Heroes and heels, and the aberrations of our time

(This article was written in February 2011 during the time of the late Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes’ suicide. The circumstances haven’t changed much since then but the heroes and heels are pretty much the same, with new ones popping up every now and then.)

I am affected by the apparent suicide of the General, not because I knew him personally but because of the way he was hanged in the court of public opinion by people who themselves have blood on their hands.

Excuse my manners, but I could not help my middle finger from rising to the occasion and pointing it with a big, fat curse at personalities sneering and perorating on camera, and, heaven forbid, playing God. Yep, they call themselves honorable senators and congressmen of the Republic and their antics make spectators like me look up with eyes rolling and muttering under our breath, jerks.

Oh, but I turn off the TV at the first hint of a snort coming from the pudgy excuse of a convicted plunderer’s son who thinks we must be stupid for believing he did not dip his manicured fingers into his father’s loot. Then again, of course, we have a collective short memory and an even shorter attention span. Yesterday’s heels are today’s heroes, and today’s witch hunters are tomorrow’s hunted – vice versa, ad infinitum.

Too, I switch channels when the mutineer with the misdirected messianic complex starts to badger his prey like he was the latest incarnation of Judge Dredd, only he looks foolishly green at the gills. Who said soap operas don’t have any redeeming value? I’ll take the screaming faggots that populate the entertainment scene anytime over those holier-than-thou creatures that litter the political landscape of this country. The former are at least entertaining, the latter are just plain disgusting.

No way, Jose, am I going to unnecessarily stress myself over those so-called Senate and Congressional hearings where a circus actually has more sense, and comparing the suits to clowns is in fact an insult to the latter. Those supposed investigations in aid of legislation have deteriorated into orgies of vilification, as one newspaper columnist puts it, and trials by publicity have become the cruel medium by which people are convicted of sins by the mere say-so of persons who are themselves tainted with the same crimes. Whistle-blowers – are their own whistles clear of spit?

And excuse my naiveté for thinking that civilized society dictates we treat our guests (resource persons, hooey) with courtesy if not respect, and suspects are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty in a court of law. But looking at those two heroes in their own minds, one would think that civility and manners have gone the way of Mad Max and we are living in a world where lynching is a way of life and hecklers reign supreme in the once hallowed halls of men and women of honor. It serves us right for electing arrogant intellectual pygmies, sorry, into high office.

Comes now the Old Man saying his younger colleagues don’t need to apologize for their boorish behavior because they were only doing their job. Right, teach the beasts and the children that in this world they have no choice. Ah, but those are two votes he could count on when the next leadership coup comes around, so who cares about good manners and right conduct? GMRC has been off the school curriculum for decades now anyway.

Let’s see, wasn’t he the civilian head of the military establishment when Strong Man was at the helm? If his fellow lawmakers are at all sincere in getting to the bottom of alleged corruption in the Armed Forces and not just being selective of whom to bash and whom to spare, shouldn’t they start from the Martial Law regime when the dictum must have been – pamper the generals, make them happy or else? And maybe, just maybe, they’ll find skeletons from almost 40 years ago rattling right on the spot where the gavel rests.

Then again, yesteryear’s heels have become overnight heroes, and as the earth turns, heroes and heels come to be interchangeable, indistinguishable, and tragicomically so. Let old sleeping dogs just lie then; and let history redeem the unjustly persecuted or condemn the real scoundrels, perhaps after a hundred years or so. Right now, it is easy and convenient to kick dogs from the opposite side of the political fence. Weather-weather lang talaga.

Pardon once more my simple mind, but shouldn’t the General have at least built a fancy mausoleum for his parents from the millions he allegedly stole, the way the nouveau riche in our midst flaunt their newly found wealth at the enclaves of the rich and not-so-famous dead? And why was he riding on a vehicle with a license plate that must be at least 15 years old, when representatives of so-called marginalized sectors strut around in Hummers and Land Cruisers like they’re going out of style? Simplicity is not exactly the trademark of most people wallowing in wealth and power, legally acquired or not, is it?

