Thursday, January 12, 2006

Confrontation, The End...Part III of III

I promised I’d comment on my confrontation and resulting barangay hearing of last week. I’ve been busy with my classes, my service officer work, and more importantly—worrying about my two little girls, who are down with some kind of virus that’s been knocking down a lot of the local kids.

To begin with, JoJo’s bellicose attitude makes me realize that a basic underlying condition of this world is friction, between males, based on testosterone maybe? For whatever reason, “it” sits just beneath the surface of civilization waiting to rear up like a spitting cobra. Mankind is a "warring kind" because of people like him (and me?); and if I were the same reactive young man I was 25 years ago, we would have HAD the private battle he wanted, and right here in our normally quiet little neighborhood. The problem is, there are many people like JoJo—someone ready to smash first, a man who believes that “talking things out” is done ONLY by “faggots” and “wimps.” HIS world is the REAL world, unkind and unpleasant though it is. There are whole communities of “people” like him back in the USA, a country that I believe is peppered with places as aggressive, mean spirited and adversarial as any in the world. People can be just plain MEAN in my beloved home land; folks full of impatience with each other, and ready to hate and curse anyone who would seem to impugn them by daring, for example, to make them put a foot on the brake pedal while driving. I am embarrassed to share citizenship with him, because he reminds me that so many of my countrymen think and act just like him, and admittedly—at times in the past, even me!

Since last week, the concept of civilization, and how it applies to my own little world, has been nipping at my mind. The “civil” part of the word “civilization” is supposed to be about being courteous and respectful to one another, but that idealized version of civilization is ONLY as good as ALL the citizens interacting in it. For instance, JoJo seemed dead set on pursuing the most antisocial and UNCIVIL of all acts—the action of doing physical harm to another. Is that really the kind of world he wants to live in? If so, then the rest of us have no choice except to react to HIM. He forces HIS world on us, and in effect, it becomes OUR world. His aggression becomes something that the rest of us are forced to react to or reckon with. So, it takes just ONE of him to change the face of the place in which the REST OF US live. It follows that if society puts up with it, as it seems to be doing across much of the United States, then JoJo’s “style” of civilization will become the norm, and Americans will become meaner and as a society, less kind. It’s a discouraging thing to contemplate.

Now, here’s a comment for anyone else finding themselves in a similar situation in their own neighborhood in this country. Don’t expect anyone to call the police if any kind of altercation or squabble takes place, no matter how loud and unruly it is, and especially if weaponry is involved. This place doesn’t work that way. Cops here don’t prevent or intercede in violence; at the most, they ONLY react, and usually LONG AFTER it has taken place. And after an “event” HAS taken place, there is neither a CSI nor any kind of post-criminal activity investigation, except for the most rudimentary and cursory. There’s a reason why everyone in this country lives behind walls inside gated compounds, and it has to do with the minimalism of security and law enforcement. Once I started on that tightrope with JoJo—once we began our verbal grappling on that slippery slope of hostility—I was on my own. Whatever resulted from our row, there was going to be no intercession by authority, and there would be no pulling us apart by bystanders. I was aware of all that from start to finish; I was on thin ice and I knew it.

I’m still not certain what that whole barangay hearing was about. I went along with it because I wanted some kind of supervised way of confronting my adversary, but I’m not convinced it would really do anything substantial if JoJo felt undeterred by it, and why would he? He was able to continue to bait me and to use foul language right in front of the judge; and if he felt unbound after signing the judge’s agreement—what then? My impression is that a bully like him can pretty much do anything he wants here. Fortunately, this is NOT a country of bullies. No, MY country’s society seems to breed more bullies than does this one—a good reason to live here despite the lack of an overwhelming stateside-like police presence?

And now, here are some thoughts on how I handled myself. Initially, I acted very poorly. I over-reacted when he cut in front of me. Also, the way I got off my bike seemed aggressive in retrospect, not that I realized it at the time. After that, however, I did everything exactly right and I would change nothing. While he screamed foul language and lunged at me like a rabid dog, I remained cool and measured. I never looked away from him during his rants, never took a step back, and I never flinched or blinked. He was out of control and shaking with rage, while I was calm and steady. He never got to me. He did not succeed in bullying me, and neither did I physically back down from him. He drove off first, out of control and still screaming, sure, but the "battle" ended with him driving off, not me. I held the ground!

An interesting aside took place at my office after the barangay hearing. I told the veteran whom I was advising, a friend who owns and runs a local bar, about the quarrel and barangay hearing, and when I got to the part where JoJo kept calling me a f###ing white boy, my friend interrupted me excitedly.

