Words matter


Misplaced arrogance is a pronounced flaw of some characters furtively hanging around in the shadow of Mr. Duterte.

Yet, even given the loathsome misplaced arrogance by these uninspiring and empty-headed characters, they still manage somehow to sow mayhem in what already is our absurdly vulgar present times.

In recent days, one good candidate who sowed mayhem, at least in military circles, was none other than shock jock cum acerbic commentator cum radio broadcaster Erwin Tulfo.

It should be familiar by now how Mr. Tulfo has been thoroughly chastened, battered into apologetic submission by an angry military institution unexpectedly aroused by his boisterous, abusive harangue against a well-respected former Army general.

I need not repeat here the colorful language Mr. Tulfo used against Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rolando Bautista. But the scornful words had one and only one clear meaning: Words did matter to military men.

So much did the words matter to a peeved military fraternity that not only did it cost Mr. Tulfo his and his brothers police and military bodyguards but it also threatened his very livelihood as a colorful broadcast journalist – a career which to some in the military, as in one anonymous Facebook post by a military man detailed in so many words, was nothing but polite fiction.

But even as all the military gung-ho was going around, it was pretty much certain Mr. Tulfo, a supporter of Mr. Duterte seen by his fans as full of self-confidence, had failed to recognize the irony of it all.

Ironic because his colorful language against a fellow Duterte supporter that got the military man’s goat was in fact familiar — his foul language belongs to the tiny and stagnant pool of stock epithets used by many rabid supporters of Mr. Duterte in going against perceived enemies.

In fact, Mr. Tulfo’s harangue was benign when viewed against the present social and political landscape, particularly in social media, where fanatics cuss and threaten anyone, even a senator, uttering politically disagreeable and profane thoughts.

Thus, the broadcaster’s language was symptomatic of a trend. So noticeable is this turn in our language that many of us now reduce talk about politics into such basic withering epithets as “P__ang ina mo!” “Sampalin kita diyan!” “Mamatay ka na!” and “Sana ma-rape ka!” All are emotional triggers, all open invitations for violence.

All these, however, are only endemic in civilian discourse. As far as I know, unkind and foul language is hardly a staple in military circles. Well, at least among themselves foul language may not have a place though they may also be as potty-mouthed as the civvies when talking about their avowed enemies.

Thus, it is not far-fetched to assume the military institution may have thought all along it was immune to whatever was happening outside of the ranks of men and women in uniform. They, in short, acted as curious onlookers of what are thoroughly unhealthy, decidedly insane episodes prevalent in civilian society.

And this now brings me to the logical point that with all the vehemence they have shown on Mr. Tulfo the military had proven how mistaken they were about their aloof stance.
It now seems they have realized they cannot insulate themselves from the goings-on in civilian society. So much so they had to forcefully assert themselves against language abuse and the threatening thoughts that went with it.

The value, therefore, of the military’s active and fraternal disparaging of a civilian who offended them has awakened the soldier’s innate sense of decency where disrespect and abusive language has no place.

While this is a positive value, this should not in any way mean the military now goes out of bounds that it now thinks it can dictate decency or right conduct. That would be a mistake.

What the military can properly do is for them to raise their forefinger and admonish one and all, whether military or not, that publicly-aired foul language just won’t do anymore in our polarized society. That would be a better benefit to all.

As it is, I’m pretty sure many people after the Tulfo affair will be take the cue to exercise caution on the words they will use when criticizing active or former military officials now holding civilian positions. Certainly, that would be welcomed by the military as this means they have succeeded in what they wanted all along — according them respect.

But we cannot stop at this. We cannot exempt any one from abuse when they express themselves on political matters, even if that someone held contrary views. Now is the time we all regain our senses about the language we do use in our politics and start respecting each other.

If anything, the military conundrum against Mr. Tulfo should prod us to finally cleanse our political conversations of foul language which has done nothing but box us all into corners where we are now having a hard time extricating ourselves from.

I may be overly optimistic here, asking we sober up on our political language, what with the active presence of devilish creatures making it their profitable business to foster hate speech, passing such speech as “freedom of expression” and as some mark of authenticity.

It is not authenticity. Never was.

The far more authentic political culture among Filipinos in many face-to-face discussions on politics and social issues injecting cuss words and insults just does not happen, even amid heated exchanges. If it is true cusses and threats are authentic political gestures, scores would have been dead by now.

Email: nevqjr@yahoo.com.ph