Saturday, March 1, 2014

Holier Than Thy Autocorrect

This little number popped up in response to a photo of HHDL on facebook.  The first person was a Tibetan and the second person, white.  Let's call them "Tsering" and "Max" for the sake of ease.

When I saw this interaction, I was so shocked by how quickly and harshly Max jumped on Tsering that I had trouble identifying what was the shocking part.  It took me a while to realize that it was a combination of factors.

Let's be clear: was Tsering, when wishing Long Life to HHDL purposely mispelling lama? Not a chance.  I do, however, challenge any reader, Tibetan or not, to honestly tell me that they've NEVER had "lama" autocorrected to "Lana", "lame" or some other variant while using the ever-popular iphone.  I know I certainly have hit "send" before realizing that I've referenced the Lana visiting the local Buddhist center.  (Other favorites, asking my Tibetan friends what China they are wearing for Losar, instead of chuba, and referring to Hatches Rinpoche instead of Garchen Rinpoche.)

So, chances are Tsering, like the vast majority of Tibetans who want to have easy access to Tibetan language while texting, was using an iphone and it autocorrected Lama to lame.  An unfortunate autocorrect, but one that I hope most people would just get an embarrassed giggle out of.  But not in this case. In Max's effort to show his own holiness and how he is a better servant/representative/whatever of the Dalai Lama than Tsering, he attacks.

Not only that, but "the Precious One"?  I did a quick look at this guy's page. He generally refers to HHDL as "HH."  Yep.  Two letters.  But in this case, "the Precious One"? Really?  Sorry, that sounds a bit forced to me.

Then his charming comment about "write in your own language."  What on earth is that?  OK, good, he acknowledges that English is likely not Tsering's first language, but then denies Tsering the right to choose to comment in English, the primary language of this thread (and facebook in general)?  Let's make the assumption for the moment (and this is a total assumption, because we have no way to know) that Tsering is, like many Tibetans, not fluent in English.  And let's make a second assumption that the error was neither an autocorrect, nor a typo, but an actual spelling error based on difficulty with English. Who the hell does Max think he is to tell a Tibetan, who is clearly trying his best to use the language of the conversation in order to express his own devotion to the spiritual leader of his own people, that Tsering doesn't have the right to use English unless he can use it perfectly?

This is just as bad as when white supporters demand that Tibetans, in a Tibetan space, speak English.  But in this case, instead of acknowledging that learning a second (or, as is the case of most Tibetans, likely a third or fourth) language is difficult and the effort should be lauded and encouraged, he feels like he should flaunt his own supposed holy superiority and basically demand that 'if you can't speak English, go home.'

All this for what was probably a stupid autocorrect.

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