Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ocampo's Schlimmbesserungen

Below is Comment submitted by VICENTE CALIBO DE JESUS posted  in the Comment Thread of  The Greening of Jose Rizalin which the defense, by Ambeth Ocampo of the  Rizal House in Calamba, Laguna being painted green, is described by the most curious German word: a Schlimmbesserung  --

This is a case of Schlimmbesserungen, a German term for a solution--painting the Rizal home neon green (see http://www.tdoffgolf.com/images/Neon_Green.gif--to a perceived problem, ignorance of the Spanish provenance of the Rizal name which is “racial”, which makes conditions worse.

The Chair of the National Historical Institute of the Philippines, Dr. Ambeth Ocampo, gave a precise definition of his “ricial”. In his column Ocampo states, “The word comes from the Spanish ‘ricial’ which describes a green field ready for harvest.”

Dr. Ocampo further defines his “racial” to more precisely fit what specific green he had in mind as “the color of palay or ripe rice stalk.”

“Ripe rice” ready for harvest is “golden yellow” (click http://www.juergen-zink.de/Nepal/pic133.jpg showing rice that’s ripe for harvest).

Ocampo notion of the color of “ripe rice stalk’ conflicts with reality. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know this. In fact even an illiterate rice farmer knows this basic fact.

So, even the basic assumption of Ocampo that underpins his solution is a “historian’s logical fallacy.”

His solution to a self-inflicted problem consists of several fallacies:

1. Painting Rizal’s home with an “offensive green” (Ocampo’s own term) is an aesthetic solution to a lexical problem or more to the point an information problem. He can very well make use of a limitless array of lexical armamentarium open to Ocampo: radio, TV, newspapers, DVDs, movies, magazines, books, brochures, listservs, Facebook, Flickr, Multiply, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, advertising in all forms of media, etc. Imagination is the only limit;

2. Any solution applied to an architectural object that speaks to a people’s sense of their past should be in harmony with good taste (aesthetics), good history, and good public relations, i.e., it should be respectful of the feelings of people who have to live with the object. Ocampo and it seems the entire Board of NHI do not reside in Calamba and do not have to suffer the pain of this aesthetic monstrosity;

3. It’s clear Ocampo is in error in many respects, lexically, aesthetically, architectuarally, strategically, tactically, etc. Now it seems he’s determined to get even more wrong (wronger or wrongest). Ocampo has triumphantly announced Boysen has offered to repaint Rizal’s home at no cost to the taxpayer (that’s you and me). So what does Ocampo decide? He will paint Rizal’s home a another shade green this time “dark green.” Which is to redefine his “racial” as the color of palay when it is most unsuitable for harvest.

There is a term for this, “Jumping from the frying fan to the fire.” The Germans have a term for this, schlimmbesserungen, which denotes making something worse through an attempt to make things better.

History is replete with examples of schlimbesserungen: the eighteenth-century correction of asparagus to sparrow-grass. An extreme example was the notion seriously thought of by John von Neuman (father of the electronic computer) and Edward Teller (father of the hydrogen bomb) who both enthusiastically proposed using nuclear explosions to deflect hurricanes.

Ocampo’s green solution may not be so devastating to the world but it may well be disastrous to Calamba’s people, at least.

Dr. Ocampo has to have enough humility, grace, and sense to accept the fact he’s wrong in painting the Rizal home green.

If he does not have the strength of character to admit an error publicly and to apologize to the people for a grave error, he can very well just announce the NHI now wants to consult the people of Calamba for them to decide what is the best solution that the people can live with, maybe even be proud of.


Anonymous said...

only a green-minded la sallian can ever think of desecrating a memorabilia of ateneo's most famous graduate.


Dean Jorge Bocobo said...

Ateneo's most famous graduate was murdered by Jesuits, who produced the evidence of his capital crime: apostasy!

Anonymous said...

that is subject to debate, what is not is a historian painting the house green. eowww.


Joel Arevalo said...

It's clear Dr. Ocampo erred. The question today, 31 August 2009, is what does he and the NHI board intend to do. Up to now we have yet to hear if NHI is capable of admitting error or are they invoking infallibility.

Joel Arevalo