Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Plastic Surgery and Singlish (約定俗成)

Sometimes a question is unable to be answered because it's not a valid question. So if we are to give it an answer, it would be a flawed one. 

"Why can't Korean people appreciate natural beauty?" 

"Why do they always think double eyelid is prettier than single eyelid?" 

Some raised (loaded) questions like these which a lot of times lead to answers like "Because Korean people do not have their own idea", "Korean people only have one single standard of beauty", or "Because Korean society is highly competitive." 

It's obvious all these arguments are flawed - How can you prove "Koreans don't have their own idea", such a metaphysical issue? There are definitely various standards of beauty in Korea; Shin Min Ah (신민아, 申敏兒) definitely does not have big eyes and so doesn't Rain. A highly competitive society itself doesn't suffice to prove the point either as we do not witness the same in other equally competitive East Asian countries.

I used to wonder why some Singaporeans do not use standard English even if they are able to converse in a standard manner, as it's really an ear-sore to hear them pronounce "project" (noun) as pro'ject instead of 'project or pronounce the "d" in Wednesday whereas it should be silent. Please note that I did not talk about "accent"; accent differs, but pronunciation has standard. 

In response to my wonder, common explanations go like "Because Singaporeans identify with Singlish", "Because they are afraid of being viewed as faking Western accent", and etc.

Until one day it struck me that, plastic surgery in Korea and the use of Singlish by Singaporeans have something in common - culture.

It's just that simple. The Korean society has evolved as it is of today, that plastic surgery is so common that it is already part of the culture - when it's culture, people do not think before acting. It has become pretty natural to them - the single eyelid awaits to be made double, and the low nose bridge requires a job.

Same idea applies to Singlish. Those unaware of standard English is not within my discussion, and an explanation for Singaporeans who are aware of standard English but carry on usage of Singlish is also culture, something habitual.

I am saying, sometimes we just don't need to bother over-elaborate. Human beings most of the time do not live with a clear motivation - it's too tiring to do so; rather, they carry on what they are told to do, without questioning it.

However, realizing this does not make me less cynic :)

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