Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Quick-to-judge Filipino Versus the Innocent-till-proven-guilty American

Whoa! The first news I read today headlines "Prosecutors drop case against Jon Benet Suspect" on Yahoo. This is a shocker, as everyone thought that justice for Jon Benet and the family has been served at long last. They thought that they had the killer of this innocent little girl, and the parents, who were thought to be suspects, were exonerated.

Not so. Even the John Mark Karr's insistence claim that he was the culprit of the hideous act, the prosecutors dropped the case because DNA testing proved otherwise. When the news broke out that he was apprehended in Thailand, people already came to the quick judgment that he was quilty. That's right, people! Guilty! The news media, the interviews, the family, the friends. Everyone thought he was guilty.

I shook my head and thought, wait a minute, it's happening all over again. It's the guilty-before-proven-innocent syndrome. That is prevalent here in the US. It happens all the time. I believe that our justice system is not the most perfect, but it still the best damn system in the world. Our democractic system too. So yeah, Americans are so quick to judge. But our justice system, in the end prevails. John Mark Karr is innocent. He is proven innocent.

How about our beloved Pinoys? Let's start with my parents, aunts, and uncles, since I know them better than anyone else. Yes, sad but true, they, too ,are quick to judge. Making conclusions without complete evidence. "Jake was drunk." "What? He did that. Well he shouldn't have done that because it makes no sense to go around looking like a fool and this and that and blah blah blah...because after all, we can't be living like that ...blah blah blah...so next time he better..." And you get the point, right? Problem is, this happens a lot when only a small piece of the story has been given out.

So yeah, stories can be overblown with this quick-to-judge attitude. I see the Americans as more tolerant of other people. Diversity works here in the US. In the Philippines, diversity is a weakness. That brings us to the tribal and regional debates again. Let's leave that topic for now. Here, Americans bring equal treatment to gays, blacks, handicapped, elderly, women, ethnic minorities, and many others; in the Philippines, you are laughed at because you're gay or black or black or handicapped or older or a woman or of ethnic minority. What a difference!

Then this too-quick-to-judge mentality is super-boosted by the gossip machine. The Tsismis/Chismis Factor. Whoa! It will spread like wildfire, and before you know it, the whole province knows about his business with hers and the how's and why's and where's and when's. All without the real facts.

I really hope this is one thing we can get away from, as Filipinos, as Americans, as Filipino Americans. We should always examine situations first, before we condemn someone and start a wildfire. Mabuhay to the Filipinos.


jhay said...

I hate to go about this again, but I just can't help but post comments to your entries. I also hate to burst your bubble but, this 'quick-to-judge' attitude of Pinoys still stem from the regionalistic and tribal tendencies and beliefs system still prevalent here at the homeland.

Cutting a long comment short, I would sum it all by noting the big difference between the US and the Philippines. The US has already entered the super industrialised age, Americans are more scientific minded, thus more tolerant and more appreciative about diversity. The Philippines is still in the 19th century, as the semi-feudal and neo-colonial blankets are still covering most of everyone's mind.

Look back at American history, Americans were also like the Philippines today before when they had only began to industrialise and enter capitalism. People were intolerant, and had a quick-to-judge attitude.

Just wait until the Philippines fully gets out of the feudal setup and into the capitalist-industrial age, tolerance, open-mindedness would soon dominate.

jhay said...

Pahabol, dude tag kita ha.
Here's the link for more info.

It's optional of course :D

Anonymous said...

... but then again, it's no good justifying such actions. For somebody who knows and feels for the situation, rather than be tolerant and apathetic about it, I think it is better that one lead by a good example... you of all people, your knack for the literatti, you should preach even....

Aja said...

You, too, are quick to judge. You judge Filipinos as if we're all like your parents, aunts and uncles.

Statistics can be really worse than damned lies, especially when using convenience sampling like what you just did with your relatives.

"We should always examine situations first, before we condemn someone and start a wildfire."

Mia said...

I think what you might be referring to is how Filipinos draw conclusions based more on gut feel and emotional pull than on other more... hm... quantifiable? objective? factors. Also, in the Philippine setting, more often than not you start with more assumptions (usually tradition- and authority-based) than in other Western cultures.

The case you mentioned has more to do with how the justice system in the US is set up than with how the average American thinks, maybe. I'm not sure facility with leaping to (erroneous) conclusions and/or judging people is a Filipino thing that most Americans manage to avoid. I've seen Americans do it too, but by other standards and in other occasions. For one thing, I've been judged "wimpy" just because I spoke softly (I had a sore throat at that time). I've been treated badly because of the color of my skin. And in my work I've been literally screamed at just because a customer thought something was my fault, ergo I was lazy, etc etc... It's a form of judging too, but I'm sure Americans would simply see it as standing up for consumer rights the way Filipinos see familial nagging as intuitive concern.

Regarding Jhay's post -- I think intolerance is still as prevalent now as it was "back then"; it's just better concealed. After all, the current trend is intolerance of intolerance itself, so it's not wise to be too open about one's prejudices.

So yes, Filipinos are quick to judge, but then again -- all humans are. Just not in the same way, and not with regard to the same things. I agree that we need to change, but not because other people don't suffer from our faults; instead, for the sake of our improvement as a people.

Mia said...

It's good that you can see things like that and realize that they're harmful; most of us are so used to the Filipino culture and societal norms that we just shrug things like that off. Tsismis, for instance -- it's a fact of life and so most of us hardly pay it any attention.

As a rule, when I write about the Philippines I try to view my topic from as many angles as I can. That's why I'm less conclusive about these issues than the other people who reacted, I guess. My first emotional response was of course something like: "Noooooo we're not like that! ;_;" but after thinking about it I realized that yes, you do have a point, and on the other hand (insert previous comment here. Haha.)

Not to mention if I'd acted on the basis of that knee-jerk reaction I'd just be proving your point.

Agh, I'm sorry this is so long. It's just that I find your entries really interesting, not only to read but to discuss. I like reading what you write about the Philippines because although I may not agree with everything you say or how you say it, you articulate your perspectives very well, are genuinely open-minded, and at least sound like you care (unlike the overwhelmingly apathetic majority). I hope you won't mind gaining another regular reader. :)

...And an incoming link, once I get around to updating my blogroll.

aurea said...

I can't speak for Filipinos in general, but I would say my immediate family is quick to judge. I don't get along with them because of this. They were quick to judge my husband, without thinking things through and listening to arguments. I hate it. They have, over the years, fallen into a bad habit of thinking that I doubt can be repaired. And then, they spend most of their time with each other, and my other relatives, that the chismis spreads and they reinforce their ways of thinking.

My parents always emphasized education while I was growing up. But I think it's more like, go to a famous school, get an engineering degree and make money. But real education, I think, means you are able to use your brain and think things through, without being quick to judge.