Friday, September 7, 2012

MEN, WOMEN, AND PLAGIARISM





There were two people I became recently upset with due to their very public utterances. One of these people is the wife of the Republican nominee for president; the other happens to be a petty comedian-turned-petty senator in the Philippines.

The first one, Ann Romney, might be forgiven for wanting to make certain thematic comments in her speech at the Republican National Convention, comments that focused on women and on getting their vote for her husband, Mitt Romney. In case you didn’t hear the speech, this is what she said: “I’m not sure if men really understand this, but I don't think there is a woman in America who really expects her life to be easy.” It was a seemingly incontrovertible opinion except that Mrs. Romney almost imperceptibly used the word “men” in a terribly general sense. She made it sound as if men––by implication due to their gender–– could not truly comprehend what women go through in their lives. It was an unfair and sweepingly sexist statement if there ever was one.

Mrs. Romney was trying to win over women who are skeptical about her husband and that therefore she would be expected to go on about how strong, transcendent, and courageous so many women are in mind, body, and soul. All of this is undeniable, but did she have to depreciate men in the process? I know as well as anyone that substantial masses of males have made a mess of things over the centuries. But not all men deserve to be in this category. Far too many men are not given enough credit for making a genuine, heartfelt effort to understand women and for succeeding in doing so out of love and respect for them.

That’s why I was appalled that Mrs. Romney chose to make her pitch to females by suggesting that there was precious little that men could grasp about women because they were by nature, men.

For those who hasten to accuse me of nitpicking here, don’t be fooled by the superficial representation that is associated with what someone says in a politicized context or in any other kinetic context for that matter. Cursory, minimalist receptions are all terrifyingly alike in that they reinforce the common but oblivious idea that what you hear is what you get. What’s more, by denying the always present possibility that a person is really saying something else without actually saying it, we leave out a lot to be desired in getting anywhere near the truth.

Which brings me to Philippine Senator Tito Sotto. It kills me to use the title “senator” in referring to Sotto because quite honestly, he has no qualitative right to be one. That is until you remember that the moral, ethical, and cerebral standard for being in senator in the Philippines has tumbled so low as to be below ground level.

Any self-respecting Filipino literate will confirm that Sotto was guilty of plagiarizing blogger Sarah Pope in his flawed RH bill address. In an utterly shameless afterthought of a retort, Sotto dubiously noted that there is no such crime as plagiarism in the Philippines. Besides, as his chief of staff Hector Villacorta explained, his boss could fall back on something called “parliamentary immunity” that would presumably prevent legal action against the senator.

We can only surmise that Sotto is either an immensely vacuous intellect or an indisputable liar. Let’s split the difference and see Sotto for what he is: both an idiot and a liar.

In the right hands, political authority is a good and constructive thing. In the wrong hands it can be a foul and perverse interaction between power and tempting self-interest. In the hands of Tito Sotto, political authority is conflated into an across-the-board expression and manifestation of intellectual desolation and of an apathetic, ineffectual politician who says anything but does nothing.

Other self-absorbed Filipino politicians like Tito Sotto inevitably think they are part of the solution to the Philippines’s problems, when in fact they are the cause of them. Ann Romney is no Tito Sotto, but her husband does share his insight that on account of their illuminating convictions, they have reached the ridiculously easy conclusion that real problems need real solutions. It might help if both men stopped chanting this obvious deduction as if it were nothing more than a mere formality to do so.

ALLEN GABORRO

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