Rage and sanctimoniousness
This is my column today.
When you are angry, count to ten before doing or saying anything. This was an admonition my elders taught me when I was very little. I was already in college when I learned that the admonition was attributed to the Chinese philosopher Confucius and that it was actually incomplete. The other half of it said “when really angry, count to 100.”
I wish this admonition was on the minds of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel last Monday.
The two senators engaged in what I think was the most acrimonious verbal exchange ever made on the floor of the Philippine Senate. The two senators exchanged insults, called each other names, and even dredged up old grudges in the process. What was equally disappointing was that both senators were aware that members of the media were present and therefore seemed intent on making sure that the whole sordid exchange would find its way into newspapers and TV newscasts.
When two senators, both supposed to be elder statesmen, indulge in the metaphorical equivalent of fishwives engaging in a dirty tussle in full view of everyone else, then we know that civility is truly gone in this country, at least in politics, particularly in the Senate. Bastusan na talaga!
If it is any consolation, at least our senators have not yet engaged in a physical confrontation the way legislators in some Asian countries have. But at the rate we are going, and given the kind of people who are gunning for seats in the Senate, I think it is just a matter of time. Senator Miriam Santiago did prescribe it to Senators Ping Lacson and Manny Villar a couple of weeks back.
It is disappointing, perhaps even unnerving, to watch someone make an utter fool of himself while in the throes of rage.
However, there are probably fewer things more appalling than witnessing someone spewing sanctimoniousness just because he or she thinks he is espousing popular opinion. This phenomenon has become quite common in this country. We’ve witnessed quite a number of people who, at the height of major controversies, suddenly become suffused with righteous indignation and begin to think, act, and speak with the conviction of someone who preaches from a position of higher moral superiority.
The problem in a situation like that is not that people speak their minds in defense—or in support of—what they think is right. Everyone is certainly entitled to do that. What is problematic is when people become so blinded with what they think is the absolute purity of their cause that they tend to be deaf and blind to anything else, particularly to divergent opinions.
In the sex video scandals, a number of politicians, show business people, media people, and even ordinary people have suddenly turned sanctimonious condemning not only Hayden Kho but even passing judgments on sexual acts, fetishes, etc. When people start talking about “kalaswaan” (prurient) instead of sex crimes, then I sense trouble.
I already wrote about the scandal in this space last week (I think I was one of the very first columnists in this country to react to the scandal) and I already made an unequivocal stand condemning Hayden Kho’s victimization of the women in those videos. Let me restate for the record that I firmly believe Kho deserves to be hung in the bar of public opinion.
But I must also state that I find something objectionable in the holier-than-thou posturing of a number of people.
I think that Senator Bong Revilla should not be faulted for having come to the defense of victim Katrina Halili. He is, after all, first and foremost a movie actor. I also share the view that the issue is not any less important than other matters of national significance. The fact that the sex scandal is the most talked about topic in any gathering is proof of the relative importance people have placed on the issue. The senator’s checkered past should also be irrelevant in the discussion.
What Revilla should be put to task for is the way he has been indiscriminately making pronouncements that reflect a rather shallow appreciation of the essential issues in the case. The issue is not about sex per se, or perversions per se, this is simply about the fact that one man, or okay, several if we include those responsible for leaking the videos, committed a crime. So it is gratuitous, and clearly indicative of grandstanding, when a senator begins spewing condemnations of sexual acts in general in a sudden fit of moral indignation. Even the slant on Kho’s being a medical doctor is quite a stretch as if doctors need to comply with a higher moral standard than people of other professions.
Sex is a topic that brings out the inherent hypocrisy in some people. Thus, some people have been “nagmamalinis” (pretending to be chaste and moral) such as those that have been calling for the banning of the videos, or passing judgment on people who have watched, bought, or been searching for these videos—after they have watched the videos themselves.
In short, they don’t seem to find anything wrong with the fact that they themselves have seen the videos; they just find something objectionable when others do it. For example, a man interviewed on television had the gall to admit that he did watch the videos and allowed his friends to borrow them because he felt that more people should know the extent of Kho’s depravity and what he did to those women.
For instance, there’s this whole side bar discussion about Vicky Belo’s continued support for the beleaguered doctor or the state of her morals owing to the fact that there is supposed to be a sex video of her and Kho, but taken with her consent. I have no love lost for the Belos of this world, but really, these things are none of our business.
I already said this before but I will say it again here: Why can’t we just stick to the issues? These things are already complicated enough, why do we complicate them any further?