I'm talking about the aftermath of our loss to Iran in the FIBA games. It was hard not to be "caught up" as far as game updates were concerned, even for someone who cannot be considered a basketball aficionado by any stretch. All night long, my News Feed was filled with blow-by-blow accounts of the scores, who shot what, how many people were attending, how thrilling it was to be in the arena.
It was unavoidable because that's all anyone was talking about on my Facebook Wall (and their respective pages).
Not being as interested, I was at home watching movies and chanced upon the Iran-Philippines game during a commercial break. It was half-time, and they were displaying the game statistics. As a dispassionate observer, I could tell that we were outclassed, in both offense (two point shots showed Iran scoring more than twice our %) and defense (number of blocks). Coupled with what I have been reading (how this was a David-Goliath matchup, how Iran is seen as the team to beat, how uphill of a battle it was for the Philippines) it didn't take a second for me to see the writing on the wall.
So, when the final scores came in, I wasn't shocked at all. I'm sure our team didn't let this go without a fight, given the expectations after a still talked about game against Korea where we emerged victorious. But numbers don't lie, and I can be pragmatic to a fault.
Then the online onslaught began. I suddenly saw posts crying foul.
One by one, I saw status updates that focused on how the Iran basketball team "smelled": that we would have won had our players worn gas masks. There were memes posted about how it was a battle of Puso (heart) vs. Putok (body odor), and how it was natural for the latter to win.
Another faction complained about the height of the Iranian players, and how "unfair" this was for our boys.
The worst of the lot was when people started singling out individual players, calling them "yucky looking" and at least three people mentioning a particular player, saying that "you look like a pedophile!"
Pride or racism?
(Courtesy of facebook.com)
This might be a good time to talk about Pinoy Pride.
It's a nebulous concept at best, because I subscribe to the late George Carlin's philosophy: why be proud for something you were born into? Just as you happened to be a certain height, you also happened to be born in the Philippines. It is not an "achievement" to be paraded around.
When people win in, say, international singing contests, I attribute it to that person's personal singing talent and the hard work s/he put into it. I never understood the idea that it's because "galing yan sa Pinas kasi!" - we barely have enough facilities for basic education, much less support for something viewed as "extras" like the arts. It has always felt like nakikisakay tayo, us piggybacking on the coattails of someone's personal achievement.
And when things don't go our way, we are quick to view it as luto, we were singled out because of our color/nationality, and how discriminated we are on the world stage. I know this makes many people uncomfortable, but harping about achievements being dependent on one's nationality lends itself to racism quite seamlessly. It can't be helped: if we think that our pride is based on nationality, then any "infraction" is seen as an insult and an attack on this form of pride.
Which then lends itself also to direct this "infraction" as a racist attack towards others who are seen as the "perpetrators" - and in last night's case, to insult and disparage the Iranian basketball team that has somehow "wounded" our national pride.
We feel justified in calling them foul-smelling, and that we should wear protective gear should we come into physical proximity with them.
We think we raise ourselves up by putting down others for the supposed "characteristics" of another country, as in "everyone knows they all smell bad!"
We think nothing of calling someone as resembling a pedophile, as if it was a function of nationality, disregarding the fact that every country has its own share of offenders, sexual or otherwise.
We disrespect the hard work that others have put into their profession - and they just happened to be Iranian, or Chinese, or some other nationality - and instead, label their victories as "cheating" because of their height, or some other physical characteristic that everyone knows would be a boon before stepping into the game.
We disrespect ourselves, when we imply - actually, we went past implying and stated it outright - that our team didn't win because of a lack of gas masks, negating and belittling how hard they have worked to get to where they are.
We feel entitled because of where we were born, and not because of determination, hard work and perseverance.
Until we celebrate achievement for being the product of hard work, I fear this country will remain stunted, substituting racism for pride.