becosky
本文亦見於2009年10月號《人籟》論辨月刊


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各種數據與統計資料,究竟呈顯了事實,亦或蒙蔽了真相?
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日復一日,媒體與政府提供我們數據與統計資料,期待我們依此理解世界。「中國去年的經濟成長率是11%,但在法國卻只有2%」、「物價指數在上一季漲了1.2%,通貨膨脹又回來了」、「證券市場資本總額下降52%」、「G20會員國通過一兆美元的經濟刺激方案」等等。數字在我們的腦海中飛舞,稍縱即逝,卻留下一種這個世界完全無法被我們掌握的感覺。數字與統計資料操控一切,我們恐懼它的力量、敬畏它的權威。

其實,多數的統計資料可以被其他的數據制衡。舉例來說,中國高達11%的經濟成長率,僅為每位國民額外增添150美元的收入,但法國2%的成長率則讓該國居民的收入多了650美元。換句話說,相對的數據與絕對的數據會給人截然不同的印象。另外,G20峰會後各國領袖宣布將投入一兆美元振興經濟的說法也值得懷疑,因為這筆錢有些出於早已宣布的金融方案,有些顯然來自永遠不會實現的承諾,貸款與補助也被計算在內,彷彿兩者是同一回事。凡此種種,類似的例子不勝枚舉。

更重要的是,數字本身並非價值中立。有人可能會哀嘆歐洲的公共支出很高,卻沒注意到,美國的公共支出之所以低,是因為公民直接承擔了醫療與教育的高昂費用。通貨膨脹本應是壞事,可是因具污染性的稀有能源價格提高導致的通貨膨脹,反而可能使世人更妥善地照顧環境,並且減少資源上的浪費。

獨厚數字的態度使人們看待議題時往往「重量不重質」。統計數據讓我們忘了,在觀察現象之餘,還應該追問它的成因。我們採取宿命論的角度看待周遭現實,卻忘記自己有能力感知世界、傳遞價值判斷,最終改變世界。統計資料「告訴」我們世界上發生了什麼事,就像新聞報導跟其他資訊及分析來源一樣——不多不少,僅止於此。但統計資料必須被放置在脈絡中思考,必須與真實世界建立關連。數據理應反映其所關連的真實世界,我們必須保持正確判斷的能力。追根究柢,統計數據可能真的事關重大,因此更不能容許領導者和統計學者壟斷詮釋權。

附加的多媒體:
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Tuesday, 01 September 2009

The Good and Bad of Securitization

 

The media is still debating over the consequences of the financial crisis that was triggered by financial instruments and lack of regulation. Some people point out to the underlying ethical issue. Given that human beings are prone to mainly pursue their own interests, there must be some regulatory institutions ensuring that self-interest is controlled and used for the effective creation of wealth.

It would be a mistake to consider that economic theory did not predict the 2008 crisis. There was a clear problem of asymmetry of information, described by the theory, as well as conflicting incentives for banks and for investors on securitized assets. Some banks were heavily exposed to the badly regulated, and very risky securitized assets. There were no clear rules governing these new markets.

The intertwined markets that together compose today’s economies are all subject to the trends governing globalized financial markets. When giant institutions began to fail, investors lost confidence and migrated to more liquid assets. Banks, afraid of runs on their deposits, which started to happen in several places, wanted to keep liquid assets, and did not want to take on more debt nor issue new credits. Finally, companies going to their banks for normal financial needs had their credit applications denied and often fell into deep troubles, with dire consequences on the job market.

As a consequence, many people might have already forgotten of the benefits of securitization and of the fact that access to housing has been greatly increased thanks to its use, which started 20 years ago. How do securitization benefits work? First, it comes from diversification: Financial theory argues that under normal conditions the probability to fail in one investment is higher than the chance of failing in two investments at the same time, given that both are not completely correlated. Popular knowledge has its own way of labeling this phenomenon: “Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket”. Moreover, risk is something that can be sold in the market and it also can be shared among a greater number of investors who will share the losses, thus diluting them.

