Begging the Question

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to language. It’s partly because I value clear expression, partly because it’s just my nature. One of my pet peeves is the habit shown by some to co-opt certain words and phrases in order to make themselves sound smart or virtuous.

One of the most common sins is the misuse of the phrase ‘begging the question’. Begging the question is what’s known as a logical fallacy – it’s something that sounds reasonable, but uses false logic to achieve its argument. Where begging the question is concerned, the logical flaw is in the assumption behind the question. The stock example of this tactic is of a courtroom lawyer who asks the defendant, “When did you stop beating your wife?

Now, you can see the problem here. There’s an unspoken assumption behind the question, one that we in Vanuatu know to be false: Quite obviously the defendant has never actually stopped beating his wife. The illogic is made even clearer by the laughable assumption that an abusive husband might somehow end up in court.

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A Second Flowering

[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]

Lilly Lui with one of her biggest fansA quiet revolution is taking place in North Efate.

Awareness of the rights of women in Vanuatu flowered briefly post-Independence thanks to the labours of eminent advocates such as Grace Molisa and Hilda Lini. They laboured continually to ensure that the neglected majority – Vanuatu’s women and children – were heard in the national dialogue.

Thanks to their generation, we have provincial and national Councils of Women, shelters in Vila and Santo and countless projects and services focused on improving conditions for women. To cap it all, over a decade of effort has finally given the Family Protection Act the force of law.

And yet, in spite of all this, women still face countless obstacles making themselves heard in daily life of the nation.

Lilly Lui wants women’s rights to bloom again as they did in the heady days following Independence. The sole female candidate in the upcoming Efate North bye-election, she has been entrusted by women throughout rural Efate to voice their concerns on the national stage.

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