Right speech counts

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

THE phrase “Kepala ba­pak kau” (“Your fa­ther’s head”) was ut­tered in pub­lic re­cently. To peo­ple who barely speak or un­der­stand Ba­hasa Malaysia it may not be a big deal but not for those who un­der­stand the nu­ances of what was in­tended. Let’s en­sure a sim­i­lar in­ci­dent is not re­peated by go­ing into the mat­ter.

Many would re­mem­ber us­ing the phrase at some point in their life, but most likely when they were young and im­ma­ture. In par­tic­u­lar, when pres­sured by an “unfriendly” ques­tion(s) that needed an im­me­di­ate re­sponse on is­sues that do not seem to have quick and con­vinc­ing an­swers. So the phrase comes to the res­cue as a po­tent eva­sive “strat­egy” that tends to ap­peal more to the emo­tion (by in­vok­ing one’s fa­ther) rather than the ra­tio­nal mind. It shifts the fo­cus of ar­gu­ment from the real hard ques­tion(s) at hand with­out even hav­ing to broach the sub­ject, let alone fur­nish the much needed “ev­i­dence” to deal with the is­sue.

Gen­er­ally, it is re­garded as a crude out­burst and hit­ting be­low the belt by shame­fully drag­ging in one’s fa­ther into the ar­gu­ment when he has noth­ing to do with it. More so, in our cul­ture where fa­thers are revered es­pe­cially when they are no longer with us. For that mat­ter, any el­derly per­son is treated with re­spect and cour­tesy, at least that is the way we were cul­tur­ally sen­si­tised as part of the “adab” that is be­ing eroded by par­ti­san pol­i­tics.

Among young peo­ple, how­ever, this mes­sage may be missed or not taken se­ri­ously given their lack of rea­son­ing and ma­tu­rity. But when it in­volves adults, it bog­gles the mind as to where or what has gone foul.

Do­ing so pub­licly makes it even more baf­fling given the un­in­tended con­se­quences.

If it was di­rected to an ex­pe­ri­enced au­di­ence, chances are, many will re­main un­moved know­ing what the “bluff” is all about.

Some may even consider it as an in­di­rect ad­mis­sion of “guilt” leav­ing a stigma on the one who (mis)uses the phrase.

Plus, the bone of con­tention re­mains un­re­solved. It plays into the hands of the “op­po­nent” who now has a handy “weapon” that can be de­ployed time and again to push the speaker to a cor­ner.

The speaker also loses his moral au­thor­ity in the eyes of the pub­lic.

The seem­ingly in­nocu­ous phrase can have a U-turn ef­fect that is of­ten un­der­es­ti­mated when ap­plied at times of un­con­trolled anger.

Worst still, it flies in the face of some Malaysians who are try­ing hard to ad­vo­cate “high value cul­ture” guided by hu­man­ity, wis­dom, in­tegrity and hu­mil­ity as high­lighted in this col­umn last week. The phrase con­veys just the op­po­site.

Over­all, it would seem that the speaker has lost con­trol and gone over­board or over­re­acted. And un­in­ten­tion­ally per­haps let down his guard and un­der­mined the “high value cul­ture”. What with the de­vel­oped coun­try sta­tus that is just around the cor­ner to match.

As it has of­ten been said be­fore, world-class in­fra­struc­ture alone does not make a de­vel­oped na­tion with no ro­bust high-value cul­ture prac­tised as a way of life to back it. The lat­ter is even more es­sen­tial than the for­mer.

A case in point, as noted be­fore, was how the brand new MRT is no more than a facet of “me­nially ret­ro­gres­sive think­ing” to those lack­ing high value cul­ture lead­ing to acts of van­dal­ism at its sta­tions not too long ago. In the same breath, is the cur­rent episode set­ting an­other form of re­gret­table act that the coun­try has to en­dure?

We need to be con­cerned that no un­savoury lan­guage(s) is tol­er­ated re­gard­less of who and in what­ever sit­u­a­tion as long as it com­pro­mises our col­lec­tive dig­nity.

So let this un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent be the last of its kind.

With some four decades of ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion, the writer be­lieves that “an­other world is pos­si­ble”. Com­ments: let­ters@ the­sundaily.com

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.