Right involvement may mean standing alone

By Daniel J. Bauer

I am still grateful today for a lesson that a reader taught me several years ago. The words “postponement” and “embarrassment” come to mind whenever I think of that lesson.

I’ve forgotten all the details of the story. I do remember that I had remarked at the end of a certain column that space limits made it impossible to explore further an important facet of an idea. I promised to return “in the future” to that aspect of the discussion.

Before I knew it, five weeks quickly flew by, and of course I had not yet carried out my word. A reader wrote an angry letter. The letter-writer bawled me out right and proper. “You promised, and now look at what you’ve done. I mean, not done. How irresponsible, how unprofessional!”

In an instant, I was awash in a sea of the suffix “ment.” A postponement I had carelessly made had suddenly become an embarrassment. The announcement I’d earlier made, but not acted on, put me into a predicament.

I’ve gotten better at postponing, it seems. Two months have passed since I promised to say something about another word with that “ment” suffix. “Involvement” is the word. So Difficult to Get Involved The question is, why in life is it sometimes so difficult to get involved? To get involved, say, in a situation in which someone is in need of our help? Why, both as individuals and as groups, call them local communities, schools, families, or entire countries, are we reluctant to involve ourselves in moments of deep and obvious need? Well now, how did this page of this newspaper get here? In a nutshell: Last November, a local citizen took it upon himself to verbally attack a British gentleman by the name of Christopher Raymond Hall and his young Taiwanese woman companion on an MRT train in Taipei. The assailant resorted to a spate of accusations, laced in nastiness and vulgarity, to express his view of a foreigner allegedly living lazily off the fat of the land in Taiwan, and cavorting with a local “whore.” I remarked in the column on words a local college professor had asked in the media at the time about the passivity of other passengers (“Racist attack on MRT calls for soul-searching” CP 11-22-15 p. 4). Since the victims posted a video of the interchange on YouTube, attracting over 2 million viewers in just over a week’s time, by the way, we saw the incident occurred in close quarters on the train. The attacker made little effort to lower his voice, and passengers were piled upon each other practically like peanuts in a bag.