Saturday, May 25, 2013

Imposition of Suppositions


Another issue raised in the Warisan Minda talk by Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Utama Arshad Ayub was the usage of language. He talked about the importance of using different languages, in response to a French language lecturer raising the issue of being looked down upon by other staff members and lecturers from other disciplines.

Before I go on further, it should be noted that he didn’t, unfortunately, actually answer the question or the actual issue raised by the lecturer. That’s alright, though, I guess so long as everyone is happy enough; one suspect that the lecturer himself simply wanted to bring that to the attention of a key UiTM figure, rather than expect any particular solution to be presented right on the spot.

He went on and talked about the importance of having a third language. “At the very least, even if you cannot write it,” he said, “then learn to read and speak it. Using it outside of the classroom environment is important.” He went on and on and talked about it, and I…felt bored. I certainly felt that he wasn’t saying anything new, or, perhaps more to the point, considered his point irrelevant to me. He had assumed that I, like everybody else, would not be able to speak more, that I had been content with what was given to me rather than clawing and scratching my way forward for more.

Then I stopped.

He had, of course, made that assumption, but was it an unfair assumption to make? At the risk of sounding very condenscending, many people I know in Malaysia do not have the linguistic ability to speak more than two languages.

But is this itself not an assumption that I myself am making?

Some people say that it is not a good thing to judge. I myself do not necessarily subscribe to that view, but judging (there’s that word again) from the way the word has been used, it implies that there is a negative idea that is attached to that idea. It's not good to judge.

However, don't we all do that?

The tendency to talk about first impressions as something that is lasting is key here. The idea of making a first impression that is positive is prevalent amongst many, but it has also been expressed as if it does not really indicate any sort of accuracy as to a person's character. The more you know someone, the better you can judge (again, this word!) the accuracy of said first impression.

In which case, can we say that the said first (or second or third) impression is the kind of judgment we all fear and loathe to impose upon others? The impression, until the next time the chance to approve or disprove it appears, remains and lingers as more than just a residue of what we think; rather, it stays long enough to remain the final word until the next word. If we don't ever meet that person again, that impression becomes a little more permanent.

I suppose in that sense, perhaps it would be better to consider the removal of the negativity surrounding the word 'judge'. Neutrality should be restored, assuming, of course, that the identity of such words was neutral to begin with. More to the point, perhaps what we should consider is a bigger willingness to appropriately change our impressions as soon as the situation warrants it, to consider that the reality of a person's character is beyond what we understand through that first or final impression.

Or judgement. Whatever you want to call it.

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