David Frazier over at POTS has commented on the English teacher coke bust. There were also two long discussions at Formusa here (1) and here (cont). David writes:

But my real-world hope is that expats realize that they have a stake in this community, and that, as the recent riots by Thai laborers attest, unequal laws do not change by themselves. It’s time we wake up to that.


Some expats have a stake in this community. We live here and have families. Other expats fly through, work a year or two, and move on. To a certain extent, the conversations at Formusa and elsewhere reflect not differences between “moralizers” and “legalizers” as David argues here:

A number of individuals on the expat bulletin board Forumosa.com, where this news item is hotly discussed, have posted comments to the extent that James will deserve whatever punishment he gets, with some even expressing the view they “would have no sympathies if the Taiwan authorities did give out the death penalty.” Others have accused him of “ruining it for all of us.” While some have stuck up for legalization of drugs and civil rights, the overall tone of the posts has been very moralizing.

…but the difference between long-termers and short-termers (does any intelligent person not believe in legalization? What does that have to do with anything?). The Taipei Kid captured this attitude difference in parody:

Just in case you were getting tired of cocky 20-something foreign English teachers/clubbers, the Keelung Coast Guard decided to help get rid of some of them for us. (Christ, I knew English teaching was sometimes rough, but 600kg of blow?

David continues….

I suppose it’s not surprising that white foreigners would be the first ones willing to cast the torch to burn James at the stake, mostly out of a desire to distance themselves from such behavior. The problem is that this save-my-ass-first attitude does absolutely nothing to improve understanding between foreigners and locals at a time when the relationship is clearly transforming.

The attitude is not “save-my-ass-first.” Rather, it is an outgrowth of exactly what David is advocating: the recognition that foreigners are a community and what happens to one affects others. When foreigners deal dope, they threaten everyone around them in both the foreign community and the local one. David’s article, which attempts to shift the blame to the police for harassing foreign teachers, actually depicts that very clearly. Because one foreigner sold coke, everyone he associated with, who may or may not have known that fact, must now pay. Some have lost their jobs, some have been the subject of police harassment, and all have had their reputations tarnished. Schools have been harmed by losing teachers without warning, and parents and kids upset.

The fact is that it’s not those of us who want to toss the dope dealer to the wolves who have a problem with caring; it’s the idiot who sold drugs who forgot that he was part of a larger community whose health and reputation he had a responsibility to care for. David thus has the ethical debt running in a backwards direction here — his position argues that we should build community around someone who not only didn’t build community for us, but went out of his way to create a situation that threatened everyone around him and had potential social and political repercussions for every foreigner in Taiwan (has he had the grace to issue a statement through his family apologizing for the problems he has created?). Right idea, David, but wrong case.

David’s central position is entirely correct: we are a community here, and we need more recognition of that. David’ suggestion that the legal treatment of the dope dealer be monitored by the expat community is a good one. But I would argue that it is precisely because we recognize that we are a community that we have both the obligation and the responsibility to protect ourselves from thoughtless, self-centered individuals who threaten our livelihoods and position here by removing the protecting hand of that community from them, and withholding approval and support of their behavior.

In a Taiwan where, as David points out, the position of foreigners is changing, that’s not “moralizing.” It’s survival.