Marcus recently took offense at some words I used, namely, “The West has already colonized Vietnam and bombed it halfway to being a tropical parking lot. Please, at least let us have our language.” I must first note that these words in no way represent the people of Vietnam or people of Vietnamese heritage in the broader sense. The Wikipedia discussion on Thich Nhat Hanh remains a sore spot for me. However, I must take into account Marcus’ words that I go too far in comparing “making a mistake over an unfamiliar name with the bombing of Vietnam.” I stand by my fierce objection to the Wikipedians’ extensive effort over several years to force their views on how Thich Nhat Hanh should be rendered—but I am also willing to reconsider the harshness of my words. Indeed, my words are insensitive to the victims of Western colonialism and bombing campaigns. My apologies.

One thought on “Apologia

  1. Archivist’s Note: Comments have been preserved from the original website for archival purposes; however, comments are now closed.

    AnonymousNovember 13, 2009 at 4:34 AM
    Hi Arun,

    This post comes as a shock, I never imagined my comments would prompt anything like this, and they certainly weren’t intended to do so.

    You’ve clearly though about this a great deal and I thank you for that and respect you for it. It prompts me, of course, to look at why the issue is so important for you.

    And of course you are right. If you’ve pointed out to people how the name is properly used and those same people have ignored that, then you are totally correct in seeing in their stubborn refusal to accept it something more than just an error.

    In that sense I owe you an apology. It it’s not a mere mistake with unfamiliar words but a refusal to call someone by their correct name, then of course your objection is entirely justified and I’m wrong if I’ve suggested otherwise.

    All the very best Arun,


    master_of_americansNovember 13, 2009 at 11:44 PM
    If Wikipedians are forcing their views about rendering Thich Nhat Hanh’s name, upon whom are they forcing those views? On Thich Nhat Hanh himself? That would be true only if he had made a clear and straightforward statement on the subject (“‘Thich’ is part of my name…”) and the Wikipedians were aware of it, yet they still chose to ignore it. I was involved in the Wikipedia discussions about this name some years ago, and I never agreed that it should be “Thich Nhat Hanh”, but I never had the sense that anyone involved had bad motivations. They simply had a thorough discussion on the topic (the extensiveness of which is evidence that they cared about getting the right answer) and came to a conclusion which you and I disagreed with. If you wish to impugn their motivations by implying otherwise, you should probably give some evidences for that opinion.

    ArunNovember 24, 2009 at 11:08 PM
    @Marcus: No need for apology. I gave into my knee-jerk reaction here—which I regret, and for which I must apologize—and should also clarify that I did not intend the reference of colonization and bombing to be a comparison, but rather a provider of context. It’s how little things stand out in the context of the larger historical background. In the same vein, the historical context of racism in America (to put it lightly) contributed to the unparalleled symbolism behind Barack Obama’s election. But as I noted above, my perhaps hypersensitive perspective shouldn’t be taken as one held by Vietnamese Buddhists in any way.

    @master_of_americans: Thank you for your comments. You’re absolutely right to point out my hyperbolical use of force in lieu of “indefatigably promote.” But as you have provided a challenge in which you deem the use of force “would only be true”—no pun intended—I find myself irresistibly obliged to reply. For one, Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing provide “a clear and straightforward statement on the subject.” And since the Wikipedia article cites the Order of Interbeing’s explanation of Thich as a name in order to support the interpretation of Thich as a title, I can only assume the author ignored the Order of Interbeing’s clear and straightforward statement. Furthermore, since the article sat as such uncontested, it must have been condoned by the group (qui tacet consentit). I believe the contributors behind this travesty to have been well-intentioned individuals with irremediably flawed assumptions about Vietnamese names and how they should be treated. In the case where authors write about Vietnamese while simultaneously refusing to directly investigate and consider Vietnamese customs smacks of excessive hegemonic privilege—an attitude I am all too happy to malign.

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