Perhaps I should not start to theorize this quickly, and instead merely report on what I am seeing. That alone could fill more entries then I will make here, but it would also lead to a random shopping list of the sights, sounds and possibly smells of Tainan.
What interests me is the statement by the Cia world fact book that only 1% of the population lives below the poverty line. Perhaps they have bad statistics, but there does not seem to be much of an underclass here. It seems that in many aspects, such as education, health care, consumer electronics and even automobiles, everyone in the country is middle class. Real estate is another story, as many of the neighborhoods seem to be crowded slums by our standards, but there is only so much to be done in a country where many of the buildings date back hundreds of years, and where the population of Canada is crowded into an area the size of the Willamette Valley.
However, even with that, there is some poverty in Taiwan. Getting lost on my way back from shopping, I found an empty lot where someone had built a house of scrap lumber. And before I go on with Taiwan, I must go back to Portland, and the city of Dignity Village, a camp put together by homeless people so they could support themselves and live outside of the shelter system. What is interesting about this is that these homeless people choose to live together, forming their own culture. Or, depending on your viewpoint, that they have been expelled from the dominant culture. In any case, it seems that in the United States, poverty is often a seperate culture. I would have perhaps not realized this if I had not come to Taiwan.
In Taiwan, it seems that there are plenty of poor people, but they do not have a seperate culture. They may happen to be living in a tent by the side of the road, but perhaps that does not seperate them from the rest of the culture as drastically as it would in America. Of course, I do not know enough about the culture or these people's circumstances to make a judgement on this just yet, but it is an interesting thing to comtemplate. At the very least, it is a far cry from America, where many people who enjoy many comforts and luxuries still find themselves on narrow pretexts to be living in a glamorized poverty that seperates them from the dominant culture.