I would very much like to think that we have become better creatures given our advances in different fields of life. But it seems that as one grows older, the more one sees the rottenness of humans. More than ever, I understand why a soul like Curt Cobain can unflinchingly say, “I’m ashamed to be human.” It takes as much faith in humanity in order to be ashamed of it.
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Have you seen lately the photos of a Gandalf look-alike who’s apparently a Physics professor? The story around social media is that the old professor was discriminated in a public utility vehicle because of his looks and garb. He looked like he can’t pay. And he looked unkempt. Thankfully, students and colleagues alike came readily in his defense. He is Physics Professor Ruben “Sir Madri” Madrilejo. He graduated Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines who took his graduate degree from Germany.
I am tempted, my friend, to go on a one-sided monologue but let us reject the temptations of convenience.
Should we fault the people who were suspicious, discriminating against the professor?
No, the fault does not rest entirely on them. It’s true that their judgment was made in bad taste, made in ignorance. But they have nothing but a prima facie evidence that does not subscribe to the accepted forms of decency. Because let’s face it, you and I, almost everyone was raised in a world that frowns upon everything against our constructed social conventions of beauty and ordinariness. I doubt that most of them were economically better than the professor, but hey, at that point their self-perception asserted itself by saying categorically that they were far from being like that “trash-looking old dude”.
Bullies can only bully those who they think are weaker than themselves—like slum dogs who make it a sport to chase small children.
Their discrimination is not totally unfounded. Why? Because we were raised to be suspicious of strangers. To shy away from the ugly, from the not-so-good-looking. Our society treats any form of deviation, any departure from social conventions; any challenge to the basic images of the ordinary are punished by stares, glares, and scares.
But they shouldn’t be let off of the hook either.
In elementary school, we had a subject on GMRC—Good Manners and Right Conduct—called EKAWP or Edukasyong Kagandahang Asal at Wastong Pag-uugali. The subject teaches children how to communicate and relate among themselves, with older people, with pets, people of other culture, and, you got it, strangers.
We are flawed beings with no perfect knowledge about almost anything in existence but we are able to pass judgment based on what we see and the information currently available to us. But sometimes, as the case of Sir Madri has shown, our judgment can become impaired when we fail to take into account the essence of being human. And this means that to whoever, whenever, wherever, we must extend respect and courtesy to one another regardless of our creed, color, and class because we are human beings all the same.
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Our suspicions based on outside appearance have always been advised against by the old proverb, “Don’t judge the book by its cover.” Easier said than done. But next time, try to think this way: “Yes, I am suspicious of that shady-looking person. BUT I am not sure of that. And so I will observe. I will not say anything or do anything that will hurt the dignity of that person. Because I, too, do not deserve to be judged solely on the basis of my physical appearance.”