In our daily lives, we often encounter challenging issues: litter tarnishing a once pristine neighborhood, and complex civil disputes complicating mediation efforts, making fairness and justice elusive.
When existing laws and human efforts fall short, what can be done? In regions rich with folk beliefs, the notion of receiving “divine assistance” from gods becomes a tangible reality, bridging cultural traditions with contemporary problem-solving.
Cultural context: the power of regional beliefs
Rooted in regional culture, many households in southern Fujian Province uphold traditional folk beliefs, steeped in the reverence of gods and celestial beings.
A popular saying on the internet captures the essence: “If you ask Fujian residents to wake up at 6 am to welcome a celebrity, you might be ignored. But if you ask them to rise at 6 am to greet a deity, they’ll all be there by 4.”
While the specific deities worshipped may vary across regions and villages, some, like the “Earth God” or “God of Wealth,” enjoy widespread devotion. These deities, with roles ranging from guardianship to bestowing prosperity, hold significant positions in the hearts of believers.
Solving real-world problems with intervention from gods
A pertinent societal issue addressed through this fusion of tradition and innovation is littering. In Taiwan, especially in older apartment complexes, centralized waste disposal points are rare. Instead, garbage is collected at scheduled times and locations by recycling trucks.
Residents must queue up within a narrow timeframe, typically just 10 minutes. Those who miss the collection window often resort to clandestine dumping in alleys, compromising cleanliness and adding to the burden of cleaning up.
In response, Leo Burnett and Digitas, two companies in Taiwan, developed a program called “God is Watching” to monitor dumping through behavior recognition.
This AI-driven device identifies and analyses littering behavior, projecting a holographic image of the Earth God to deter littering. During the three-month trial, this innovative approach reportedly reduced illegal dumping at monitored locations by 73 percent.
Critics argue that addressing littering issues requires more efficient waste disposal methods, like aiding elderly residents or establishing fixed collection points.
However, Taiwan’s privately owned land, especially in older urban areas, coupled with the reluctance of residents, makes centralized solutions challenging. The AI-powered holographic intervention thus serves as a thoughtful and engaging alternative.
Cultural conflict resolution: the rise of ‘deity mediation rooms’
Disputes often arise within communities. In the city of Putian, Fujian Province, the “Goddess Mediation Room” gained widespread attention. Initiated by the local judiciary, this room, steeped in folk beliefs in the sea goddess Mazu, aims to resolve disputes peacefully.
Since its establishment in June 2019, the Mazu Mediation Room has successfully mediated nearly 200 conflicts, earning praise and replication in other areas.
The integration of regional culture into conflict resolution not only addresses immediate disputes but also contributes to community correction and has a positive influence on legal processes, legal awareness, and education.
The comments of a local resident encapsulate the sentiment: “With Mazu in our hearts, restraint is natural. Even if you’re bold, you wouldn’t dare deceive Mazu.” This faith instils confidence that the mediation, conducted with everyone standing in respect to Mazu before proceedings begin, ensures fairness.
Cultural innovation in societal governance
The unique intersection of cultural beliefs and contemporary problem-solving is a testament to the adaptability of tradition. While relying on “gods” might not be a universal solution, the cases presented underscore the importance of context-sensitive approaches to problem-solving.
The blend of cultural practices and modern technology showcases the potential for innovative, effective, and culturally resonant solutions to societal challenges. As folk beliefs extend beyond religious practices, they emerge as dynamic tools contributing to social harmony, stability, and the well-being of communities.