Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Double standard makes truth a casualty

Our family dog, a Golden Retriever, is easy to love. He’s very amiable even to strangers, a gentle disposition that sometimes is not very good for a dog that doesn’t show any form of hostility to other animals, to people or his peers. We can ignore his barking because it is all sound and fury and nothing more. True, he chases squirrels in our backyard but not because he dislikes them. The poor squirrel always has to scurry up the trees to escape our dog’s atypical wrath, if only the squirrel knew our dog merely wanted to play.
Onegin, our family dog sits in the backyard while contemplating on the double
standard tendency by society. Click link to view "George Carlin America was
founded on a double standard,"
Most, if not all, dogs (or other domesticated animals) are unlike humans. People are not always true to themselves, with their emotions or thoughts. Because their brains are wired differently, we often think human beings are superior. Arguably so, but that’s not for us to debate. The important observation we can make of dogs is that they treat other dogs or humans equally, not so with people who can always disguise or mask their true intentions, which makes human interaction a much more tricky relationship.

People look at others through their bifocal lenses. They always talk about ideas, such as what they can do and what others can’t, from a split perspective. This dual tendency toward others and their behaviour or thoughts, depending on where we stand in society, is generally the cause of the double standard or worse, duplicity in the way we treat others. This is self-evident in our political and moral views, in the little groups where we belong, and the great divide between the far-advanced West and the East that has lagged behind for many decades due to colonization in the past and now to the globalization of the economy.

In our own familiar organizations, whether in the community, profession or school where we went to, we tend to elevate people to a certain status because they’re simply popular or perhaps because of their success. We often do this to the detriment of others whom we relegate to the margins because their struggles have been unheard of.

A double standard of acceptance usually works on the metrics of likeability. If you’re less likeable, then you’re likely to be ignored no matter how sensible your ideas or suggestions are. Someone will be more liked if he regularly fraternizes with other members of the group and shares his personal opinions which you don’t necessarily agree to because either they are expressed in a bungling manner or are totally inane and useless. But again, that could be your own standard as opposed to what’s held by others.
An example of double standard. Bill Reilly argues that Viagra should be covered
by health care, but not birth control. Photo courtesy of Jean Farr.
Being duplicitous or having a set of double standards in treating others doesn’t just stick to us Filipinos because of our thick skin. This is true to the whole of North America (meaning the United States and Canada) in its attitude towards other countries, particularly those of Islamic religious persuasion.

Take the recent caustic sentiments raised by GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum toward the Obama administration. Romney has repeatedly criticized U.S. President Obama for apologizing to the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq for some intolerable behaviour by members of the U.S. military. If elected, Romney said he would never be apologetic, because to him that is a sign of weakness, without even putting Obama’s apology in its right context. The same goes with Santorum who said he will bomb Iran if he were the U.S. President, revealing clearly that he is against nuclear proliferation especially if it falls on Moslem hands. Such rhetoric ignores the sensitive feelings of those at the receiving end. But this is the way the most powerful country in the world always argues; it talks down to other countries despite the reality that geopolitics today are best handled through peaceful diplomacy, not through sabre rattling.

Harold Hongju Koh, dean of Yale Law School, in his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in 2007 best summed up this American warrior mentality and duplicity in treating both allies and enemies, when he said:

“[W]e now fail to tell the full truth about our human rights conduct, or that of our allies in the War on Terror. Increasingly, we avoid application of universal standards: whether the rules against torture and cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. But the United States cannot lead the world with moral authority unless we hold ourselves to the same high standards that we demand from others. The U.S. has put its own human rights practices center stage by promoting double standards for our allies, and arguing in favor of “law-free zones” (like Guantanamo), “law-free practices” (like extraordinary rendition), “law-free persons” (who are dubbed “enemy combatants”), and “law-free” courts, (like the system of military commissions, which have failed to deliver credible justice and are currently being challenged in our courts for the recent stripping of the writ of habeas corpus). Through these misguided policies, the administration has shifted the world's focus from the grotesque human rights abuses of the terrorists to America's own human rights misconduct, leaving other, equally pressing issues elsewhere ignored or unaddressed.”
Cartoon depicting West's double standard re nuclear proliferation. By boris. rasin.
The ongoing impeachment trial of the Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice is the most recent example of how this practice of double standard works. Right after the articles of impeachment were sent to the Senate, Philippine President Noynoy Aquino and his cabal of close advisers from his student days in Ateneo immediately went on a media frenzy with only one purpose in mind – to influence the public debate on whether to impeach Renato Corona.

Noynoy would speak in public gatherings demonizing the Chief Justice as the remaining stumbling block to his platform of cleaning the government of graft and corruption. His advisers would do the same thing, from his presidential spokesman to his Secretary of Justice, and even to allied senator-judges who will try Corona in the Senate. Columnists in the local media who are perceived to be close to Noynoy Aquino would write pompous opinions almost daily on why Corona should go, even calling for people power demonstration like EDSA I if the Senate should acquit the Chief Justice.

The prosecution panel has rested its case against Corona. Before the defence could start to present its side of the argument, the Chief Justice was also making rounds explaining in public forums why he was targeted by Noynoy for impeachment. The media began publishing stories on the family feud between Corona and his wife with the wife’s clan regarding their family inheritance, which is not particularly germane to the impeachment hearing but toxic in portraying the personal character of the Chief Justice and his wife.

Noynoy’s allies would condemn the Chief Justice for acting like a politician, admonishing him that it was inappropriate for him to talk about a pending legal matter before the public square. The Corona prosecution brigade had become suddenly afflicted with amnesia forgetting that they started talking about the impeachment issue before the public arena, with President Noynoy Aquino being the most vocal drumbeater.

This clearly illustrates that what is good for Noynoy Aquino is not the same for others. It’s wrong when others do or say what he does or say. Noynoy as President is entitled to his own moral standards. When two of his cabinet members were implicated in alleged irregularities, Noynoy Aquino was reminded by critics of his “daang matuwid” (straight path) policy on corruption. Yet, Noynoy came to the defence of his officials who were his close friends during their college years, thus sweeping the allegations under the rag.

One Filipino columnist wrote about Corona: “The question is not merely: Is this the person you want to continue to become chief justice? The question is: How in hell did this creature become chief justice in the first place?”

Harsh words for the Chief Justice of the land, as if one is talking about a heinous criminal. But then who’s talking – one who staunchly defended Ferdinand Marcos when he was a young and upcoming writer plucked from obscurity to promote the ideals of the New Society. Now, he’s become the great defender of people power and President Noynoy Aquino even if the latter is suborning Congress to rubber stamp anything he wants, never mind if it destroys the constitutional foundations of the country which his own mother helped restore.

Another columnist wrote: “How many dirty justices, judges and lawyers are there?” As if all members of the legal profession are dirty and corrupt. Yet he turns a blind eye to the sinister plot of Noynoy’s cabal of legal advisers who was responsible in contriving the impeachment of the Chief Justice so their President can ventilate his own personal vendetta.

Does it still matter anymore, whether one is a lawyer or a plain citizen, to have your day in court? That everyone is entitled to due process, to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty?

It’s almost certain that Corona would be found guilty by the Senate. President Noynoy Aquino has made it clear and known to all that this is what he wants at the end of the trial.

Double standard or duplicity is the new golden rule. Or maybe, it’s not. Since the first man walked on this earth, it has always been that whoever has power lays down the rule. That rule is only good for the one who has power, not for everyone else. Human societies are built in such a way that those in control will always have the ability to disguise or mask the nature of the truth, or its real meaning. Whether deliberately by deception or distortion of the language used, the truth becomes a casualty and the moral standards attached to human behaviour will always be based upon their usefulness to those who have the power.

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