Re-analysis of Beng Hock’s alleged suicide note-Pt2

不懂装懂 结果连累了你
– bu dong / zhuang dong / jie guo / lian lei le / ni
– don’t understand (or know) / pretend understand (or know) / result / involved / you

The true relevance of the phrase bu dong zhuang dong and its meaning in this note is difficult to deduce as it is a short-cut phrase that has a long history behind it. Thus, this very brief phrase actually carries a lot of meaning.

A correct understanding of how this phrase is normally used will cast some light on its meaning in the note.

The saying bu dong zhuang dong originates from ancient China and describes situations where someone is afraid to ask questions for fear of looking like a fool and losing face in front of others. So he would rather remain completely ignorant and pretend to understand something or give excuses to cover up his faux pas.

This is where Shuzheng’s translation went totally opposite of the original meaning of the saying. Instead of accurately translating it as “being ignorant but pretending to understand”, Shuzheng gave it as: “Feigning not to understand (although) I do, (but) in the end, you are (still) implicated.

Shuzheng asserts that the meaning of bu dong (not understand) zhuang dong (pretend understand) is vague and therefore can be understood as both:

  • (a) not knowing, dressed up knowing, or
  • (b) knowing, dressed up not knowing.

To paraphrase the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, you might as well say that “I breathe when I sleep,” and “I sleep when I breathe,” mean the same thing!

I have no idea how Shuzheng can interpet bu dong to mean knowing and zhuang dong to mean pretend not knowing. But unfortunately, this is the interpetation he chose for reasons only known to himself.

At the most basic, bu dong zhuang dong is actually used to describe any person who is pretending to know / understand something when in actual fact he doesn’t know what’s going on. It is usually used to deride someone who’s being pretentious.

However, it takes on a different nuance if used on one’s own self. To deride one’s own self in such a way could possibly imply a sense of doubt and regret for thinking they were suffciently prepared to handle something but in reality was not. Regret would imply that their actions resulted in something…well, regrettable.

Thus, a more accurate English translation of this line could possibly be (the statement in brackets is my own interpretation of the implied meaning and nuances of the proverb):

“I didn’t know (how to handle them), although I was pretentious enough to think that I did.”

So now, that gives us the proper context for understanding the next phrase. Lian lei is is normally used when a person is somehow dragged into another person’s trouble.

For example, Person A is arguing with his wife. He mentions that Person B happens to have the same opinion as him. Now whether Person B really supports or agrees with Person A is irrelevant. Person B has now suddenly become part of Person A’s argument. In this case, we say that Person A has lien lei Person B in a domestic argument that he had no part of.

So the phrase bu dong zhuang dong jie guo lian lei le ni would be more accurately translated as (taking into account the context of the interrogation by the MACC):

I thought I was smart enough to handle them, but it turns out I wasn’t. In the end, I got you in trouble as well.”

The next sentence describes the MACC’s blatant fabrication of evidence:

我说 mendapat lulusan YB. 他们硬打成 mengikut arahan YB.
– wo / shuo / mendapat lulusan YB / ta men / ying / da / mengikut arahan YB
– I / say / mendapat lulusan YB / they / stubborn / type / mengikut arahan YB

我帮不到你,抱歉
– wo / bang bu dao / ni, bao qian
– I / could not
help / you, regret

The writer uses an apology term that is heavier than dui bu qi this time. Bao qian literally means “to carry a debt”. “Debt” in the Chinese language is infused with the sense of “my wrongdoing had not been sufficiently been set right with you”. So a more accurate English translation would probably be “regret”.

对不起,我很累了,再见
– dui bu qi, wo / hen / lei le, zai / jian
– I’m not worthy, I / very / tired, again / see

Again, the “I’m not worthy” phrase is the equivalent of “I’m sorry” in English.

The big controversy over whether this is really qualifies as a suicide lies in the farewell phrase zai jian which literally means “see you again”. However, it does not necessarily mean “see you again in the near future in this physical world”. It could very well also mean “Hope to meet you again someday somehow in this world or maybe even the next” depending on the context where it is uttered.

BUT…

The careful erasure of a phrase on the paper would indicate that the writer had some time to think about what he wanted to say. If so, shouldn’t TBH have chosen a better phrase than zai jian (“see you again”) if he planned to jump? If the note is really from TBH, it would be certainly a cruel joke on his expecting wife – telling people “see you again” but planning to dump them forever!

But in the end, zai jian is still the most common farewell in the Chinese language and we probably shouldn’t read too much into it.

So after this brief analysis, I believe an English interpretation of the note that better expresses the nuances of the Chinese text and their implied meanings should read something like:

“They, without making any copies (or possibly “without allowing me to make any copies”) of my computer files, seized every last one of the computers. Their knives are really all out for you.

I’m sorry. (blacked out writing) I thought I was smart enough (to handle them), but it turns out I’m not. In the end, I got you in trouble as well.

Even though I told them “mendapat lulusan YB” (with YB’s approval), they refused to listen and stubbornly typed “mengikut arahan YB” (following YB’s orders).

I couldn’t help you, I really regret it.

I’m sorry, but I’m very tired. See you.”

As we can see, after taking into proper consideration the proper usage and nuances of the Chinese language, the note now reads more smoothly. Unlike the disjointed sentences of the translations provided by the court interpreter and Shuzheng, we can now detect a smooth flow of thought in the note:

1.  MACC suddenly pounced and seized all the computers, with the obvious intention of getting “AuYong” at all cost

2.  The writer regrets his failure to protect “AuYong” from the MACC’s single-minded attacks although he thought he was smart enough to do it.

3.  He gives an example of how he was out-manouvered by the MACC.

4.  He apologises again for his failure.

This note must be thoroughly investigated. First, it’s authenticity must be verified beyond a doubt. Secondly, if it is indeed found to be TBH’s note, a full scale investigation must be launched to discover what evidence the MACC had that made them so determined to get EanYong and why they fabricated TBH’s statements to implicate him.

Comments
3 Responses to “Re-analysis of Beng Hock’s alleged suicide note-Pt2”
  1. ted says:

    When I read Shuzheng translation last week (or the week before last), I too was puzzled how did he translate BuDong ZhungDong ( 不懂装懂) to mean Feigning not to understand (although) I do . This guy seems to have pretty good command of Chinese Language. His written English is impeccable.

    The way I read is that : Teoh was saying something to the effect that on certain matters (or one particular matter), he did not understand but pretend to understand, as a result he implicated his boss.

    This appears to be crystal clear to me…

  2. WHAT TO COMPRESS?

    How can we properly address
    With things done under duress
    In an environment out to oppress
    Yet with certain details to suppress

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 141010
    http://MotivationInMotion.blogspot.com
    Thu. 14th Oct. 2010.

  3. casper says:

    Clearly the official transcript of Beng Hock’s ‘suicide’ note takes on a slant far different than that proffered here by hartalmsm and if we were to read through hartal’s version, it is also clear Beng Hock was under duress in the ‘friendly’ confines of MACC and its personnel.

    All in, this might help explain the delay from the time of discovery and AG’s decision on whether to release ‘suicide’ note in its entirety. Many thanks hartal for providing a translation that reads smoothly, which also give clarity to Beng Hock’s state of mind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: