smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Mediocrity

Everyone is all agog over the waiter who returned a million pesos to a customer who stupidly left it behind. Words like ‘hero’ and ‘example’ are being thrown around like so much dirty dishwater. Puh-leeze.

I can imagine the waiter gave all the right reasons for returning the money, but think about it for awhile. Who in his right mind would have taken the money and ran?

First of all, it is a million bucks. That sort of money isn’t normally carried around by people who would wail helplessly if they lost it. That sort of money comes with a warning label: “take at your own risk, fool.” Ever watch No Country For Old Men?

Second, if you took the money and ran, how long would it really last? The label ‘millionaire’ has lost its lustre in a world where a grade school education costs nearly a hundred thousand pesos a year (or a semester – or trimester – depending on where your kid is studying), where you can easily rack up 80+ thousand a year in utilities bills, and where you can’t get decent housing for less than a 300 thousand. So, you might be able to drop off the map and live off the money for awhile, but then you’d have to get back in the job market – oh but wait, that won’t be so easy because now, everyone knows you’re a thief. You get back on the grid, even with a new identity (which isn’t cheap either) and every minute will be spent wondering whether the law is about to catch up with you.

And third, assuming this waiter immediately went to his supervisor with the money, if you didn’t come clean with the money and the owner came calling (as you know he will coz he prolly missed the money the minute he hit the first stop light and the very first thing he’s gonna do is go back to where he had the money last) what’re you gonna do? Pretend you didn’t see anything? Are you seriously going to tell a guy who had a million bucks that you cleaned up his table and didn’t notice the plastic bag full of money? Riiiiiight. And even if you did had the chutzpah to even try that, what do you do when they find the money on the premises (in your locker, maybe?) and realize that you had lied all along? Shit, man. You’d be so busted.

All told, anyone – except a total moron – in that waiter’s position would have done the same thing. So, he wasn’t a hero. If he’s gonna be given credit for anything, it’s for being reasonably intelligent enough to see that taking the money would be the equivalent of taking a fork and sticking it in your own eye.

SO why is this guy being touted as a hero? That’s because we’re so fucking peecee that we have to celebrate every little ‘good’ thing done by every single one. And perhaps also because we’re so fucking starved for any example of social ‘goodness’ that we pounce on every little hint of something being done out of nobility.

The part about being too peecee I attribute to Oprah and the influence of Hollywood as well as on the proliferation of Oprah wannabees in Philippine show business. It’s the tyranny of goody-two-shoesism. The part about being starved for goodness is prolly a symptom of our growing addiction to feel-good stories that convince us we as a people are actually not as a bad as (ironically enough) we portray ourselves to the world and anyone who cares to listen. Let me tell you, I am sick and tired of hearing people say ‘only in the Philippines!’ when describing something moronic; or ‘ang pilipino talaga o‘ or ‘pilipino kasi e.’

It’s kinda like seeing a woman in a blouse that’s meant to be midriff bearing constantly tugging the damned thing down – if you’re so friggin’ insecure about your belly, bitch, then quit wearing such tiny shirts!

We are so quick to put fellow Filipinos down that we’ve pretty much convinced ourselves that we are scum. But deep inside us, we don’t want to be scum, and so we trumpet every little smidgen of proof that we are actually not that big a waste of space. We’re so conflicted about our own worth that we end up celebrating even mediocrity! Kids get togas for finishing kindergarten, for heaven’s sake! WTF is that?

And that’s exactly how the media is treating this waiter. Rewarding him with accolades for doing what he really should have done in the first place; calling him a role-model (as if every other Filipino were a thief who would abscond with that money – and his whole life be damned! – the first chance they got!) and a hero. That is so fucking pathetic.

About the only thing that makes sense in this waiter’s story is that he got a hundred grand for doing what he should have done anyway. At that, it only makes sense for the stupid moron who left the money in the first place. The asshole would have been skinned alive by whoever had an interest in that money, so it makes sense that he’d be so fucking grateful. As it is, he’s prolly still gonna get hosed down for losing a hundred grand out of sheer stupidity, but at least he didn’t lose a million.

So here’s my plea: stop celebrating mediocrity. And the only way we’re ever going to manage that is to stop with the self-flagellation. When we deride ourselves, we don’t just give other people licence to look down on us – remember that foreign bitch at the airport? – or make fun of us – like that bitch from Wisteria – we also perpetuate the retarded notion that Filipinos are worthless. We are not.

~

A bit of pop-psychology: have you ever considered that the reason we are often so quick to say things like ‘pilipino kasi‘ is that it gives us a certain sense of superiority? By voicing our disgust at someone else’s actions, we are impliedly – and not necessarily knowingly – announcing that we are better than them because we would never do such a thing. Chew on that for awhile.

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Filed under: musings, society, , , , ,

3 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    You’re absolutely right. This kind of thing sets the bar hopelessly low.

    Adding another dimension, I believe it’s not so much as how Filipinos demean each other. Rather, it’s how Filipinos on different levels of society view those a few rungs above and below them. As a society, we tend to look down at the people below, treating them with a mixture of contempt and pity; those higher are often treated with reverence and a large scoop of envy. It shakes our stereotypes to see a lowly waiter pass up his chance to live the high-life.

    At the same time, we’re taught that being poor is noble and rich people don’t go to heaven. Add to this brew the Filipino penchant for self-sacrifice. There you have it: the makings of a New Filipino Hero.

    Perhaps our society is just geared to produce mediocrity.

  2. rom says:

    Anthony: welcome to the smoking room! Great insights there, man! But I really hope that our society IS NOT geared to produce mediocrity. I mean, of course we’re going to have our share of petty minds and petty lives, but I hope it’s genetic or anything. 😀 It’d be incredibly depressing if it were.

    Great site, by the way. Further proof (as if I needed any) that mediocrity is not our genetic burden. Yay, anthony!

  3. Anthony says:

    Rom: thanks 🙂

    It’s more the attributes that society seems to value. Fortunately this has nothing to do with genetics and therefore can be changed.

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