Sunday, February 19, 2012

Greased Eels and Certain Bloggers

Responsibility is such a slippery thing. It reminds me of greased electric eels, the kind that shock you if you touch them. They are impossible to grab onto, especially if they've been swimming in that pool out back where runoff water from the kitchen sink collects like so much oily green ooze.

The ways of avoiding responsibility are as old as sliced bread, a metaphor that my friend Sancho Panza would grasp; not many others would, especially in the Philippines where humor is a bone that is missing from the Filipino anatomy. Unless it is a joke about sex, which for some reason really raises the cackles of the roosters at the tuba table and the hens in the dirty kitchen.

Subtle is not something that goes down easy here. Or nuance.

Going native, I have taken to making excuses for every flaw my wife comes up with. Given that she is an ardent critic of behaviors large and small, I have been forced to dig deep within the creative cranial crevices to find someone to blame things on. This morning, for instance, I tracked mud into the house as I walked upstairs to get my hat. My flip flops, which for some reason are called "slippers" here, had assumed a fine patina of local mud from my morning wanderings in the garden. Said mud was transferred to the soles of my size 12 feet, and from there to the freshly washed tiles. Fortunately, I was able to blame the mud on the maid, who had returned my hat to the bedroom instead of leaving it on the downstairs closet door knob, within easy reach from the outside door. If she had not been so diligent, I would not have tracked mud about. It was clearly her fault.

Blames and excuses are an art. Every eel has a portfolio of them.

It all makes the hooha surrounding the Freedom of Information Bill to be so much hypocrisy in the linen closet, for what good is information if the use of it is going to be slippery and deceitful and filled with half-truths, manipulations, smoke and mirrors, statistics and other lies? It is like putting clean sheets on the bed but crawling into them all muddy.

People hereabouts don't have a portfolio of principles by which to live. Like honesty or honor or courage or candor or courtesy. And so government operates that way, too. People have one principle, and only one: "How can I make myself look better?"

The problem is acerbated (that a fancy word that means "made worse") by a certain blindness toward ways to improve oneself in real, instead of showboat, terms. Introspection is a dirty word in the Philippines. Therapy is shameful. Self-help means grabbing another huge plate of pancit. The only introspection to be found here is within the covers of Cosmopolitan Magazine where you can find such gems as "10 Ways to Get Him Horny", or "How to Get Rid of a Thigh Full of Cellulite on a Working Woman's Budget".

Which is interesting, now that I think about it, for I have never seen cellulite on a Filipino Woman's thighs. I think Filipinas have the prettiest legs in the world, but they usually hide them under 46 layers of totally Catholic clothing.

It also reminds me of a line from "Six Days and Seven Nights", as a drunken Harrison Ford expounds on island life to a snooty Anne Hesch, "Ya wanna know how to make a guy horny?"  Pause for effect and a raised eyebrow from Ms. Hesch. "Just show up."

I've stopped doing book reviews here because my readership declines by half. But I will tell you that the funniest chapter in the history of novels is Chapter VIII of John Connolly's book "The Unquiet". In this chapter, our noble sleuth Charlie Parker meets the fat secretary and wizened attorney of a dust laden legal shop in Portland, Maine, up near Canada. It is a murder story, but I laughed out loud - roared actually - earning a criticism from my wife, and an excuse I could easily lay out, blaming Mr. Connolly.

Mr. Connolly also penned these great lines as Charlie is talking to a different attorney in a different chapter:

Charlie: "You're not interested in the truth?"

Lawyer: "I'm a lawyer. What has the truth got to do with anything? My concern is the protection of my clients' interests. Sometimes, the truth just gets in the way."

Charlie: "That's a very, um, pragmatic approach."

Lawyer: " . . . Be serious. The law doesn't require the truth, only the appearance of it. Most cases simply rest on a version that is acceptable to both sides. You want to know what the only truth is? Everybody lies. That's it. That's truth. You can take that to the preacher and get it baptized."

Some bloggers operate within a similar ethical framework.

Some judges, too.


  1. In the movie Law Abiding Citizen:

    Darby to Atty Nick: "Well, it's not what you know,
    it's what you can prove in court."

    This is what is happening in Corona trial.

  2. Nice article Joe! I love the excerpts from the conversations of the lawyer:-)


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