If I have a mortgage transaction and I am the only possible investor, the risk of default is very high: if I lose my job; the whole security of my loan is in default. But if there are one thousand people in the same security then the chance of having all of them jobless is very small, even in today’s situation. Something similar happens with banks: if they can share the risk of issuing a loan among a greater number of investors through securitization and the sale of grouped mortgages, they will charge a lower interest rate, as the risk perceptions is lower. Everybody is a winner.

But responsibilities need to be clearly delimited, and penalties in case of misinformation should be specified as well as monitoring institutions. When banks started to lend money to very risky people, because they knew they could get rid of the loan selling it to an investor thousands of kilometers away, they were undermining the confidence in the system as a whole.

What was needed? An efficient and clear set of rules and a regulator capable of making the parties commit to their contracts. But the aforementioned does not mean heavy bureaucracies. The regulation has to be set by a group of specialists explaining to the parties the extent of their commitment and the implications for each of them.

Right now, I am involved in a research project for an institution called Lumni present in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and the US, which is helping people access to higher education and finance their studies by the means of grouping and hopefully in the future through securitization. Lumni, which has been chosen as one of the Top 25 Most Promising Social Initiatives, has already financed more than 200 students that probably, otherwise, would have abandoned their studies. It means that securitization can be a tool for promoting humane and equitable development, provided mechanisms and objectives are clearly defined. A new understanding of the limits and the social advantages of securitization might be a valuable lesson to be drawn from the crisis.

 

Photo by C. Phiv

Tuesday, 01 September 2009

'White Trash'

You have to understand the title literally: I am talking about trash of a white colour. As I was leaving my castle the other day, I just found myself in front of a very strange postcard: two mounds of printers and computer screens. White trash, digital trash, but certainly not virtual trash. This was real, tangible trash and although it wasn’t smelly, it was contamination.

They say that, just like the shallow man who entirely changes his wardrobe because it’s gone out of fashion, Asian people throw away their computer every six months as if it is a obsolete gadget, smoky and noisy junk. But if this was so, with all the thousands of millions of people in the region, the quantity of abandoned computers in the street would already be unbearable, they would be just like stray dogs leaving us no place to buy a box of cookies or arrange a secret meeting with a mysterious woman. It would pollute everyone’s sight, scattered all over the space now so scarce. It would be a white world of pale shadows.

But creativity is the clean combustible which emits flames of recycling. So, who knows? A lady might decide to use the old printer machine as a flower pot, filled with soil and with geranium flowers sprouting from the slit of the paper. The dead, black screens could be used as small kitchen boards to cut red meat or vegetables; or as mirrors for those with low self-esteem. If piled up and well cemented, all this abandoned hardware could even be used for building walls and erecting columns; for making roads, cities and empires of white bricks.

Lifeless as they are, the cold, silent, resting machines seem like pieces ripped off a robotic body. Like Frankenstein, they would only need a spark of electricity to turn their lights on again and to start their racket anew. Yet there are others which cannot be resurrected as they are dead and condemned to oblivion which is maybe worse than death itself. Anyway, it would be terrific if the new technology could be based on the old one, that the obsolete could recover its utility by converting itself into something new; this could be a new kind of donation: a donation of technological organs and a commitment towards what is simply thrown away.

Producers, distributors and users must be responsible for the life and death of their possessions. To throw something away does not make it disappear. On the contrary, it is an action which provokes a reaction, a consequence… Trash, whether white or black, is a living entity even if it is abiotic. Thus, the scrap could transcend its condition as trash and reincarnate itself into new machines, with the possibility to live the Buddhist reality of a circular time. Is recycling a Buddhist concept then? Is the human body a form of recycling souls? Or are we only printers, keyboards, screens, hardware of the spirit? And now...I return to my castle.

(Photos by Marcos G. Gava)

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