Thursday, November 15, 2012


As the AMALAYER phenomenon, one of the hot trending topics during these couple of days, gradually slides into collective oblivion, I think it’s a subject worthy of being given one last look. The collective memory of the netizens (and people at large) seem to have a very short memory (I’m talking about Filipinos, but then, it could as well apply to anyone else). Mostly, intelligent conversation in cyberspace (which at times may only have the appearance of intelligence) depend on the topics that are trendy, and it seems to me that these don’t last very long in their respective places on the charts; people prefer to talk about that which is as the moment the most popular topic, but then with this I digress.
The phenomenon that has taken society by storm has made me reflect about certain things. First, there seems to be this phenomenon on the rise, one that has these elements: an aggressed party who happens just to be doing his job, not usually a high-paying one but rather humble (a security guard, a reporter, a traffic enforcer, to mention an example), an apparent aggressor (usually an educated person, from the higher strata of society or who pretends to be such, but whose manners belie such high, well-schooled breeding. They are usually fluent in English, and are of what tagalog slang would call coño, which is just about everything that I have said earlier).
I must add two other elements: a brash encounter that soon turns into a heated argument, with its inevitable result (usually a blow, a shove, a slap or a sharp phrase), and—of course—a recording device, usually a camera.
In many, if not all, of the cases, the story is basically the same: the humble worker chances upon the “educated” person (or vice-versa), there is a tussle between human rights and laboral duty and obligation, the episode becomes ugly and it happens that someone is always there to record the scene, whether overtly or otherwise. Then the video gets to be uploaded on the Internet, where it is received by netizens who rain righteous anger on the coño aggressor. Less than an hour or two later, humorous memes, photos and jokes surface in the social networking sites, adding fuel to the fire. As a trend in the internet, it may last for 24 hours or if its good enough, it may even be there for days. The aggressor becomes the aggressed party, and is subject to public ridicule; the aggressed worker is hailed as a hero of humble occupation.
In the media limelight, the now aggressed party, tarred and feathered and chastised, apologizes publicly; everybody is content that “they” have taught him or her a lesson. The public is appears smug and secure in the tribunal into which they have established themselves in: as judges of good and right. The fire having burned out, they move to the next trend, leaving the new victim’s reputation—and self-confidence—in shreds. The once-proud eagle has been crushed to the ground; it’s time to move to the next trending topic.
This phenomenon, which is getting repetitive, has shown me two things. I shall start from the positive side. From the point of view of our workers in a more humble position—janitors, traffic enforcers, security guards—at least they’re getting more the respect that they deserve, and the public is getting more aware of the value of the service that they are doing in favor of the larger community. Another thing is that nobody is ever above the law of civility and respect, both based on Christian charity. Nobody could ever press to have more claims over anybody just because they have received more education. In fact, the more well-off a person is, whether socially or in terms of educational attainment, the more the person should be more prudent, educated, and restrained.
On the negative side, the phenomenon has shown the public to be more pharisaical than ever, and a pharisaical judge at that. Much as such arrogance moves us to righteous indignation, such indignation does not give the public the right to subject the person to public ridicule, with the risk of committing the same mistake as the offender.
On certain occasions, it would be a merit to let the public know of an injustice done, but when we divulge an image or a video into the public domain, we have to be responsible for the consequences that our action may unleash.
Looking at what had taken place from the positive side, it shows that we are more sensitive to issues of justice and the respect for the rights of persons. But on the other hand, the same subject has raised a warning for us with a specter: the specter of a nation of sensationalist voyeurs, waiting to pounce on the mistakes of other people other than ourselves, in order to judge them with the hypocritical pointed finger, and gloat over the public ridicule that our pharisaical thirst for sensationalist “justice” has provided as the fitting sentence.

The words of the Gospel, “Let he who has no sin cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7), ought to serve as criteria in matters such as these. Safeguarded by these words, correction becomes based on the understanding that all of us have ugly moments, and that these need to be addressed in all justice, one that is based on charity. Justice based on charity doesn't mean closing one's eyes to the evil done; it rather means--among other things--passing the sentence that would make the offender grow into a better version of himself. Tearing him to shreds in public obviously doesn't accomplish this. This is an antidote to the sensationalism and hypocrisy that is one of the ills of our society today.

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