NAME-CALLING AS POWER-RELATIONS

November 20, 2012

Been thinking about name-calling as an element of power relations specially in the case of the Tsinoy. In the area of politics, opposing parties resort to name-calling to cut the opponent down to size instead of engaging him in a level-headed and head-on debate. And in the Philippine setting, it could even lead to disastrous consequences. One party might just decide to bring the animosity to a more physical level and resort to arms.

In political and literary theory, name-calling is seen as an articulation of power-relations. As early as the Spanish era, it was postulated that name-calling or “bansag” was a way for the subjugated to get even with the colonizers. There was even a “patood” that goes this way: “Duwang kastila/Nagboborobintana.”

The answer to that is of course mucus in a runny nose. It could be a way for the Bikolnon peasant folk to “hit back” at their Castillan hacienderos who would merely look at them from their windows while the former toiled in the farms. Name-calling is then a product of class struggle and an adversarial culture. In the realm of psychology, it could be a sign of immaturity on the part of the name-caller.

Being so, name-calling is a “no-no” in the academic setting. Aside from the aforementioned implications, it is tantamount to bullying and psychological violence. It results to animosities. It is also a hindrance to learning hence should never be resorted to by the students, and more importantly, by the teachers.

Our penal code has a provision on libel and slander, the former particularizing on written or published while the latter on oral defamation. Article 353 defines libel in general:

“Art. 353. Definition of libel.A libel is public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.

Articles 358 and 359 provide for slander:

Art. 358. Slander. — Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.

Art. 359. Slander by deed. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall perform any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon another person. If said act is not of a serious nature, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.”

Likewise, the Civil Code has a provision on the matter:

“Art. 26. Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:

(1) Prying into the privacy of another’s residence:

(2) Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;

(3) Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;

(4) Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.

And under Article 33 of the Civil Code cases of defamation can be subject of an independent civil action (from the criminal case):

“Art. 33. In cases of defamation, fraud, and physical injuries a civil action for damages, entirely separate and distinct from the criminal action, may be brought by the injured party. Such civil action shall proceed independently of the criminal prosecution, and shall require only a preponderance of evidence.”

Name-calling could fall under the purview of the above provisions and could be subject of a criminal and civil case. And under Art. 26 of the Civil Code, it falls within the purview of the fourth provision on vexing or humiliating on account of other personal condition, and could be a ground for damages, particularly moral damages and exemplary damages. Surely, name-calling could result to “mental anguish.” And said civil action could be proceeded with independent of the criminal case.

So how does name-calling affect Tsinoys? For instance, the teacher keeps on twisting the Chinese-sounding name of the student to make it sound ridiculous. It could humiliate the student for in our culture, one’s family name must be defended by all means being something we inherited from our forefathers. It could also have repercussions on racism. And as we said name-calling is merely a manifestation of power-relations which can be traced back to history.

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