Weren’t his achievements as a highly-educated, intellectually-endowed person enough for him to provide his family a comfortable life? He was a thinking decorated soldier who faced real battles out in the field, not a fake veteran or an armchair expert, and choosing  to end his life on the ground where his beloved mother laid was even begrudged him. Was he a coward? Only the brave will understand the uncommon courage it takes to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Was he a thief? His tormentors didn’t even allow him to speak, dismissing his pleas and pompously declaring he had no right to speak or a reputation to defend. How pathetic is that.

And did Media give the man a fair shake? He had to call newspaper editors to afford his side of the story equal front page treatment, and publish newspaper ads asking Judge Dredd to name the “powerful person” the latter said was behind the infamous Plea Bargainer. A report stated that he was in the process of talking to an investigative journalist admitting that he was not exactly faultless but that he walked right into a system that was deeply enmeshed in irregularity, but he still pursued an honest career as a professional soldier. The dilemma of “presuming regularity in a grossly imperfect system” and accepting it as part of the way things are is a crime punishable by public humiliation and character assassination in this country. He might have been in a position to change the so-called system, but he was not the first one to leave things be.

Now the Mutineer is saying it wasn’t the General after all. And the Plunderer’s Son is muttering there is no need to drag the General’s family into the circus, when in fact they were about to summon the Wife. They are the cowards and thieves, if you ask me. They stole someone’s dignity while hiding behind the cloak of parliamentary immunity. Isn’t that a criminal offense as well?

So, since this seems to be the season for witch hunting, has the Witch of all Witches been hauled yet to court by those who say they have overwhelming proof of corruption and what not against her? Because on balance, concrete evidence and not mere assumptions are needed to convict anyone, just like the way the Great Mustache was proven beyond reasonable doubt to have practiced sticky fingers.

But eight months since the Bachelor who loves to test drive fast cars along the matuwid na daan assumed power, all we hear are sound and fury and not much else. They couldn’t wait to remove the Witch of all Witches from office, but now they are pussyfooting and foot dragging.

Oh, wait, one of the Bachelor’s Bright Boys said they are still at a “transitory” stage. And, hear ye the Mouthpiece who said ‘I don’t care’ about the Porsche thing. They are cocky like that. After all, they still have five years and four months to collect Tatlong Manok – 3M – for every 10M contract that they approve.

‘You’ve got to change your evil ways’ was just a nice campaign song, Juana Change. I bet you bet on the wrong horse, but it’s not your fault. It’s like relationships; you don’t really know someone unless you’ve lived with them. But unlike relationships that you can leave once the living becomes too much to bear, we will have to bear with this one until he shows us he’s got what it takes, if at all. Until then, suicides are painless antidotes to incompetence, and political vendetta is the name of the game.

Thus – what is it about human nature that turns heroes into heels, makes heroes out of heels, and can’t tell a hero from a heel? Human nature being judgmental, we believe the worst in men rather than give them at best the benefit of the doubt. Human nature being hypocritical, we look at the dirt in other people’s backyards but ignore the cobwebs in our own living rooms. And human nature being unforgiving, we malign and ridicule and label as thieves and bitches people who don’t live up to our standards of (self-) righteousness.

We are no different from the mob thirsting after the blood of a Jew and demanding that a criminal be set free instead. Who is to say who the heroes are and who are the heels? Is it measured by how thick the crowd that attends a funeral or listens to a speech or watches a parade? Numbers alone are not important; it is how a person impacts on another that matters, whether it be one or a million. For as Mark Antony riposted in praise of Caesar, the evil that men do lives after them and the good is oft interred with their bones.

But it is just me, a pseudo-philosophizing observer putting my thoughts on paper for posterity more than anything; and, like the next person, waiting for change to happen from people who are in the position to do so.  To some, fence sitting might be a bigger aberration than heckling or grandstanding. At least I respect their right to think so.




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