Pigging out

Dean Bocobo’s is a valuable voice in the public square. I listen to him all the time. Just the other week, for instance, Philippine Commentary ran an extremely useful deconstruction of the four Palace-sponsored questions raised during the last Social Weather Stations survey.

Like all of us milling about or loitering in the town plaza, however, Dean also has blind spots. I would count his opinion on the role of the Supreme Court in recent history as one such. (I have no links, but I think Dean would agree with me that the following summary of his position is fair and fairly accurate: He thinks Hilario Davide committed a tragic mistake, and Allan Paguia is a tragic hero.) His position on the Iraq war and the acts of a certain bible-cutting cowboy in the White House is another such blind spot.

To these two, I would add a third: a contrarian view of the Inquirer, the newspaper for which he used to write weekly commentaries. His criticism of a recent Inquirer editorial struck me (to be sure, I have my own blind spots) as confirmation.

He writes (here, but please scroll down):

LOG IN OUR EYE: How dare those nasty Canadians renege on "multicultural diversity", PDI and the nationalist lynch mobs cry. I wonder how much of such a wondrous virtue can be said to exist in the Philippines. How much tolerance is there in Manila compared to Montreal, Basilan or Payatas compared to Roxbury, any Filipino public school and Ecole Lalande…??

Pigs in Canada? Pigs in the Philippines! And yeah, contrary to their own Journalists Code of Ethics, they never really got the other side before launching another idiotic bit of their ideological VICTIMOLOGY.

He quotes the following paragraph from the editorial:

We are glad to note that the Philippine Embassy in Canada has supported the boy’s mother in her complaint filed with the local school board. "The embassy considers this an affront to Philippine culture and continues to vigorously support any action that will validate a conclusion of racial discrimination," Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gilbert Asuque said the other day.

He also issues a warning:

REMEMBER ART BELL! It’s as if PDI and those kneejerk defenders of Filipino cultural and racial honor have already forgotten the Art Bell Fiasco of 2001.

Reading his post on the Inquirer editorial and the spoon-and-fork scandal in Canada, one would think that (a) the Inquirer, the DFA and other bleeding hearts based their decisions on fabrication and not fact, as though it were the Art Bell case all over again; (b) the Inquirer called Canada a despoiler of cultural heritage; (c) the Inquirer and others like it defended the seven-year-old Filipino boy in the center of the scandal unthinkingly, as a knee-jerk reaction by "nationalist lynch mobs."

My friend Dean is mistaken. It’s unfortunate that he published the one paragraph that would seem to make the case for unreasoning "fervor burning for Filipino culture." (It doesn’t, because it was taken out of context.) Sadly, he did not link to this graph:

The principal has a point, of course, about the need to adapt to the requirements of a larger culture, but he misses the larger point: Canada is celebrated for its multicultural diversity, its hospitality to various cultures. Ostracizing a 7-year-old for his eating habits-shared by countless Filipino families-runs counter to Canada’s own heritage.

Or to this one:

We are even more glad that a Canadian non-government organization dedicated to helping victims of discrimination, the Center for Research Action on Race Relations, has also filed a second complaint, seeking moral damages from the lunch monitor. That, we believe, is in keeping with the best Canadian tradition of putting your money where your mouth is.

Even a cursory reading of these two paragraphs would tell anyone that (a) no phony war between Filipino tradition and Canadian culture was posited and (b) the outrage was understood as a violation of Canada’s own highest standards.

And what was the cause of that outrage? Another paragraph Dean could have pointed to but did not reads, straightforwardly enough:

Bergeron’s unseemly conduct is based on assumptions, about culture and immigration, that can only be described as racist.

In other words, it is the school principal’s conduct which the Inquirer editorial attacked; the outrage lies in a ranking educator describing an immigrant boy’s non-normative eating habits as pig-like. That is not only an insult, to any race; it is unCanadian.

But, blind spots being what they are, my friend Dean must have read the headline, "Pigs in Canada," and jumped to what was for him a familiar conclusion. After all, he must have thought, this can only be "another idiotic bit of their ideological VICTIMOLOGY."

Blind spot.



