Posted by: Elmer Brabante | August 11, 2009

A Lesson on Arrogance


Arrogance may be defined as the lack of diligence in one’s speech and actions. It manifests in over-focus on the self without regard to the feelings and opinions of others. The overarching importance is placed on popularity, at whatever cost. Thesaurus provides the following synonyms for arrogance: conceit, haughtiness, egotism, superiority, pride, overconfidence, self-importance. Its opposite is humility.  Integrity, on the other hand, is that moral virtue which puts premium on the speaker’s or actor’s reputation above popularity, fairness, truth and honor above fame. Its opposite is dishonesty.  A gargantuan roadblock to integrity is arrogance.

 Arrogance can well be given flesh by a lunchtime television variety show host who complains about presenting a video update on the ongoing funeral for a revered national icon, for the Woman of Great Integrity. To Wowowee host Willie Revillame, the funeral footage ran unparallel to the jubilant mood which the show was catering. He was aware of the implication of his statements as he said he was unperturbed of possible sanction by his network bosses or by the MTRCB. He defended his tantrum of disallowing the videos, saying his concern was to prevent presenting Wowowee as insensitive to the bereavement of the Aquino family and the nation. His end though does not justify the means. He could have been cautious, reminding himself of the pervasive impact his statement might have on the sensitive viewer. Sympathy takes many forms, but not how he said what he had said. Better yet, he could rather not have said anything at all. To say that one has no regard about other people’s reactions to his statement is to display utter arrogance. He should not have thought about its (the arrogant statement) effect to his popularity alone but on its impact on the network’s credibility and integrity. It is not an easy road to be in the defensive for dismissing an offensive, arrogant remark.

 The Willie case is just one tidbit example of arrogance. What could be more glaring examples of arrogance than the selection of this year’s National Artists, the return to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) of the list of nominees for the next Supreme Court Justices, and the defense for an imeldific dinner in New York, all by Her Excellency?

 The conferment of the National Artist title is a presidential prerogative. It is protected by a decree precisely so as to prevent the abuse of that presidential prerogative. As such, the process is that the President selects the conferee from a list of nominees forwarded to Malacañang by peer institutions, such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and the National Center for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)—two institutions which are supposedly built by prestige and credibility. If Malacañang would insist on the President’s personal choices, the selection process would rather be abolished once and for all. Add presidential prerogative to the list of synonyms of arrogance.

 Malacañang named Cecile Guidote-Alvarez (for theater) and Carlo J. Caparas (for film/visual arts) as two of this year’s National Artists (NA). Alvarez’s arrogance may not be evident as yet in defending that her title is backed by years of unprecedented commitment to the establishment of a national theater movement since the 60s. But if you look at where she sits when she says this defense, then that is where the arrogant slip shows. As the head of NCCA, she could have at least begged off the title or, if she’s keen on the “award”, leave NCCA. The issue is not Ms. Alvarez’s qualifications to the title; rather, the issue is her moral integrity, her delicadeza.  Alvarez’s case is the irony of decades of committed service now betrayed by a moment of lust for recognition. Add to the list of synonyms for arrogance: lust for recognition; absence of delicadeza.

 I would not have bothered to discuss Carlo J. Caparas, as to indulge in the discussion of his works would be an exercise in futility. As he says, let his massacre movies speak for themselves; let Panday and Totoy Bato save his whatever needs saving. What irks me is his remark, undermining the value of my most revered nationalist writer, F. Sionil Jose—a most deserving National Artist. The nerve of Caparas to diminish Jose’s national and international worth. The arrogance of this accidental, commercial filmmaker cum visual artist only manifests in his inadequate reading of socially and culturally enshrining works, and in his condescending regard for the academic community who, to Caparas, are the only patrons of Jose’s works. I do not wonder the condescending attitude toward the academe, to the value of education. How many of his works have made it to the Top Ten, Top Fifty, or Top 100 Filipino Films by the most respected scholarly film institutes?  Not a single?

Whenever there is a vacancy in the Justices of the Supreme Court, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is tasked by the Constitution to recommend to Malacañang at least three (3) nominees for every vacancy. The JBC submitted to President Arroyo six (6) nominees from which two (2) shall be appointed to fill the two vacancies. Apparently, Malacañang’s protégées were not in the list that the list was returned to the JBC, days before the 90-day deadline.  This arrogance by the President is backed by its disregard for the constitutional mandate to the JBC, the indifference to the 90-day deadline and the subsequent constitutional crisis, and the utter disdain for the competence, integrity and overall qualifications of the six nominees. She thinks of herself as the singular, most powerful constitutional figure in the government. What better term than arrogance do we have for a president who has no respect for the equal sharing of power of the three branches of government?

 Just as when the entire world, and her third world country is in dire financial crisis and food insufficiency, the President and her minions had the temerity to dine in a Ritz New York restaurant, to the tune of a million pesos. That is arrogance, plain and simple. To her defenders, this dinner is just a token gesture to an invitation by a Congressman. Not a good defense, either. The issue is not the amount of the bill in proportion to the assets of the dinner host; rather, it is the moral integrity of the public officials accepting the invitation, if indeed it was a response to an invitation. This dinner is reminiscent of the grand life, of the delusion of grandeur, of the Marcoses while the rest of Filipinos wallow in abject poverty.

 What moral authority does your leader have when she says she cares for your children when she has not enough budget for your children’s education, food and medicine—while she can have the gall to party on caviar and the most expensive wines. What moral integrity does your president have when she says she emulates the honesty, simplicity and integrity of Corazon C. Aquino, while displaying her wealth and power for all the world to see?  That is arrogance, pure and simple.

Looking at these public figures, it is not difficult to identify who is arrogant and who has the integrity. Their speech must complement their actions, and their actions their speech. They can indulge in self-adulation sometimes, but they cannot deceive the careful eye of the public all the time.

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