OPINION: Taiwan’s ‘Buhaoyisi Culture’ Falls Victim to a Dickensian Curse

Empty words, false contrition: Is Taiwan, the island of ‘buhaoyisi,’ the embodiment of Uriah Heep?

The News Lens
Date: 2018/11/08
By: James Baron

Credit: Depositphotos

In literature’s hall of shame, few characters have caused such revulsion as the antagonist Uriah Heep, the antagonist of the Charles Dickens novel “David Copperfield.” The feigned humility and malevolent obsequiousness of David Copperfield’s nemesis have made his name a byword for sycophancy.

In some ways, Heep’s kowtowing makes him the perfect avatar for what has been dubbed buhaoyisiculture in Taiwan.

For all his loathsome qualities, Heep is a complicated character who can be seen as the product of a society premised on keeping people in its place. Heep himself casts his self-abnegation as a defense mechanism, telling the novel’s eponymous hero: “When I was quite a young boy, I got to know what umbleness did, and I took to it. I ate umble pie with an appetite… ‘People like to be above you,’ says father, ‘keep yourself down.’ I am very umble to the present moment, Master Copperfield, but I’ve got a little power!”

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