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Clearly I'm still struggling with the use of ばかを見る, which I have asked about before.

This sentence appears in a question in my JLPT textbook:

正直者{しょうじきもの}がばかをみない 社会{しゃかい}であるべきだ。

Based on the help in that other question, I think my understanding of the sentence is close, but I'm not 100% sure.

Two ways I can translate this are, "It's desirable for a society to not fool honest people," or, "It's desirable for a society to not have honest people look foolish".

Is either of those right? Is it something else?

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「正直者がバカを見る」という[諺]{ことわざ}を調べるといいかもしれません。proverb.jp/proverb2819.html –  Choko Mar 11 '13 at 14:14

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You're right that it follows the pattern from your previous question with the idiomatic use of バカを見る. The speaker desires a society in which honest people are not deceived or made to be fools.

I don't think that it's accurate to say that society fools people, necessarily, but rather this person wants a society in which honest people aren't made fools of. The implication here is of course that honest people follow the rules while others may break them for personal gain, thus putting those that follow the rules at a disadvantage. In this way you can say that they are made to be fools, but not necessarily that they are "fooled" in the sense of being tricked.

Given this, I think your second translation would be more accurate. However, an even more accurate translation might avoid the more proverbial notion of an honest person becoming the fool and saying more directly that an honest person is at a disadvantage among liars and thieves, etc. (or find an equivalent English expression)

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What do you think of translating 「正直者がバカを見る」 as "Honesty doesn't pay"? –  Dave M G Mar 14 '13 at 1:18
1  
@DaveMG 私は、良い訳だと思うのですけど・・。「バカを見る」という言葉の意味は(人から見て)「ばかに見える」とか「マヌケに見える」というよりは、「損をする」に近いと思いま‌​‌​す。だから、「正直者がバカを見ない社会であるべきだ」は「正直者が損をしない(=正直であることが報むくわれる)社会であるべきだ」「正直に生きる人が(=正直に生き‌​ると)損をするような社‌​会であってはいけない」って感じだと思います。 –  Choko Mar 17 '13 at 15:20

I agree with ssb (who is welcome to add my input here to his answer). If you are looking for a more literal translation perhaps:

Society should be a place where honest people do not look stupid

Society should not be a place where it is stupid to be honest.

Society should be a place where it pays to be honest.

None of these are perfect but more helpful than "Honesty is ill for thriving." per Chocolate's link which otherwise gives a good explanation and most importantly informs us that this is a proverb/kotowaza, which are sometimes idiomatic.

It would be interesting to here about how others would translate this....but meanwhile the following dictionary explanation of バカを見る might also help (the English is mine):

つまらない目にあう。| have a worthless experience

ばかばかしい思いをする。| have an absurd thought

ばかな目にあう。| experience something silly

eg「助けてやって文句を言われるなんて、—•見た」|I tried to help but [just] received complaints and looked stupid [for it].

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