Filed under Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

13 responses to “Pigging out

  1. DJB

    You’re kinder than most to the Excommunicant from the Church of Political Correctness. Thing is I learn the most from those who disagree with me. Okay this is fun topic, but I think it DOES involve blind spots and perhaps by kicking it around a bit, we may discover what it is we think we see that the other doesn’t.

    First of all, may I ask if PDI got the other side of the story? Not just “tried to get in touch with” but really get the other side of the story? How sure are you that it was “cultural bias” alone that got this boy in trouble. Did you see the clip on tv. This kid, I bet, is a mishievous, funny guy that can get a bunch of other kids in an uproar I bet. Remember too that 10 times alone at table is indicative of real problems, unless of course you wish to portray Ecole Lalande as run by Simon Legree. Which I actually doubt from looking at their website and the messages of parents and students there. I notice that all the editorial’s “quotes” are either from the mother or media quoting the mother.

    I guess the other substantive issue is: how “filipino” is eating with a knife and fork. Would we stand up now if someone in Britain or Canada or quezon city insists on eating with their hands?

    Are table manners a proper subject of school discipline and training. Remember “in loco parentis”?

    Is this a public school or a private school? Do you know? Doesn’t it matter?

    As for “VICTIMOLOGY”
    …the truth hurts don’t it?

    I think until Filipinos have SELF-RESPECT, no one will respect them.

  2. DJB

    Regarding Edsa Dos…

    I hope you are at least open to the idea that it wasn’t only Erap that could have commited crimes against the Constitution when you characterize my view of Davide’s actions as having been “a tragic mistake”.

    I will take even that lil concession from the Edsa Dos fanatiques, because it is the most I’ve ever gotten out of PDIdeologues.

    Now as I am war monger blindly following a certain Texan, my main concern in the Philippines is the state of the Philippine Military, which any Tom, Dick and Harry knows could bring about REGIME CHANGE at any time under a large variety of scenarios.

    That my friend is the biggest source of instability that will bedevil every President or Prime Minister from here till kingdom come.

    Those who support GMA are of course “conservative” now and call for a military “free from politics”; those who oppose her just sort of whistle by the graveyard, willing to wait and see if a coup attempt might succeed and thereby earn the Edsa Dos accolades that Angie Reyes won and rest on the most cynical principle ever invented by modern Pilipino political correctness: the end justifies the means, as long as it is the end of a President we oppose.

    Don’t you see John? The message of Edsa Dos to the Military, forever, until it is somehow repudiated, is that it is OKAY to mutiny, as long as enough civilians are there to participate in another coup d’etat with the Military. Perhaps at Edsa Dos, things turned out as we wanted them too…but 10 years, 20 years, 30 years from now, when you and I are pushing up karabao grass, who knows what such precedents will engender. Maybe we’ll be pushing up bananas in a republic founded on the sands of Alan Paguia’s tragic truth: A Rule of Force leads to a waste land.

    A Constitutional Republic, John. That is what we need. A democracy that does not ignore 12 million voters, even if 99.9% of them are stupider and uglier than the editors of PDI. Not a Republic founded on prejudice and elitism just like the Spanish Taliban exhibited when they killed Jose Rizal. PDI isn’t quite Ben Zayb (that’s the Philippine Star). But you guys are pretty close to Don Custodio!

  3. DJB

    Well, since I don’t get out that much I may as well make it a night out at the Newsstand.

    Just wanna say something about the Main Stream Media, John. I have no regrets leaving that channel. You guys aren’t REALLY free to do journalism as it can be done. Now I don’t even pretend to be a journalist. I’m just a human being with a blog.

    But I know where the MSM’s bread is buttered: it’s at the advertising department of the big telecomms and other large advertisers. You guys wouldn’t touch some of the juiciest stories relating to Globe and Smart just because Mon Isberto, Gerry Ablaza , both close personal friends and school chums, are more powerful than Isagani Yambot at PDI, aren’t they?

    Over the years, in contemplating my own experience with the MSM, I have come to one conclusion: the MSM is incapable of MORAL CONSISTENCY because it is not so free as it pretends to be. Too many in the Main Stream Media in the Philippines are mercenaries, ripoff artists, opportunists, extortionists, or just plain ad-fillers. I guess even the Canadians know that now!

