Judging people by physical appearances distracts us from serious issues. As one politician put it, physical appearances can be used as a sign of solidarity with those who share it. By ridiculing politicians for their physical appearance, we elevate them to a moral high ground, even as physical similarities can mask glaring differences between politicians and their constituents. Finally, and more importantly, this kind of “bullying” reinforces a culture that overvalues physical appearance.1
With the 2016 elections less than a year from now, we need to desist from attacks on the physical appearance of politicians. Journalists in particular should be mindful of their power to dignify certain discourses. We cannot be distracted from the more relevant parameters with which to hold politicians to account. We cannot gift them with ‘persecution’ that gives them a moral high ground while it conceals and absolves their moral and legal failings. More importantly, by casting politicians physical features in a negative light, we are perpetuating a culture that over values physical appearance, upholds certain standards of beauty and renders harm to our countrymen who share these features. Indeed, if we are to elevate Philippine politics to a certain measure of dignity, if we are to make people proud and respectful of the ways people look, we must spare the physical appearance of our politicians from ridicule and verbal abuse.1
**Though the piece above is angled on Philippine politics, the typical Filipino’s tendency to judge people by physical appearances goes beyond our politicians. Our intolerance for those who don’t share the same physical qualities (skin color, height, etc.) are monstrously contributory to our stunted growth as a nation. If we want to be more and do more for this country, its high time to put an end to these destructive prejudices.
I cannot celebrate independence when I can be so casually told in public that I am less of a Filipino or a person solely because my grandparents were (Chinese) immigrants. Do we subconsciously insist on defining patriotism as an accident of birth instead of a lifetime’s conviction? How can we continually decry mistreatment of Filipinos overseas yet tolerate such vitriol at home?2
**If we want our OFWs to be treated well abroad, don’t you think it’s only fair for us Filipinos to treat expats and Chinese immigrants with the same decency and respect we ardently expect? I would like to live in a country where everyone is welcome. Where there is a sense of community and where an expat can call my country his home. Families, economies and countries thrive because its foreigners (as well as its residents) are able to work together and make their country of residence more prosperous since they first arrived.
On social status:
I’ve also been quite vocal about this with friends: You’re poor? I don’t take it against you You’re rich? I don’t take it against you either. Bottom line, does it really matter? In the grander scheme of things, it’s the heart of the person that counts.
Too idealistic? Not at all. On the contrary, a realist clearly sees what needs to be improved in order to make communication lines easier and effortless, thus laying the ground work for straightforward and uncomplicated relationships (business or otherwise) for us to live better and to a greater degree, thrive.
For quite sometime now, I’ve been practicing going beyond what my eyes can see, and rigidly looking at the character of the person. So far, this methodology of making friends has opened doors for me that I couldn’t have possibly imagined.
I encourage you to be more accepting/tolerant/forgiving of people’s differences, may they be physical appearances, race, culture, religion, social background, etc. In the digital age, the world has become smaller and our neighbors more accessible than ever. As a nation, we have more to gain if we embrace, rather than shun, this reality. There is strength in diversity, if only the Filipino can look beyond himself.
“I can imagine nothing more terrifying than an eternity filled with men who were all the same. The only thing which has made life bearable…has been the diversity of creatures on the surface of the globe.”
― T.H. White
1 Philippine Daily Inquirer. ‘The politics of physical appearance’. Gideon Lasco, June 15 2015.
2 Philippine Daily Inquirer, Opinion. Sisyphus’ Lament, ‘Anti-Chinese-Filipino slurs are visible’. Oscar Franklin Tan. @oscarfbtan