Grammar and Politics

"To put down people because of their poor grammar shows outright elitism and social superiority."

Randy David, a PDI columnist, raised eyebrows recently when he wrote that the fight between the pro- and anti-Duterte camps “ultimately has to be waged in the internet itself by digital activists who refuse to have their reality defined by trolls that can neither spell right nor write grammatically, that resort to exclamation points to call attention, and that, most importantly, paint a world we cannot recognize."

Prof. David teaches sociology and was expected to be more democratic in his view. But he commits the classic ad hominem fallacy by focusing on the language proficiency of what he calls trolls (sic), rather than their arguments, which he dismisses for their poor articulation. 
I never thought grammar would be a political issue. I occasionally post on grammar in Facebook, aimed to improve people's skill in the English language, not to put them down, or to denigrate their arguments. And my grammar posts always put the blame on the educational system, not on the individuals who make grammatical mistakes.

I also look down on Ingliseros and Inglisera with artificial accents because their attitude is reflective of social superiority. And besides, “Oy, nasa Pilipinas kayo!” And no, I am not a fan of "jejemon" (texting language) and the abbreviated speech of the young because it does not promote wider, especially intergenerational, communication.

But to put down people because of their poor grammar shows outright elitism and social superiority. It is divisive. It lacks sympathy for the less educated and those who are struggling to be heard. Those exclamations points are loud cries for attention. To dismiss the “masa” for their weak language skills, rather than to try and understand their point of view, is undemocratic. No wonder, the good professor does not recognize the world that inarticulate Filipinos depict.

Grammar is important. After all, without grammar, there is no logic. But to use grammar as a tool to exclude people’s ungrammatical and poorly spelled arguments is unconscionable. Even the inarticulate deserve to be heard. Indeed, we should listen to them with even greater care.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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