Nicholas Agar’s article in the Taipei Times was thought-provoking (“Why despair is beating hope,” July 4, page 9). Based on his observation of media coverage, politicians’ rhetoric and online discussions, Agar said that, while granting efficacy to bad ideals such as racism, we tend not to heed positive ideals and do not believe that we can make meaningful progress regarding good causes such as tackling climate change.
I wonder if this observation is biased by what is easily available in the media — ie, the fallacy of availability heuristic — which selects mainly sensational and eye-catching stories.
There are many positive stories that do not make mainstream media headlines.
While US Senator Dianne Feinstein refused to endorse Green New Deal legislation as described in Agar’s article, 24 states have formed the US Climate Alliance, which aims to adhere to the goals of the Paris Agreement after US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from it.
Even China, which was notorious for air pollution, is implementing a national action plan to clean the environment and realize the concept of a green GDP (“Solutions to habitat destruction can build on happiness factors,” May 27, page 7).
The Green Party’s gains in the European Parliament elections at the end of May also show that climate and environment issues are at the front of many peoples’ minds.
The intense news coverage of the white supremacist who killed 51 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, highlighted Islamophobia.
However, there are white academics who are devoted to Islamic studies. One example is David Warren from the University of Edinburgh.
His free online course “The Sharia and Islamic Law” draws many Westerners who are interested in understanding Islamic culture in an objective way.
The 1.8 billion Islamic followers around the globe actually represent a great opportunity for businesses. Islamic culture also provides a different lens through which to see the world. It emphasizes helping the weak and the sick rather than the idea of a sacred war that media outlets reinforce.
This lens helps people in Taiwan grasp why so many Muslims from Southeast Asia come to Taiwan to do care work.
Meanwhile, many Westerners are involved in online discussions about Anime, Manga, K-pop or K-drama.
Take South Korean actor Gong Yoo (孔劉) as an example. His interview with CNN received many favorable comments from Western fans.
Phenomena like this show that globalization and the Internet also facilitate cross-cultural communication in a positive way.
As more organizations endorse the concept of cultural intelligence, which includes religious literacy, more people are beginning to realize the importance of cross-cultural understanding, as is reflected in the increasing number of Westerners visiting and residing in Asia and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Agar’s article is a good provocative read, but I believe our world is still promising and full of hope. Hopefully lighting a candle in the darkness of despair sparks positive affirmation in readers’ minds.
Wang Ching-ning is a medical information analyst and independent researcher.