Saturday, September 11, 2010

By The Book: Police Cop For A New Bike To Give Thief's Daughter

Oh how bike theft in Taiwan has changed.

All over the wire there is this story floating around. A bike thief in Chia yi city was apprehended by police after stealing a bicycle. Upon further investigation the officers discovered the family was living in squalor and the theft was morally justifiable in that the thief was merely trying to supply his daughter with some wheels to ride the 3km to the bus stop on her daily commute to her vocational school.

Most Taiwanese of a certain generation can sympathize with losing a bike to theft. In my wife's family everyone has lost a bike or two, but that didn't stop a family member from bringing home replacements that were "found" on the street. This bike for a bike behavior was widely practiced during the 1980's as many Taiwanese were beginning to express their affluence through consumer items and bikes were not so widely available. I remember something similar with helmets several years ago. If someone needed a helmet they would steal one and the loser would just have to steal a new one. It was somehow justified.

The moral of this story, if there is one, and I am not sure that there is, is that the modern concepts of law and justice in Taiwanese society are tempered by the more abstract traditional and structural beliefs in benevolence, fate and magnanimity (see this post). These beliefs also make law enforcement and judicial decisions seemingly arbitrary and calls into question the notion of justice as fairness.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the interesting story and the analysis. It sounds like concepts I learned in ethnographic methods class.

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  2. Thanks! I try to bring a little more to the discussion than simply bicycles. :D

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