Sunday, March 27, 2016

Why English (and other languages) are so hard to study

To the Language Students,
    English is perhaps one of the most difficult languages to study in the world. Why is that? Well, it's a big convulsive mess because of many things. You may have heard of the interesting history of the development of the English Language and how it is German based with French influences. Here is a brief summary as I learned in college.
    First you have the original inhabitants of England. They have their Germanic roots (I think these were the Anglos and hence how England got its name as "Land of Anglos"). Then Rome comes and establishes a brief influence in the region. After the Romans, the Germanic tribes from Europe come and conquer (possibly the Saxons? Hence you get Anglo-Saxon). It's from the Vikings that we have the "count in quantities of 12" system also known as "base-12". That's why we have words like dozen and how we have separate words for 12 numbers before your fall into the more Roman pattern of base-10. Why Roman again? Because England was then conquered by the Normans who inhabited Northern France. These people became the rulers but didn't want to contaminate their "noble language" with that of the common folk. This leads to English having a proper, French-derived word set and an Germanic-derived vulgar set. Tom Scott briefly covers this in his own video about why you swear in Anglo-Saxon. Next is even more Roman influence as you have the Renaissance. After that, you move towards Modern English where there's a global influence as English adopts words from many different languages.
   However, the development history as I described is just one aspect of how the Language became so confusing. A large part of the blame stems from those who have inherited the language over generations and failed to practice proper English. Now my English skills are not great either, but I do also get frustrated by inconsistent practices that are starting to become normal. For example, the use of the for "they" for third-person singular annoys me. "10 items or less" instead of "fewer" is another annoying point as this makes it confusing how to properly use the two ("less" is for what you cannot count such as "water", but "fewer" is for something you can count, such as "items"). So when something like my latter example becomes common, it's no wonder that learning the language becomes a tedious task.

N. D. Moharo

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

How is Mercy Just?

To Those Who Desire Justice,
    The idea of Mercy can be a very confusing thing. When we often think of Mercy in terms of Justice, we might perceive that Mercy avoids Justice. When you get into religion, you may even hear the concept of a God who is Equally Merciful and Just. How can this be?
    I actually only recently figured out a solution to this paradox today (28th of February) and the best way to explain it is to better focus once more on a little short story written by J. D. Nyle. His story of the Rapist Knight is the best example of Mercy and how Justice actually needs it. I suggest you read it before reading my thoughts on it.

    The story asserts that Rape is evil and even places it as a crime punishable by death. A knight is caught in the act and shows no form of remorse for his actions. In fact, he even tries to say it's no big deal as she is a peasant girl. He is given the Death Sentence with proper comments that "If the warriors who are to protect my land are evil, what need does another army need attack us?" The Knight is confirmed to be wicked. However, that is only beginning of the story.
    The prince intercedes for the knight, confirming his father's words about evil, but responding that he sees potential for the evil to be corrected far greater than the death sentence. His proposal is that the knight become a slave for the family he had wronged with the possibility of regaining his rank. We may consider this idea to be evil but the prince's words explain his idea. He says to the father of the family about the death of the knight: "But what good will it do you? It is quick and simple, but it will not take away the pain. He is a human being like yourself and so I implore you to have mercy. His life is yours to deal with. Please respect it as a human life.” The prince acknowledges that the scar of the crime cannot be satiated with just one man's death. The effects would still be there. He proposes that by servitude, this scar may be healed as well.
     When the father of the family decides to join in the prince's act of mercy, we read on to see the knight does change. He serves the family, begins to respect them, mourns his action toward the maiden, and actually grows to love her and the daughter who is borne, keeping all of these beyond his time of sentenced servitude. The Power of Mercy is that it can restore balance and therefore be True Justice.

    Consider what it would mean if the knight had died. The scar of being raped would still linger on the maiden. The knight would have died as a fallen knight. The family would have a daughter who was a result of rape and no father. Through the prince, father, and also the maiden's acts of mercy, the evils were corrected one by one, replaced with virtue. The knight previously had no respect for the maiden and now did. The knight wronged the people he was supposed to protect and serve willingly and now he does. The knight committed an act of selfishness but now properly loves the maiden. The daughter, who would have been borne without a father, now has a father who loves her. The knight who had dishonored himself now had earned true honor.

    As I mentioned before in my essay about Equality, Justice is the true honorable desire and is described as "Scales of Justice" in which we want balance. The Death Penalty was certainly the acceptable law in the case, but the true fulfillment of the law was servitude. Without Mercy, there would still be an imbalance, but through Mercy, there is balance and perfection. This is what we need in our lives and this is why Justice and Mercy go together.

With Love,
N. D. Moharo