Sunday, June 8, 2008

Watch Your Words

We laugh with disbelief when we read that the Victorians considered it improper for the man of the house carving the Sunday chicken to offer ‘the leg’ to a lady. We feel so superior when we find out that they put curtains on piano legs so as not to give rise to ‘lascivious rumination’ in young men who might see them, and again have a chuckle to ourselves. I wonder what our great great grandchildren are going to think when they read that in May 2008 a candidate for president of the US had to apologize for off-handedly calling to a female reporter ‘sweetie’ and that he caused deep offence for mistakenly saying ‘Auschwitz’ with ‘Buchenwald?’ I wonder what they will think when they read that in the same month an advertisement for a major chain of fast-food restaurants in which an actor wore a black-and-white checkered scarf, was hurriedly withdrawn with profuse apologies because it reminded some people of the scarves worn by Islamic terrorists? I’m sure they will think we were overly-sensitive, touchy pedants who had an exaggerated proclivity for being ‘outraged.’ I would like to announce that I consider myself to be a hundred years ahead of my times because I have already come to this conclusion.
The Buddha said, ‘The Tathagata uses the names (samanna), expressions (niruttiya), turns of speech (vohara) and designations (pannattiya) of the world but he is not misled by them’ (D.I,202). Surely, as adults, we should be able to listen to people speak without thinking that their every word, slip of the tongue or turn of phrase is a cipher for some character flaw or ‘deep-seated prejudice.’ Please kids, do not do this at home.


Justin Choo said...


You are actually 2500 years ahead! You know each time I look at past years' Buddhist magazines, the only persons who look "contemporary" are the monks in their "evergreen" (or should I say "ever-saffron") "latest-design" robes. The rest seemed like they had just visited Mars, with their funny-looking pointie specs, and beehive-hairdo, and laughable clothings!

Singapore Dividend Collector said...

well said sir. i could not agree more. Just because someone has a vocal slip does not mean that they are some demonic figure that deserves to be tied to the rack. accidents happen and thats, that. the whole issue of political correctness is an issue that causes me particular grief. people no doubt have had feeling like the ones they denounce, but hide them from public view behind a smokescreen of face. maybe if we all spoke the truth and learned to accept others' differences in opinion, the world could be a better, more compassionate place.