“Oh man, I know that guy! His name is Joe, right?”

“Well, yeah, sort of. Why do you think it’s the same guy?”

“Because this guy, an American named Joe, hates white guys, especially white American guys. He’s been telling EVERYONE how much he hates them. The other day he almost killed an Australian in my bar just because he thought he was pointing at him. Joe rushed up to the Aussie in a fit of instant rage, the Aussie tried to explain he wasn’t trying to start anything, but Joe picked up a barstool and started beating the guy with it. I tried to stop him, but he’s STRONG!”

“Holy crap!” I said. “Are you sure it’s the same guy? JoJo didn’t look any stronger than me. What’s he look like?”

“JoJo? He’s no JoJo. His name is Joe. He’s black and he’s about 30 years old, a pretty big guy.”

“Okay then, not the same guy. My guy is originally a Filipino from around here.”

“Well, Joe took that bar stool and broke several of the poor guy’s ribs. I took him to the hospital afterwards.”

“Damn, that crazy bastard could have killed him! Broke ribs can be tricky. Have you banned this murderous SOB from your bar? And what about you—you’re white? He doesn’t hate you?”

“Nope, he said since I’m Italian that I’m cool. He came back into the bar after going to the cops and apologized to me. He said he THOUGHT the guy was an American and that’s why he kicked his ass.”

“Now that’s a small comfort for white American guys like me! What did the cops do?”

“He said he told the cops that the white guy started it by provoking him.”

“The cops believed him? They didn’t talk to the victim?”

“Nope, he was in the hospital trying to breathe! Joe told me that the cops’ only remark was, “That sounds like something those arrogant white guys would do.” And that was all there was to it, according to Joe.”

“That’s about a crock of crap about Italian guys. They can be as racist as anyone. This Joe guy is as irrational as they come; ONLY HE’S a proven potential killer. Man, we need to spread the word to watch out for this character. He’s gonna kill one of us!”

The upsetting thing about my friend’s news, BESIDES the fact that it was proof that, suddenly, at least TWO fellows existed in the area that virulently hates us “white boys,” is that racially motivated fools like JoJo and “killer Joe” are so rare here that we are NOT used to it. We just DON’T have those kinds of problems in this place. We Americans, especially the veterans living here, help each other no matter what race we are, and we tend to know each other, or to know of each other; and come to think of it, it was probably a good thing for “killer Joe” that he DIDN’T attack a local American, for his OWN good. As a community, we wouldn’t have let it stand. Conversely, I asked a couple of Aussies in the gym over the last couple days if they even knew about it, and not one did. I have spread the word to others around here out of concern that “killer Joe” will brutalize someone else whom he imagines to be disrespectful. I would be irresponsible if I didn’t pass the news.

Well, I’m sure all this “hate” stuff is a passing thing. There are plenty of Americans living here, of all races, and we all get along just fine. Black, White, Asian--those are just descriptions to most of us here, like old or blonde, that's it! We don’t need some stateside idiots coming in here and ruining our “little LOVE fest!”


Ed said...

At first I thought that here in the states where I live, there weren't any aggresive people as you described around but on further introspection, there are. Road rage is everywhere here in this country and until my last trip to the Philippines, I thought it was contained here. But one incident which I shall write about in my blog sometime in the future proved to me that it is spreading and that is a shame. Funny how most of the early films of my youth showed the future evolving into one big peace loving world. Instead we seem to be de-evolving.

Kevin said...

Dude. Where do you find these people?

Amadeo said...

This is really all very revelational.

One would expect that expats from the same backgrounds would stick together and put up a united front.

But your stories tell me differently.

But I assure you that everytime I get back there, I typically show more appreciation concern for the people now similarly situated as me, regardless of ethnicity and economic status.

But, hey, hang in there and maybe a more liberal dose of patience is required. And if locals are involved, maybe more understanding, too.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I'm with you Amadeo. My policy is to treat EVERYONE with respect. Without being condescending I use a respectful "sir" or "maam" at the end of most every sentence to locals I meet. When I walk past street sellers or trike drivers my reply is the same to all of them, "Ayoko po. Salamat!"

As far as dealing with other expats, I am wary based on past experience. Folks that tend to come out here are not always, how should I say it, exactly "centered." I'm polite, but I'm careful. Truthfully, the only people I prefer to associate with are my fellow American veterans. I understand them and I tend to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Nice to hear from you buddy!