    The reason for that is, except within a very constrained and narrow range, you guys are actually gagged and compromised aren’t you?

    I know the individual journalists may not want it like that, but they are part of an establishment — the Media — that is, in my humble opinion, a permanent, unelected part of NATIONAL GOVERNANCE in the Philippines, more so than most govt agencies and depts, and the equal of any of its political, judicial and legislative branches. Kinda like pravda and izvestia used to be, but even more influential in many ways. Like the old soviet press, the Philippines press is the only effective channel for communication between the govt and the people. In fact sometimes it seems govt doesn’t ever do anything but react to the media.

    I know you folks laugh about this a lot — that you actually set the nation’s agenda. But it’s Vanity. Blind, tragic vanity, John.

  4. Now I see a real argument here.

    You see folks, journalism is not what it ought to be, and take it from me where at least I can shed some light to most interesting questions some of you had in mind, to most powerful people of telecom industries, up until to powers that be in a world they called media, and who killed who, but here we are, most of us here is just trying to bite our tail in the dark. I maybe wrong to conclude that Dean’s posting is way out irrelevant to what was the subject is suppose to be, that is about pigs, but heck, when and where do we put this kind of talk in the open when most of us here deemed to fight for fairness. And at the end of the day,the means is just bullshit and the end is what we become –sons of a bitches. Indeed, how blind.

  5. Dean, many thanks for the thoughtful, even provocative replies. Today has been a mess, though; I hope I can reply at length tomorrow.

  6. Jeg

    It seems that the kid’s mom was a bit guilty of what the PDI was guilty of: not getting the whole story first before reacting. When informed of the circumstances behind the the young boy’s punishment, “[Mrs.] Cagadoc, [Luc’s mother] who runs a daycare and is completing a diploma in early childhood education at Vanier College, said neither the monitor, nor school principal Normand Bergeron gave her that explanation [that the boy was misbehaving]. ‘When I approached the (monitor) the following day she didn’t mention that to me at all,” Cagadoc said. “If she had told me something like this … I would have reacted differently.'”

    From a report from The Gazette website.

  7. Beware the Dark Side of the Fork, Luc.

  8. Ha ha! Good one, Dominique. And thanks for the link, Jeg. Mindful of Regor’s gentle chiding, I’d like to respond in this comment thread only to Dean’s (and Jeg’s) take on the editorial. Dean’s comments about media bias in general seem to me to prove my post’s original point, which is that the estimable Philippine commentarist had mis-read the editorial in the first place (he had seen what he thought he would see). But I’d like to respond to that “larger” point through another post, if I may, perhaps later in the day.

    Here, I would only like to say the following (again, with the usual caveat that my view is not and cannot be the official Inquirer explanation):

    1. Dean mistakes the “get the other side” requirement of news with the fair comment responsibilities of opinion. When Dean wrote eloquent defenses of the US position on Iraq in the Inquirer’s own pages, did he “get the side” of Saddam Hussein? When Manolo Quezon wrote urgently of the opposition to Thaksin, did he “get the side” of the Thai Prime Minister? I am sure Dean knows this particular journalistic principle; that’s what we celebrate, after all, when we repeat the familiar democratic virtue: Everyone has the right to his opinion.

    2. Of course, for readers to keep coming back, for its voice to be taken seriously in the public square, a newspaper’s opinion must be “considered”; that is to say, it must be well-thought-out, and based on a clear set of facts. Digging into the circumstances of the Pigs in Canada editorial, I see that the main source of facts was the West Island Chronicle news report, which remains largely uncontested.

    3. Jeg’s link is an interesting one, but from the headline to the actual quote, it is speculative. It does not say anything about the nine previous times the boy was disciplined; that should make anyone with a nose for news wonder. And it repeats the main insult, this time attributing it also to the lunch monitor: “your son eats like a pig.” (It is also important to note that the Gazette story came out after the editorial.)

