Right speech counts

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