Sunday, February 3, 2013

How Bigots Are Made

So I was at Sweet Home Cafe yesterday afternoon catching up with Wife of Pi, Adrienne and Pi himself, Jan Ray.  LOL!

Before Adrienne arrived, something happened that pushed my tolerance nearly to its limit.  I bore witness to how destructive social delinquents and bigots are made.

I'm quite an understanding and accepting person when it comes to differences in views and such things.  One might even call me tolerant to some extent but I'm certainly not in the habit of watching something negative happen and not doing anything about it.  As an advocate for sensible social change, it'd be hypocrisy on my part if I let bad things pass without expressing a corrective opinion about it.  And that's what I'm about to do in this entry:

Here's the story:

There was this couple.  They looked normal.  The lady wore a nice purple dress and had shiny bracelets dangling from her right wrist.  The man, on the other hand—whom I'm going to refer to as a "man" and not a "gentleman" because I saw absolutely nothing gentle about him—wore a light-coloured shirt (a shade of red I believe), had an expensive pair of sunglasses parked on his head like a headband, and had tattoos all over his body.  She was sipping on a tall glass of cold strawberry milk tea (and I knew what it was because I ordered the same thing) while he was munching on some meat-filled sandwiches.

A few moments later, their son arrived.  And I knew he was their son because he referred to the couple as "ma" and "pa."  The lady greeted him with a gentle question about how his day was.  Something along the line of "how was school today."  The man, on the other hand, went about asking some unpleasant questions and saying things in a strong, macho tone—as if his masculinity was being questioned by someone in the room.  I don't know if they noticed I was giving him a what-do-you-think-you're-doing kind of look.

He went on to ask more questions and I tried my best to ignore them until the rudest one caught my attention again.  In the same unethical and semi-aggressive tone, he asked, "Naa pa ba'y mga bayot nga maestro anang inyo'ng eskwelahan?"  [Translation:  "Are there still gay teachers in your school?"], to which the boy responded, "Naa sa elementary pero sa high school, wala na."  [Translation:  "In primary school, yes, but not in high school."]  The father then asked, "Wa na diay to'ng buang nga si _______?"  [Translation:  "So that mentally ill, Mr._______, isn't there anymore?"]

That got me clenching my fists a little bit as a response to heavy irritation.  I was reading something on my tablet but I had to stop.  I had to put the device down because I didn't want to risk destroying it, had I clenched my fists too hard.  Gone was the what-do-you-think-you're-doing look, replaced by a look of disdain.  I was ready to explain myself if asked why.  I was even hoping he'd notice so I would get to explain.

The boy responded, "Wa na."  [Translation:  "Not anymore."]  The father then concluded the topic by saying "Buang jud ni'ng mga bayot."  [Translation:  "Gays are mentally ill."]

Hearing that last statement, my breath and heartbeat both started to speed up.  My irritation level soared and turned into anger.  In my head, I was composing a loud-voiced sermon for anti-homophobia but at the same time repeatedly telling myself to stop being angry.  I said in my mind, employing a stern and imposing tone of voice, "Ludwig, calm down.  Anger is not a response a Quaker and a Theosophist would resort to.  Deep breaths, deep breaths."  I reached inside my bag in the hope of finding something that would serve as some sort of distraction.  I managed to get hold of my my tablet.  The risk of breaking it didn't matter to me any longer.  I just needed to steer my consciousness away from anger so I carried on reading, hoping it would remove my negative feeling about the whole situation.

It actually worked a little.  I managed to calm myself down but I still intended to speak my mind to this man.  But just when I was about to open my mouth to say, "Excuse me, sir," the Wife of Pi arrived and saved me from the risk of a black eye take-home.  I took a couple of deep breaths and greeted my friend loudly.  The whole family of three stared at me and I gave the father the same disdainful look I was hoping he'd seen earlier.  I think he got the message.  The next few sentences that came out of his mouth were noticeably less rude-sounding than the earlier ones.  They eventually left.

Parents like that man are huge contributors to the pie chart of reasons why children grow up to be bigots and social delinquents.  They cultivate the idea that it's okay to think ill of other people who are different from them.  They are essentially planting seeds of hate in their children's hearts.  It doesn't take a genius to know that bad seeds will grow bad trees and bear bad fruits.  I am, however, not going to lay too much blame on the man because he was very likely raised the same way.  After all, what good will blaming do?

I think now of the school the Theosophical Society is currently building in Bohol.  I think now of the opportunities for cultivating change—change for the better—that Golden Link College would afford us.  I think of the many children who will come to enrol there that might have parents who behave and have outlooks like the man I encountered at the coffee shop—possibly worse.  Possibly much, much worse.  This is a real battle we're in for.  The same battle that Vic Hao Chin and Rekha Nahar have been in for over ten years.  And, you see, the difference between the battle we're preparing for and the physical battles that have been fought since time immemorial—over territorial claims, religious differences and oil—is that ours will likely not end in our lifetime.  This will keep going on and on and on and on because we live in a country whose societies are largely moulded by institutions and individuals that say it's okay to hate and it's okay to make fun of those who are different from you.

I believe, however, that things will get better.  Things always get better, somehow.