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Of Words and Swords

September 21, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Of Words and Swords
Ronald Roy  -September 21, 2011

       A journalist should interact with people, his readers most especially; for they are the fountainhead of ideas that make his craft relevant.

       Last week, I enjoyed my croissant-and-coffee bull session with Glenn Dumlao and Vangie Cheng. Our discussion, which covered a wide range of English syntax, grammar and idioms, pounced on Filipinos’ proclivity to mangle idiomatic expressions.

       I couldn’t blame Glenn for being vexed by the atrocious Filipino barbarism: “DAMN IF YOU DO, DAMN IF YOU DON’T.”

       The correct idiom is: “DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T.” The expression actually means that you are damned if you do something, but you are likewise damned if you don’t do it.

       The notion of a no-win dilemma is suggested by the idiom. For instance, the only way to elude a pursuing robber is to jump into a malodorous estero. Thus: You are damned if you jump into the estero, but you are also damned if you don’t.

       The expression may also be composed in the subjunctive mood without substantial change in meaning, viz.:  ‘YOU WOULD BE DAMNED IF YOU JUMPED INTO THE ESTERO, BUT YOU WOULD ALSO BE DAMNED IF YOU DID NOT.

       On request of Vangie, I wish to explain two matters.

       First. DAMNED, as parsed in the idiom, is a transitive verb that is utilized in the passive voice and made to function as an adjective. The rule is elementary high-school stuff, and is understandably forgotten by even some of our finest writers and speakers.

       Second. Prose syntax is the arrangement of words, phrases and clauses in a sentence. Incorrect is: A light meal last night I had. Correct is: Last night I had a light meal, or I had a light meal last night.

       Poetry syntax, on the other hand, allows for more liberal arrangements. Thus: A light meal last night I had, ‘cause gorging up is bad; a doctor’s word is worth his bill, for one who’s past the hill.

       We ended our interesting throwback to school days with the sober note that one: Filipinos should not speak or write English as translated from their native dialect, two: we can take pride that, although being mere borrowers of English, we handle the same with greater facility than other peoples in the world, three: it is pathetic that we, multi-dialectical as we are, sometimes have to use a foreign tongue to communicate with one another, and four: actions speak louder than words.

       I agree with a neighbor, Kenneth Samson, that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have the Americans to thank— they declared us independent on July 4, 1946—  for our so-called coequal status as an independent state in the world of nations. Why? Because Americans’ neocolonial policy has designed us to be dependent on them. Period.

       The Philippines came under Spain’s colonial rule with the discovery of our islands by Spanish seafarer Ferdinand Magellan in the 16th century. The rule was ceded to America via the Treaty of Paris worth US$20M, and was interrupted at the outbreak of World War II with imperialist Japan’s occupation of the islands.

       Then, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur returned to the country at the end of the war, what we got from these white gods was not true liberation, but chocolate bars and cigarette cartons, blissfully unaware that a new kind of imperialism (NEOCOLONIALISM) would take root in Philippine soil – a shadowy fortress, one might say, that is now spread out over the anguished plains of Mindanao.

       It was perhaps the Americans’ strategy to make us look so bad as Asia’s economic doormat that we would develop an attitude of dependency on them.

       And we did not even know then that America had already planned to use our country as a source of materials for the swift development of war-devastated Japan. America had deemed Japan to be a strategic location for its military presence for confronting threats from hostile Chinese and North Korea.

       The result? Japan’s development was swift, while ours was not and in fact continues to move at snail’s pace.

       This is America’s way of keeping us in constant need for crumbs that they can give, like that decades-old decommissioned coast guard cutter which we transformed into the Philippine Navy’s BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

       And to think that we fought and died in the 40’s fighting a war that was theirs, not ours!!

       As I see it, a non-violent way of unshackling ourselves from America’s neocolonialist hold on our freedoms is to remember we are a talented and resourceful people. Then, we must muster the political will to harness these talents, resources and other indigenous strengths in a way that only Filipinos can.

       But first, we must learn to believe in ourselves again. And to do that, we must see ourselves as a wounded nation, tricked, denigrated and pushed around like a patsy by a burly bully of a so-called big brother.

       Let us believe we can solve our socio-eco-political conundrums without groveling on our belly for alms. Then, let’s prepare for the pangs of patience, for true independence may not come within our generation.

       But the wait can be shortened. It all depends on us, really, with or without foreign help. And, by us, I don’t mean P-Noy or government, but we, the sovereign people resolutely acting as one.

       And, should peaceful means fail, well, the bolos of our forebears are there for the unsheathing.

       Let us then muse on these valorous words: ”To arms! To arms! Ye brave! The avenging sword unsheathe! March on! March on! All hearts resolved, on victory or death!” –Rouget de Lisle (La Marseillaise)

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  1. October 14, 2011 at 10:25 pm

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