There are certain “battles” that are worth one’s while choosing a side and joining the fray. And then there are some where it is best to just step out, sit back, and enjoy the show. The whole “Jan Jan Incident” is one of these “battles”. The whole thing had just turned into a circus. This one pits the usual suspects against one another — the jologs vs the “intelligentsia”. Both sides are clueless. Neither side seems to possesses a clear picture of how the other thinks.
The eminent Inquirer.net columnist Conrado de Quiros hints at what may be the cornerstone of what makes all this a potentially intractable mess:
I suspect [Willie Revillame is] telling the truth when he says he sees nothing wrong with what he did. Which is the really scary thing. He’s not trying to justify the unjustifiable, he just can’t see what the fuss is all about.
That’s de Quiros applying what psychologists call theory of mind. Theory of mind is a fundamental cognitive skill that underpins empathy. It is a skill that allows most humans to go on to lead a normal life filled with normal relationships with other people. Autism is the result of a failure to develop this cognitive skill by the time a child is past the toddler years.
The obvious is virtually screaming out to be heard. They just don’t get it. The possibility that Willie Revillame and Jan Jan’s parents Joe and Diana Suan genuinely see nothing wrong with what they had done is apparently very real. Some brains simply aren’t wired to see certain things. It’s kind of like personal taste. One person’s tackiness is another person’s elegance. One person finds cuteness in the Seven Dwarves hanging off their rear car window, another sees an affront to good taste. You can’t debate taste. No one wins.
In fact, what is going on here goes down to the very heart of the core message of Get Real Philippines itself — that the cultural DNA of Filipinos (and I’m talking about real dyed-in-the-wool chicharon-chomping ocho-ocho-dancing jejemon-typing Pinoys here) is simply hard-coded to remain ill-fit to grasp modern standards of propriety that, say, we in the self-described “intelligentsia” take for granted as being part of “common decency”.
The theory of mind applied by de Quiros on Revillame can, in principle, be also brought to bear to dissect the way the mind of the average crusader against Jan Jan’s alleged “abuse” might be working. What then makes the average blog-armed and Twitter-account-equipped armchair crusader think he or she can invoke what are concepts that have for the most part of our history been accessible only to the elite in our society, in an all-out effort to make Willie Revillame and the Suans see things “our” way? This is the “Cassanova problem” or the “Anthropic Bias” at work. The standards by which a world order is defined are usually set by a class of people who possess the tools to articulate their views. Unfortunately for the poor, their immense numbers are not commensurate with the quantity of material they originate that articulate their world view. What go on to be seen as the de facto standards of what can be considered “good” are mostly productions of societies’ elite. Unfortunately for the well-schooled in the Philippines, the fact of the vast numbers of the masses cannot be changed even by the immense quantity of the letters on “good beaviour” they bang out on their keyboards. So we will get circuses like the “Jan Jan incident” to keep out tongues wagging ad infinitum.
For the reality is quite simple. Common decency (as “we” know it) simply isn’t the rule in the Philippines. It is the exception. This is an in-your-face reality that those of us who frolic within the gated communities and private schools in the suburban hills of Manila and hobnob with amigos and amigas amidst the din of clinking cutlery in climate controlled enclosures seem to keep forgetting exists. Thus no matter how much we express disgust over the sight of Filipino men urinating in public, throngs of commuters clambering over one another to board a jeepney or a train, motorists swerving and muscling into queues, and Church goers chatting with one another or sending text messages in the middle of a mass, the fact remains that there is a very wide gulf that separates the ultra-pragmatic sensibilities of the masa from the school-imparted sensibilities of the “well-bred” amongst us that fatally prevents one from getting the other.
So now we are seeing lawsuits flying back and forth between both camps now. I say to this bring it on, as this is a show that will most likely be an entertaining one — a match that will go on ’til the 15th round, and beyond! Indeed, it is time we updated the seminal line uttered by a character played by Ms Cherie Gil in an old Sharon Cuneta movie: “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard, copy-cat.” I believe the jologs have moved on and stopped trying to be copy cats. They have come up with their own standards. And we are seeing an entire generation that take these standards to heart in the way they raise their kids.
They have earned this right — and the economic clout — to set their own standards of propriety on the back of every dollar sent home by their breadwinners toiling half a world away as Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs).