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Benign0's book
By mlq3 Posted in Daily Dose on September 10, 2006 67 Comments 3 min read
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I was surprised to read that one of my favorite bloggers, big mango, wrote a foreword to an e-book by benign0 (who may be familiar to some as one of the most enthusiastic hecklers of the politically-passionate). So I went through the benign0 tract, and while I can’t endorse it uncritically, I do think it is worth a download and further discussion. There are some assumptions that, I think, represent breathtaking leaps in logic, but in general, his observations are thought-provoking (always good), generally shrewd (always a remarkable thing), and the style very readable and far less conducive to high blood pressure than his on-line heckling. I find myself agreeing with some of his observations and arguments more easily than I expected, though there is plenty to quibble with in other respects.

Some of his more interesting points are (as I see them)

1. Do we have a kind of linguistic apartheid, in which the benefits of a national language haven’t materialized, and instead, produced a substandard level of intellectual involvement for the majority, while maintaining the hegemony of an English-fluent minority? And is the Filipino language, in itself, fatally flawed as far as encouraging a modern, dynamic and competitive society is concerned (he asserts, for example, that there is no Filipino word for “efficiency”).

2. Filipinos do not understand democracy, freedom, etc. in substantive but only in the most superficial and self-defeating manner; that the Filipino family is not just the bedrock of society, it is one of the root causes of the country’s moribund state; it might even be asked, is Philippine society by its very nature, unjust? Also, that Filipinos seem congenitally incapable of the hard work (and by extension, unwilling to demonstrate a basic requirement of maturity, delaying self-gratification).

3. Un unhealthy contempt for intellectual effort; unwillingness to innovate; refusal to engage in critical thinking or to confuse partisan sniping for critical thought; pride becomes a substitute for achievement.

So, what I do unhesitatingly do, is recommend Benign0’s book for reading and discussion. It’s interesting that the most provocative works in the past twenty years were produced by one American (James Fallows), and two Filipino expatriates (Benign0 and David C. Martinez).

From the Lionel Giles translation of the Analects of Confucius:

Duke Ai asked, saying: What must I do that my people may be contented? – Confucius replied: Promote the upright and dismiss all evildoers, and the people will be contented. Promote the evil-doers and dismiss the upright, and the people will be discontented.

Chi K’-ang Tzû asked by what means he might cause his people to be respectful and loyal, and encourage them in the path of virtue. The Master replied: Conduct yourself towards them with dignity, and you will earn their respect; be a good son and a kind prince, and you will find them loyal; promote the deserving and instruct those who fall short, and they will be encouraged to follow the path of virtue.

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  1. i totally agree with antonio, if our language does not have exact translation of some terms that come close to them, by all means, let’s adopt these as they are. i believe linguists call this process as the “intellectualization” of language through code borrowing.

    what is language for really but a tool for communication? just get the message across and i guess we’re fine.

    elinca, circumference as “kabilogan” does not quite capture the essence in mathematical terms if associated with “pi, as circumference turns into a measurement, more than an obvious property (roundness) of the circle.

    indeed, why do we need to translate ratio, circumference, etc., and all those many math terms that derived etymology in greek, if the concept can still be explained not just verbally, but as mlq3 suggested, semiotically? i reckon the failure in the bilingual system at u.p. in the sciences (where it was first experimented in tertiary level) is largely due to “transliterating” every term there is. alas, what would become of the table of elements in chemistry?

    jackryan, “retain the way they are spelled.” by all means.

  2. We’re arguing about translations? Our problem is that we’re approaching linguistic “failings” subjectively.

    From the time we are born we have been taught to value English, to perceive English as better, “classier.” It is the language of education, and so most everything we learned is done through its prism. Necessarily, Filipino is devalued and deemed pedestrian.

    Our problem isn’t about difficulties in translation. Our problem is that we ourselves put more value and prestige on one over the other.

    As many people have pointed out, many other societies/countries seemed to have done well without speaking a single English word. Our tragedy is thinking that mastery English is the key. And so we have failed to develop our own indigenous languages. France has an institution devoted solely to develop and safeguard the French language. L’Academie française was established 400 years ago, and its still around today. A single language was crucial in creating a single France. A single language is crucial in creating a nation.

    Now, let’s go back to this word “efficiency.” This word came from French. Around 30-40% of English is from French because for all intents and purposes, Britain was a French colony for three centuries.

