Big in Taiwan: Bobby Hill – 佛系[Insert your job here]法

Recently I’ve started to hear the term 「佛系……法」 a lot. The term plays with the Buddhist concept of noninterference, essentially suggesting that instead of trying to follow your boss’ direction/ study in school/encourage internet users to Like your page/earn money etc., you should just resign yourself to the fact that things are beyond your control and that if what you want is meant to be, it will happen without any effort from you. In one sense it can be used as an attack on the perceived lack of a work effort among millenials, suggesting that they think they deserve to get their dreams served to them on a plate, while millenials themselves have adopted it to counter this narrative, as an expression of their cynicism at how much of a difference they can make by following the rules. Different verbs or job titles can be inserted into the blank depending on what the author is describing.

The first time I saw it was when a friend sent a meme featuring a familiar cartoon character, Bobby Hill from King of the Hill. Although my friend had no idea who Bobby Hill was, the meme featuring him meditating while incense burns in the foreground seems to have caught the Taiwanese imagination. I’ve put some examples of the use of the meme I found on the internet below. There was one example I saw of an English use of this meme, but it doesn’t seem to have caught the imagination of the English-speaking world quite so much:

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Source: https://dailyview.tw/Popular/Detail/1656

 

The one on the left above, has a slight incel vibe, but what can you do?

How to escape being single* the Buddhist way

-Don’t be proactive in trying to meet anyone

-Don’t go to any singles events

-Politely refuse any invitations to parties

-Focus on your own stuff, eat well, wrap up warm and earn money

-When the time is right, the right person will appear

*Lit. being a loser, but here, it’s implied that it refers to being single

The one on the right translates roughly as follows:

How to earn money the Buddhist way

-Don’t use your brain or make any effort

-Don’t do anything serious, don’t pay attention to your supervisor

-Spend all day playing games, searching online auction sites and posting stupid stuff online

– When the time is right, the money will naturally make its way into your account

The one below refers to the administrators of Facebook Fan pages:

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Source: https://www.1111.com.tw/15sp/delicacy/discussTopic.asp?cat=marketingjob&id=135557&vmode=all 

How to be a (Facebook Fan Page) Administrator the Buddhist way:

-Don’t try for a punchline, don’t try to be trendy, don’t try and find the right picture

-Don’t invite people to like your page, don’t interact with your fans

-When the time is right, you’ll naturally rack up millions of fans

There are many more along a similar theme, with some cool alterations of the original image, and some… less successful ones.

They do say when politicians (and foreigners for that matter) start to pick up a slang word, it’s already fit to be put to bed, however, today I was watching a panel show where the word came up in reference to Ting Shou-chung’s tactics in the Taipei mayoral election. Kuomintang legislator Fai Hungtai said the following in the program:

「佛系打法我是覺得……我不覺得會贏」

“Adopting a strategy of noninterference I think… I don’t think will win it for him”

Here, Fai is suggesting that Ting is trying to win the election by doing nothing while the other two* (incumbent independent candidate Ko Wen-je and DPP pick Pasuya Yao)  exhaust themselves fighting each other. The panel suggests that Ko Wen-je has wooed blue voters in Taipei enough to be just as much, or more, of a threat to Ting, rather than just to Yao.

*There are actually three other candidates, but Social Democrat Party candidate Fan Yun doesn’t generally get mentioned in the race.

SET also had a whole segment on how they feel Ting is doing nothing in the election in the hope that the other two will destroy each other:

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