Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Sin Bin

“Marriage is too expensive; divorce is too final. When marriage turns sour, people have nowhere to turn. I sought a creative solution, one fit for the modern Taiwan. The results, as you know, have been spectacular.”

I had accepted an invitation to meet Yan Xiang Ling, Taiwan’s Ministeress of Confucian Sustainitude. She wanted to discuss her controversial Spouse Bin policy. “Please tell me how you thought up the idea,” I said.

“After my divorce I was very unhappy,” she said, “while my ex-husband found contentment in brothels, gambling dens and all-night sex parties. I set out to correct this injustice and find some way to reduce divorces. However, although Taiwan is the world’s best country and our tourist slogan is ‘Our Country is Better Than Yours’, it is well known that Taiwanese people are not creative. I used the Internet to research foreign culture and came across the term ‘sin bin’. In some of your barbarian sports, the judge can make unsporting players leave the field and think about what they have done. Marriage is very much a team sport, so I adapted the idea.”

“But,” I said, “In sports the sin bin is a bench next to the pitch, whereas you have erected a concrete prison cell on every street corner in Miao Li.”

“Yes,” she said enthusiastically, “it’s a very elegant system. If a man fails to notice his wife’s new haircut, or stares too long at a pretty waitress, or commits any of the 999 Spousal Hate Crimes listed in the legislation, his wife can call the hotline. A squad attends the scene, interviews the witnesses, and can place the husband in the local sin bin.”

“Doesn’t it lead to more divorces?”

“No, because the squads take the view that the woman is usually right. Within a very short space of time, men learn they have to keep their wife happy or face cold, foodless nights in the sin bin. Miao Li is like a paradise now.”

“Have there been any unexpected side effects?”

“Yes,” she said, “there have been no marriages for two months. But no marriage means no divorce, so I have achieved my goal. The Mayor of Miao Li will be delighted – when his wife lets him out.”

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