    On English being the world’s lingua franca. This doesn’t necessarily mean that English, as a language, is inherently superior. It is the world’s lingua franca because the two global hegemons of the past two hundred years are anglophones. The British ruled an empire spanning the globe in the 19th century. The Americans (the US being a former British colony) have inherited this role in the 20th. In the coming few hundred years, we might all be speaking Chinese 🙂

  3. helo jackyryan. e ano naman ngayon kung pangit tignan? kung sa akin lang, yung porma ng pagsulat ay hindi kasing halaga ng abilidad ng salita na magpahiwatig ng mga konsepto at ideya. and in any case, sino ba ang pinapagwapuhan natin? 😀

  4. i think it will be easier if we will retain the correct spelling (from original language) of whatever word we adopt from any language, malay,english or german.

    i remember decades ago nsdb sponsored national essay writing contest about science and technology using was really difficult to come up with tagalog words, science and technology is fluid topic and changes occur every second/moment, even english terms are lagging with the progress in science. although i am a pure tagalog bred person (combined provincial and manila), there was really not much vocabulary in science using pure tagalog. we got hold of that book from UP and adopted some of the words. days passed and i came up with an essay in pure tagalog (?) and won first prize!( i could not really believe i won it).

    the TRAGEDY is, to this day, i could not remember the words i wrote. my profession deals with science and most of the time i don’t have a problem with scientific and technical terms.i am still a tagalog speaking person when i am with my kababayans.those UP INSPIRED VOCALBOLARY WORDS…i don’t remember a thing!

  5. i mean scientific and technical vocabularay words

    (sorry again manolo, like what i said before, i’m not a good typist. i think i’m making less mistake with my practice in your excellent blog.thanks for not deleting me with all these typos.)

  6. Hello Antonio. Wag mong masamain kung bakit hindi ko trip ang bagong spelling na itinataguyod ng mga nasa likod ng bagong sistema ng pagbaybay sa wikang Pinoy. Abay hindi lang pala ako ang nagkakaproblema. Halimbawa, baka gusto mong tingnan itong artikulong lumabas sa UST Varsitarian

    At saka hindi pagpapagwapo ang isyu dito: makakabuti ba sa development ng wikang Filipino ang paggamit ng “pangit” na mga salita? Palagay ko hindi.

    Dapat siguro tanungin din natin, hindi lang yung mga ekspertong nasa likod nito, kundi pati rin ang mga batang sapilitang tinuturuan ng “makabagong” sistema ng pagbaybay. Yung anak ko, hirap eh. Pati na rin yung anak ng ilang kakilala ko. Kasi mukang mas banyaga pa siya kisa sa mga salitang nakasanayan na natin.

  7. Ah, benign0. Increasingly efficient at cataloging what is wrong with our culture, but like most other pundits, fail to present solutions beyond the conceptual.

    I’m sure he hasn’t tried teaching children in the boondocks. He’ll learn a lot about language and education there.

  8. Right on Jon. I hope MQIII does not put the loony in the same league as David Martinez. Martinez was clear and concise in his thesis. Benign0 is just…rambling on and on and on aimlessly.

  9. See thats the part of the problem with us Filipinos. We see someone like Benign0 look at the Philippines critically, but then ask, where are the solutions besides his criticisms? It is pretty obvious that Benign has thinked out of the box, because some of you people don’t get the point! One of the worst traits of Filipino thinking today is to wait for someone or something to bring forth the solutions, then you will follow and praise it when it seems it is effective. Benign0 said what he said, to get out of all people, YOU PEOPLE to start THINKING and coming up with the SOLUTIONS as a collective. That was his point the whole time!

  10. Si benign0 ay isang “racialist” ( 1.yupemism para sa salitang “racist”; 2. sa ibang salita: “white supremacist”. ) May website akong nakita (kahit na hindi ito Pilipino):
    Are filipinos inferior to whites and east asians?

  11. cvj :

    By disallowing the ‘good’ and readily admitting the ‘bad’ aspects of Filipino behavior based on stereotypes, Benign0’s book defines a ’straw-man Filipino’ which he then proceeds to attack. He then compares this dysfunctional Filipino unfavorably to the achievements of the Chinese, Japanese and Singaporeans. Far from being new, i think his ideas have codified existing Filipino elitist Conventional Wisdom with its innate prejudice against the Filipino masses. These are precisely the shallow imagery (circa Isagani Cruz) that has to be transcended so that our divided people can understand each other.
    September 11th, 2006 at 12:34 am

    So true. I don’t know if it will take another generation to get rid of this kind of thinking, I see hope in our kids today. In the meantime, we’re just gonna have to wait for the current generation in power to lose their hold on society. New generation, new attitudes, and hopefully, hope.

  12. “Efficiency” in Tagalog is “Husay” or “Kahusayan”.
    Example: Efficient system-> Mahusay na sistema.

    The Japanese refers to the computer as “konpyuta-“, to personal computers as “pasokon” and to the computer mouse as “mau-su”. Despite kanji characters able to represent these words in japanese, people in japan would normally use the english terms. Is the japanese language flawed then in encouraging a modern, dynamic and competitive society?