    4. Dean’s notion (raised in his original post, then implied in his first response) that there is so much intolerance in the Philippines leads to the astonishing conclusion that we have no right to criticize others until we clean up our own act. That would leave no one free to criticize! Or, to use another approach, that would be exactly like China’s position on human rights abuses, whenever the US attacks it for its dismal record. What about YOUR abuses, China would ask. That line of defense cannot bring any comfort to the thousands of rights victims in China, I should think. Or, to use a third illustration, that would be like an Iraqi telling off Dean: Why do you celebrate the coming of democracy to my country, when your own is in deep voodoo itself?

    5. The point is, of course we can criticize others even if we have problems (sometimes the same ones) of our own. That’s part of the give and take of public discourse; in fact, that helps explain why some of us (include me here) believe in the corrective or therapeutic benefits of public debate. Of course, it is vital to keep things in perspective, to recognize that the critic has problems of his own. But as I hope I have already made icewater-clear, the editorial in question did keep things in perspective; it did not lose its sense of proportion.

    6. Lastly, I am extremely wary of Dean’s blithe readiness to blame the victim. Let us agree with Dean, for the sake of argument, that 10 incidents indicate deeper psychological trouble, and that the boy is a handful. Does that justify the he-eats-like-a-pig insult? (Does a victim’s mini-skirt justify acts of lasciviousness?)

    But, sadly, because it was the Inquirer which came out with that particular editorial, Dean thought the boy, the subject of the editorial’s support, must have done something wrong. Look, you can see it on TV!

    Of course, because Dean’s comment is opinion, I, for one, do not require him to get the boy’s side.

  9. Jeg

    “And it repeats the main insult, this time attributing it also to the lunch monitor: ‘your son eats like a pig.'”

    Hi, John. The lunch monitor was way out of line when he said the ‘pig’ comment. But that wouldnt have merited an Inquirer editorial. The PDI thought it merited an editorial because it thought our Filipino-ness was being attacked. As it turns out, it probably wasnt. The monitor was a boor, but he certainly wasnt a Nazi.

  10. Thanks, Jeg, this is an excellent summing up of where you stand. I think I do understand. But I hope we can agree to disagree? I’ve read the editorial again, and it still strikes me as an excoriation of the principal’s “unseemly conduct.” An actual Filipino, not a spoon-and-fork caricature of Filipino-ness, was “being attacked.” Or at least that’s what I think.

  11. arp

    I read the articles in the Inquirer. My problem is not with the editorial because I don’t read the Inquirer’s editorials–most of the time, it’s just plain wrong and sometimes even, well, queer (not in the gay sense of the word). In other words, the Inquirer can say whatever the hell it wants to say in that space and I don’t care. My problem is really the _news_ articles that appeared.

    I think I pretty much agree with the take of Jeg on this. I thought the lunch monitor betrayed his own stupidity when he made that “pig” comment but a little more research on everybody’s part, including especially the mother of Luc, would have stopped the issue from escalating to where it is now.

    This is Art Bell all over again, not so much that it was based on fabrication and not fact, John, but more like “It was printed in the West Island Chronicle; let’s not double check.”

  12. But, arp, did you in fact read the editorial in question? That, after all, is the subject of the original post. If you only read the news articles (for which of course we should be grateful), how can you “pretty much agree with the take of Jeg” on this, when the take (which I respect but don’t agree with) is specifically on the position of a particular editorial? Unless, of course, your own position as far as Inquirer editorials are concerned is, “It was an Inquirer editorial, I don’t have to read it to know it’s plain wrong.” Help me understand this please.

  13. arp

    No, I didn’t read the editorial. While that is the subject of the original post, I don’t suppose that prevents me from putting in my comments about related news articles. If it does, then I apologize for being off-topic. 😉

    As for my help in your understanding, when I said I agree with Jeg’s take, I meant only that (1) the lunch monitor was out of line and (2) that he wasn’t a “Nazi”. Did I misuse “take” when I said I agree with the “Jeg’s take”? Help me improve my writing, please.

    On Inquirer editorials: I should qualify that. I don’t read the Inquirer editorials _anymore_ since, if past ones are any indication, they will probably be as crazy as the rest of ’em. Not that all the editorials I’ve read are contrary to my own opinion (and hence, wrong–hahaha–kidding), of course.

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