Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Horrible Neighbors or Horrible Me – Part 5

What I once thought would be a simple matter of standing our ground, exercising our legal rights as homeowners, is now going into its 4th or 5th year. For additional context, please see parts onetwothree and four

The legal aspects of the case have not changed very much. The townhouses within each of the six building-units in our community are connected; however, each home individually owns their own roof. Some of the roofs in our community, namely a few that hang at 90 degrees (instead of 30 degrees as ours does) began to fall. Then, dome homeowners in the community began a campaign to sue the building company, demanding they replace all of the roofs, free of charge. In the meantime, this small group convinced or pressured most of the people in the community replace their roofs. My stance was as continues to be that, most of the roofs have or had no problem whatsoever; I liked my roof just the way it was and did not have money to waste on meritless projects. This small group also insisted that, only they were permitted to negotiate with the roofing company, and everyone else had to sign the contract without a fixed price even on it. This led me to consider that, perhaps there was some underhanded dealing taking place.

I attempted to speak at a community meeting, but was physically pushed aside; so I decided to let them do as they would, while my partner and I stood our ground. While I was away working in the center of Taiwan, my partner endured a tremendous amount of verbal bullying from the group of people I refer to as the gang of 4-5.  She experienced firsthand how cruel some people become when someone refuses to obey their commands. There were even times when she and I agreed that we would go ahead and change the roof, just to end the battle. However, by then, it was too late. Two people in the gang saw to it that, even if we agreed to change our roof with the rest of the community, we would still have to sign a blank check/contract and they would be the ones to decide how much it would have to pay. Either it was punishment for disobeying them or perhaps they just didn't want us to any say in the terms of work that would be done on our house. Either way, we once again decided to stand our ground.

In looking back at the situation, I see that, there were many times when I perhaps could have intervened and ended this argument by purposefully using my communication skills to communicate with people of the community. I figured that, the key to working with the community was to address them. However, my partner has always been steadfastly against me speaking directly to community members about this subject. She says that, my Chinese is not good enough and that, even though they would smile in front of you, they would stab you in the back, later. 

My partner has experienced a lot of that backstabbing by community members throughout this process and perhaps she is correct about my Chinese not being enough to communicate my views effectively. Furthermore, the community suit against the building company left the gang of four (now down to two) with little choice but to continue to insist that our roof is broken, dangerous and must be replaced. Because this is argument they used to sue the building company and convince others to replace their roofs. After thirteen years, thousands of earthquakes and dozens of typhoons, our roof is still fine; however, within months after replacing the rest of the community’s roofs, 4-5 of them had areas wherein the tile just seemed to explode. I am not certain why, but I guess it was due to them using cheap, inferior tiles (which I had also argued against) to replace the original, more expensive ones that came from Japan.

My partner is one of those law-abiding types and I guess she figured that our legal rights would be honored and protected by the law. The problem with this type of thinking is that, it does not account for the nature of the human and the reality of a legal system that is compromised by the capitalist system. The bottom line: human-law honor those who are willing and able to pay for such honors. We are able to pay and unfortunately, we really do not have much of a choice anymore.

Now, it is time for me to change the course of this story. In the past, I stood aside, let a small group of people dictate and pressure the community into suing an outstanding building company and changing 41 or 42 roofs when only a few required fixing. These 2 or three have been blocking our front entrance with orange cones and have managed to use community money to sue my partner in an attempt to force us to replace our roof and kick us out of our home.

They lost the first case against the building company. The court judgment stated basically, what I have been stating all along. The second case against the building company is in its final stage and judgement should be handed down soon. A few days ago, my partner and I paid a legal firm in Taipei to take over the defensive part of this case from my partner. She has worked extremely hard in an attempt to use the law to make things right, and I encouraged her because I thought it would be a good learning experience and keep her busy. I am probably correct on both accounts; after all, she has now begun to study law and may go so far as to get a license to practice it. Nevertheless, I am now stepping off the sidelines and moving into this playing field.

Herein, I find myself in somewhat of a slightly uncomfortable situation, which is the root of the reason that I write this. The constructs within me say that, the way to win is to attack, wear-down, divide and destroy your opponents. However, an emerging voice within and as me says that, this way of thinking is just what is destroying all of humanity. I used to smile and have friendly conversations with two of the main instigators of this situation. Now, these two are being sued by us and awaiting to find out if the prosecutor is going to press criminal charges. They publically (on tape) called my partner some very mean words and accused her of doing that which she had not. Actually, it even got a lot worse. Some people yelled and screamed at us, telling us that we were too poor to live in their community and stuff like that. I wanted nothing more than to sell this house a long time ago; take a profit on it and move to the countryside, but I guess I am not going to do that now, at least not yet.

Getting back to the reason for writing this out. Here is how I commit to precede in relation to the community and the two people that are left of the gang of 4-5. First, I am no longer going sit by and watch as anyone blocks my front entrance with orange cones. Even though, I am able to walk around them, they represent intimidation and a point of me standing on the sidelines. Yea, I remember the old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. However, I am still going to remove these cones every time someone places them in front of my entrance. Why? Because they interrupt my view of the trees and park across the street and they serve as a warning sign, telling visitors not to go to our house.

Additionally, from now on, I commit to participate in every community meeting. A few may yell at me; tell me to shut up and sit down. However, I am not going to do that. I realize that, the betterment of human nature has to be cultivated and not forced upon people. Therefore, I will participate within the community, and I will tell them that, we are able to have a community democracy wherein all voices are heard and all are free to choose without having to give in to the pressure of a few. I may even look into some democracy software and see if enough people are willing to try it. Most importantly though, I will encourage my partner and I to walk a path of reconciliation. I once wrote in reference to the people and the government that, one side has to offer the other side an olive branch in order for the conflict to end. Thus, I commit to do this: not because it is what I feel like doing, but because I am certain it is what is best for all. I will inform you how this approach goes in another post.

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