Quibbling on terminology. The hallmark of small minds. It's like how the Law and its letter attempts to articulate a society's ethical framework. In the process of doing that, it creates an entire industry of professionals who are schooled for years to know the Law to the letter. The question however is this:
Does knowing the letter of the Law necessarily make one a proponent of its spirit?
Consider then that the average Filipino politician -- yes, the very Filipinos that Filipinos love to hate -- is a lawyer. Indeed, the most hated politician in Philippine history, and the one most Filipinos blame for what the Philippines had become -- the late former President Ferdinand Marcos -- is himself a top graduate of the prestigious University of the Philippines Law School. He is, as such, a man who knows the Law far better than most Filipinos. Yet can it be said that Marcos takes to heart the spirit of this Law he knows so well?
Over at the AP Crowd (a Facebook group populated by people who see themselves as proponents of the "Anti-Pinoy" spirit), an article shared from the Get Real Post, Ilda's seminal "Do Filipinos know how to use their freedom of speech?", true to the form of most Get Real Philippines material makes waves -- to the tune of 277 comments as of this writing. The "debate" however, revolves around a quibbling over terminology.
Trouble is, to reach a conceptual understanding and appreciation for deeper meaning, one needs to transcend words. It is much the same way that the Law itself can be made as a tool for delivering justice -- or injustice -- by simply limiting a "debate" to an evaluaion of the Law's letter. That is in fact what a lawyer is trained to be nowadays -- someone whose cleverness is channeled towards finding creative means to subvert and pervert the letter of the Law to suit his or her clients' agendas; or in the case of lawyer-politicians his or her party's (or in most cases in the Philippines, personal) political objectives.
Not surprising then that in a society ruled by lawyers (people who make a living focusing on its letter, specifically) -- and not just lawyers but Filipino lawyers -- justice and other nice things that would normally constitute the whole point of the Law -- remain paralysed and dysfunctional. Indeed, people who cannot get past words and the literal are the ones that tend to have minds imprisoned by dogma and flawed systems of thinking.
So in a typical legal battle (or a battle that focus on letters rather than concepts and ideas), the whole point that would have been highlighted by bigger minds becomes lost in a morass of noise swirling around pathetic quibbles over terminology.
But then such is the case in a society that is populated by people who harbour small minds between their ears. They deserved to be ruled by lawyers and not by the Law and its true spirit (much the same way as religion rather than spirituality rules in most backward primitivist societies).
"In Japan there are very few lawyers and the codes are mostly unwritten, but they are binding, nonetheless."
- Greg Sheridan, Asian Values Western Dreams
And that difference is what sets apart truly great societies -- and truly great people -- from the merely average and, worse, the chronically mediocre.