Friday, June 11, 2010

The English Language and Freedom 英文语言奠基自由精神

Jewish World Review June 1, 2010 / 19 Sivan 5770

陈凯一语: Kai Chen's Words:

保尔. 约翰逊(Paul Johnson)在如下文章中所阐述的观点与我几年前所撰文章(“最佳社会四大要素”Four Essentials)不谋而合。 语言本身携带价值或反价值/伪价值。 一个人要自由就必须逐渐减少中文(或其它语言)对自身的限制与影响而逐渐增加英文能力与影响。 灵比脸重要的多。 --- 陈凯

Paul Johnson's article on English language and Freedom coincides the points I made in my article "Four Essentials" a few years ago. Language itself is never value-free or value-neutral. If one wants to be free, he/she must gradually reduce the negative effect of his own mother language, be it Chinese or some others. And he/she must make an effort to improve his/her English ability. The health of the soul is always more important than a shiny face or a person's vanity. --- Kai Chen


The English Language and Freedom


By Paul Johnson

While playing a tiny part in Britain's recent election, I noted one aspect of it with concern: Some of the people to whom we'd given the right to vote spoke little or no English. As the electoral arguments, especially the televised debates between the party leaders, were conducted entirely in English, how could these voters know what they were voting for?

It's my view that Britain and the U.S. do not do enough to promote the spread of English, which thereby decelerates or even reverses the spread of democratic freedom. There's little doubt, for instance, that the hostility of the Muslim world toward the West is promoted by the failure of Muslim countries to develop democratic institutions, which, in turn, has been brought about by a resistance to the spread of English. Even among educated Muslims few have read the writings of British philosophers John Locke and Edmund Burke, not to mention those of America's Founding Fathers, which has lead directly to a lack of understanding of what the West is about.

This problem will intensify as China moves massively and confidently onto the world scene. Very few mainland Chinese speak English nor do they have any conception of the liberal tradition that the language enshrines. It's alarming to realize that the Chinese government is spending massive amounts of money and deploying large numbers of people (by one calculation more than 1 million) to spread its notions and influence in Africa--cultural and political ideas that differ greatly from the West's.

Fortunately it's a different story in India, and the responsibility for this rests largely with one man, the historian Thomas Babington Macaulay. In 1834 Macaulay was sent to India as an administrator, and the next year he found himself president of the Committee of Public Instruction for Bengal. As such, Macaulay made up his mind that Indians--there were then fewer than 250 million--must be taught English and be exposed to Western culture because it would, as he put it, give them the key "to all the vast intellectual wealth, which all the wisest nations of the Earth have created and hoarded in the course of 90 generations."

Macaulay's policy was adopted, and as a result large numbers of Indians, especially those in the ruling, intellectual and clerical classes, began to learn English. In the process they began to absorb cultural and political ideas from the West, especially the need to uphold and establish the rule of law and to set up representative institutions.

Since India gained its independence in 1947 English has continued to spread, and India--now with a population exceeding 1 billion--has maintained democratic structures and methods and free courts of law, despite what was once a situation of overwhelming poverty and many difficulties. The contrast with China is fundamental.

Moreover, because India remained attached to the English language umbilical cord, ideas, methods and technology flowed into its educated and commercial classes on a scale and in ways that China, especially since its years of Communist totalitarian rule, has been denied. This gave India the advantage of being able to bypass an updated version of the Industrial Revolution and embark straightaway upon the communications and Internet revolution.

But China--once its government relinquished total control of every aspect of the economy and made a bid to create consumer institutions and raise living standards rapidly--had no choice but to begin with old-style smokestack industrialization. With its ultracheap workforce, China has become good at building conventional mills and factories and exporting low-priced goods globally. It is accumulating huge currency reserves and is financing the expansion of its armed forces. But these advantages will not necessarily last, and China is in danger of landing itself with a prematurely outdated economy, mass unemployment and huge problems regarding pollution and industrial waste.

Insurance Policy

As the century progresses India has a good chance of moving to the head of the innovatory field. It has both the freedom and the language to be receptive to new ideas and is in a position to produce technologies of its own that may become global winners.

India is about to overtake China in terms of population and will also outdistance it economically and financially well before the end of the 21st century. Where India will stand in relation to the U.S. I don't know. But America, with its own soundly based democratic institutions and traditions of intellectual and economic freedom, will be well placed to remain in the front ranks. I predict this will be a neck-and-neck race, with China running a poor third and Russia and Europe limping in as also-rans.

In the meantime we must make a much more concerted and determined effort to repeat the Macaulay initiative, pushing to have English spoken and read in large portions of the world, especially in western Asia, Africa and Latin America.

International finance and commerce, investment and travel are to some extent furthering this aim. But government policy could do much to help. It's important that the Obama Administration and Britain's new government take this point. I would like to see all of their agents--from diplomats to administrators of aid programs to commanders in the armed forces--say to themselves: "Am I doing enough to help the spread of English and Western ideas?"


