Tuesday, August 30, 2011

End of Discussion

Sometimes, doing the wrong thing earns you some amount of fame. Up to you if you call it wanted or unwanted publicity.

I insulated myself from much of outside news these past few weeks so I could bring myself to concentrate on work. Pinoy netizens were all agog about a student's essay on the English language. Worth the furor? Hardly. What is more revealing is that the Manila Bulletin mutilated itself by removing it from its servers.

I don't know Mr. Soriano personally - maybe in person he is respectful, refined, keenly observant, and boringly likeable. Maybe that is why his lack of intellectual depth is coddled by a content-hungry site like the Manila Bulletin. His article has enough candor and self-deprecation that it actually hooks the unattentive reader into his premise - English is important because it is essential to success and worldwide discourse; Filipino is our identity and we have trampled all over it, and we have to use it to survive in our own country whose masses are less educated for not being able to converse in English. Feel guilty for not being able to speak well in Filipino, but be thankful that you're a good English speaker.

Nice to get a thumbs up from this reviewer, but obviously there was not enough follow-through in reasoning. Honesty is not good enough in intellectual discourse as in all aspects of life. Ask any philandering husband, recovering alcoholic, compulsive gambler, or recidivist criminal. The right reasons are all there, but with no result or substance? Forget it.

Like Mr. Soriano, I think better and express myself better in English. I take no pride in this except that I can get away with letting people think I'm smarter than I really am, which says more about them than it does about me. I feel incomplete and cheated that I am not as fluent in Filipino as I would wish to be, God knows how hard I tried to be better in my mother tongue during my university years.

The pertinent question in this discussion is - we all know that our educational system, our culture, and our identity as a people still reek of colonialism and racial inferiority. In this case our own shibboleths create multiple layers of oppression and counter-oppression - the so-called "learned" vs. the so-called "hip." We deride the coño because he cannot speak the language of the streets, we laugh at those with regional accents, we create our own jargon for amusement, we nitpick at those with wrong grammar, we laugh at those who try too hard to fit in.

When does this all end? Our mental models of class and language also need to be reformed, perhaps along with the insistence that there is only one ideal way to make onself understood. More importantly, we also need to revisit our ideals of success and white-collar supremacy.

The currency of langugage is its capacity to inspire. If that is so, Filipino has already gotten a good headstart. Let's keep it going.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. - Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

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