Monday, December 24, 2012

This and that

It's been a very bad week for people who had prepared for the end of the world. They have to pick up where they left off. And, they need to now clear all the canned food and preserved food from their pantry.

That aside, I mourn the passing of Lim Keng Yaik. Malaysia has lost another good man. He will be missed.

Which leaves me to raise this feeling in the pit of my considerable stomach about the state of our fluency in the English language and, worse, the quality of thought processes.

I have just skimmed through a piece written by an academic at one of our local universities who wrote ponderously (or so, she must have thought) on Montesquieu and the doctrine of the separation of powers. 

Her grammar and syntax kept falling apart. I find that to be quite forgivable and tolerable because I, too, have learnt to lower my expectations as my work life progresses. In such situations, I merely speed up my skim-reading, you know, like a hydofoil increasing its velocity in choppy waters so as to raise the hull further from the surface water...oh, I'm sure you get it.

What I found difficult to pardon is that the piece, being a written contribution to an august journal of professional practitioners and peers, did not stray very far from its encyclopaedic roots. There was, after nearly 10 pages of excursus into the wherewithal of Montesquieu's thesis and its influence on politico-legal thought on it, nothing that the piece had to offer by way of pushing the envelope of the proposition further or offering a comparison between the adoption of the doctrine in various constitutional jurisdictions.

As William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)) wrote, "The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves..."

I really shouldn't have even tried to read that piece.

1 comment:

walla said...

While it's alright to make mistakes, it is not ok to repeat them. That, unfortunately, is more likely to happen with the academician exampled and all those in the same boat of publish or perish.

At her level, her peers won't be the ones pointing out to her that she has impoverished her own treatise and that's because they too are doing the same.

Once the editors of the journal start a precedent of accepting such a work without pre-publication changes, they ping a message that such works are in toto acceptable to them. The standing of the journal will then also drop.

It then becomes an implicit agreement not to rock the boat which means there won't be much progress and improvement in the organization inasmuch the individual and the carriers of knowledge which in turn leads to a national fall in standards measured against rising standards in other countries.

Occasionally one may get a spotty spike in standards but that's ascribable to a counter-current individual effort which however cannot be sustained in an ecosystem where peers tend not to recognize excellence per se.

This will demotivate performance-shaping achievers who will then leave for greener pastures where their effort can be more highly appreciated and thus rewarded.

The reputation and ranking of the organization if not the country they leave behind will thus be negatively reflected which will make future recruitment of good quality candidates harder. It is a vicious cycle.

This that happens in our tertiary institutions is what is happening everywhere else in our country. You know it when to his credit as a statesman, the late YB Lim Keng Yaik publicly denounced even his own staff-prepared speech while in the midst of reading it.

The road to any effort at excellence as a trait of real and honest progress is paved with hardships, challenges and pitfalls but such difficulties are only a consequence of individuals sweating it out to carve insightful gems out of amorphous rocks. They want to create enduring works that throw light into darkness and expand horizons for others.

Their propulsion to do so comes from their realizing we live in two worlds in constant daily combat. The world of things and the world of thought.

Which also explains why there is so much local political disjointedness today. Because too many of our political leaders have sold their souls for things when they should have redeemed them with good, fair and honest thoughts.

You see that as well in the recent hoarding of essentials. A moment's thought would have clarified that if the Mayan prophecy had been really fulfilled, its magnitude would have made the extra packet of instant noodles superfluous.

Perhaps the answer to everything lies in de-minimisation. What do you think?