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Four Essentials

陈凯一语:Kai Chen's Words:

纵观世界,美国是人类历史上最自由,最进步,最繁荣,最道德,最具有活力与创造力的人的社会。 个体主义与个体价值,基督精神与终极道德感,联邦宪政与小政府大社会,英文作为法律教育科学的最佳用语是美国社会的四大要素。 世界上其它社会有的只有这四大要素的某些部分,如欧洲的大部分社会,亚洲的一些社会。 中国社会则根本没有任何的这些要素。 世界上人和社会的进步程度也都取决于它们在多大程度上与意愿上试图取得这四大要素。 --- 陈凯

If you study all the societies in the world, you will find that America is the freest, the most progressive, the most prosperous, the most ethical, the most lively and the most creative and productive country on earth. Individualism with God-given rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, Christianity with awareness of existence of moral absolutes, constitutional federalism founded on the principle of limited government, and English language as the communication tool used in law, education and sciences are the four essentials for all the achievements in American society. In comparison or contrast with other parts of the world, some such as those in Europe and some in Asia only have parts of the four elements. Others like China have none. Not surprisingly, the degree of freedom, prosperity, creativity and productivity, and the speed of progress of all the societies in the world vary according to whether or not any particular country has and is willing to acquire these four essentials. --- Kai Chen


Dear Visitors: ( )

* Individualism with God-given rights for each to pursue life, liberty and happiness

* Christianity with awareness of existence of moral absolutes

* Constitutional federalism founded on the principle of limited government

* English language as the communication tool used in law, education and sciences

I list these four essentials of a progressive society for all of you to ponder and examine. Those societies who measure up to these four fundamental elements are those who are doing well and progressing toward a better tomorrow. Those who do not measure up or those who reject these four essentials are those societies mired in stagnation and perpetual turmoil. They are going nowhere and they are going down the drain.

Let us examine these four essentials for a society's positive direction toward progress:

1. Individualism with God-given rights for each to pursue life, liberty and happiness:

On this 50th anniversary of publication of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", we will remind ourselves that Ayn Rand, like almost everyone in America, was an immigrant from Russia. She, much like Copernicus and Galileo in the realm of physical science, pointed out that in the realm of morality and human society it is the individual, NOT the society or any collective, that is the fountainhead of creativity and productivity. It is the individual, NOT the collective, that is the sun where the energy is produced and emitted. A society thus must be revolving around the individual, not the other way around. Hence, without this correct awareness of the objective reality, any society will never progress for it will suppress the very source of the energy and creativity.

2. Christianity with awareness of existence of moral absolutes

To interpret Ayn Rand's works mistakenly by injecting moral-relativism is a common mistake among the liberals and the American left. Absolute power, not truth, thus becomes the focal point of contention with the liberals and the left in large, much like the socialists and communists anywhere else in the world. America is never a nation with NO God like a communist country. America is never a nation OF God like a theocracy. America is a nation UNDER God, not men. Christianity thus establishes the moral foundation of America. The origin of life, the origin of consciousness, the origin of morality thus are explained via a life\freedom -affirming, happiness\joy oriented belief. Freedom will triumph over tyranny; truth will triumph over falsehood; life will triumph over death; good will triumph over evil; progress will triumph over stagnation; joy and happiness will triumph over misery and suffering.... By focusing on today's human behavior under a moral compass, a better tomorrow becomes a goal and possibility. Hope is thus instilled and inculcated into the human psyche.

3. Constitutional federalism founded on the principle of limited government

Separation of power, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, inner checks and balances and the principle of limited government all mark the American style constitutional federalism. Presidential election, not a parliamentary system with a prime minister, ensures a constant element of change and innovation in governmental reform and policy initiatives. Thus American society is endowed with a rare vitality and risk-taking innovations. Constant but limited human experiment by the government to ensure a freer society is thus implemented via a written constitution. Stagnation and rigidity hence are diminished. Small government and big society with powerful individuals are ensured.

4. English language as the communication tool used in law, education and sciences

Compared with other languages, English language lacks the rigidity and complexity which often constitute barriers in educating a society's population. It often has Latin roots, Greek roots, German roots, French roots.... It has no human restrictions put on it in its constant evolution and development, not like some other European languages such as French. English language is simple to use, free to create, and easy to understand. The best legal, literal and scientific minds of human history had mostly been written in English. And English-speaking countries lead the world in all the aspects of human endeavors. English language as a tool to conceptualize and interpret natural and human phenomena has greatly contributed to the history of human progress. Failure to recognize the contribution of the English language is to deny the simple fact and the truth all together.

The four essentials I list here are essentials for any human society to progress toward hope and a better tomorrow. I hope all of you think deeper into this issue and post your own opinions here on my forum.

Best wishes to you all. Kai Chen

1 comment:

Stephen said...

Interesting analysis wrt the English language. Althoughthe Germans (excepting the 2 wars they started) have done quite well. Those wars really put a damper on things for them.