Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blaming the Victims

Within one week from December 26, 2008 to January 1, 2009, three seemingly disconnected events occurred in which the victims were blamed for their misfortune.

In the Philippines, 56-year old Delfin De La Paz took his 18-year old daughter, Bambee, and 14-year old son, Bino, to the golf course to play on the day after Christmas. On that same day20and20time and on that same golf course and almost the same hole, Philippine cabinet Secretary Nasser Pangandaman Sr. (Department of Agrarian Reform) took his two sons, Hussein and Nasser Jr., to golf. Because De La Paz took offense at the Pangandamans overtaking him on the 3rd hole and teeing off on the 4th hole, he complained to the course marshall.

The complaint triggered a violent reaction from the Pangandamans and their bodyguard goons who proceeded to beat the living daylights out of Delfin and his 14-year old son, Bino, both at the 5th hole and at the golf clubhouse where the De La Pazes had retreated to after their initial mauling.

After the De La Pazes filed a police complaint about the incident, the Valley Golf Club Board of Directors voted to expel De La Paz from the club for allegedly instigating the “brawl”.

On that same day, half a world away, Israeli tanks invaded Gaza while Israeli planes bombed targeted sites throughout the Palestinian enclave. After 14 days, more than 900 Palestinians have been killed and more than 5,000 injured, mostly women and children. The reason for the invasion, according to Israel, was to stop the Hamas-fired rockets from hitting Israel, rockets which have inflicted relatively minimal damage (one killed).

Comedian Jon Stewart, who was born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, noted that Hamas had been firing its rockets for some time now and posed the question on his popular “Daily Show” faux newscast: “Why does Israel feel that they have react so strongly right now?” Answer: “I get it..Israel gets their bombing in before the January 20 “hope and change” deadline (Obama inauguration)...It’s like the civilian carnage Toyota-thon!”

In letters to the San Francisco Chronicle editor from pro-Israel readers, the common argument was this (from June Brott, Oakland): “If Hamas had stopped firing rockets and mortars into Israel, there would be no Israeli planes in the air, no Israeli soldiers on the ground, and – most important – no dead Palestinians”.

On the early morning of New Year ’s Day, a 22-year old African American male named Oscar Grant was on the BART Fruitvale Station in Oakland when a melee broke out. BART police who came on the scene ordered several black males to lay face down the ground. Grant conformed to the order, laid down face to the ground and placed his hands behind his back to be handcuffed. BART police officer Johannes Mehserle, a 26-year old white male, took out his pistol and shot and killed Grant in the back.

Almost two weeks after the killing, Mehserle has still not been charged with any offense and has not even been questioned by police authorities despite fierce outcry from the African American community.

Was race a factor? John Burris, the Grants’ family attorney, does not believe the white officer shot Oscar Grant because he was black but “I think the way he approached the situation in an aggressive way was based on race. If they were white kids, the officer might have asked them what was going on rather than throw them in handcuffs,” he said.

A Chronicle reader (Jerry White from San Leandro) pointed out that “Oscar Grant bears some responsibility for what happened to him. What decisions did he make? What actions did he take that led to the police being present on that BART platform? Was it an extra drink at a New Year’s Eve party that lowered his inhibitions?”

Why is there a propensity for many people to constantly blame the victim? If a girl is raped, why do many people immediately blame the girl for wearing a miniskirt or being flirtatious as if to justify the violence that was inflicted on her?

According to Wikipedia, victim blaming is partly due to people’s belief that the world has to be fair and therefore find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept a situation in which a person is unfairly hurt or killed.

This view dates back to the biblical Book of Job where Job is inflicted all manner of disaster and pain to test his personal faith in God. Job's friends tell him that he must have sinned to incite God's punishment and thus berate him for refusing to confess his sins although they do not have a clue as to what sin he committed. But they are certain he must have sinned to deserve his misfortune because God is just and would not allow such disaster to happen to an innocent and guiltless man.

Some theorists contend that victim blaming is a psychological protection device to inspire people to believe that a crime like rape happens only to those who deserve or provoke the assault.

If the De La Pazes had not been so uppity about golfing protocol, they would never have been beaten up by the Pangandamans. If the Palestinians in Gaza had not voted for Hamas in free elections allowing them to fire rockets into Israel, Gaza would not have been invaded and bombed and hundreds, if not thousands of Gazans would still be around. If Oscar Grant had not been a bit tipsy on that BART platform, he would still be alive today.

Stop blaming the victims. The world isn’t fair, bad things happen to good people and it isn’t psychologically safe to live in the state of denial.


Political Jaywalker said...

Indeed, people are in denial when they blame the victim and there is a very valid reason for this...... the ever elusive pursuit of life longevity when one rationalizes an unjustifiable act committed by powerful politicians whose tiny brain fell off their fingertips.

DiscreteMind said...

If you live here in Manila, assuming you are admin ally, then you have this immunity to any complaints hence you are free to do anything you want -- good or bad, but most of them are bad. The root problem here is that PGMA has utang na loob sa Pangamdaman and it will hurt her ego if she goes against the family of Pangandaman. She is stuck with this utang na loob that is the reason why people in Malacanang is mum over the issue. It is about beating and hurting physically, it is done with intent but not with self defense, the poor victim is only 14 years old my god, the father is very weak, how can you defend your family if your adversaries are bully type of people and want nothing but away. I am not convinced that they do it in defense, that statement is bulok tell it to marines. look ang biktima is 14 years old and ang tatay is only defending his only child. If I am the lawyer, I will have these Pangandamans tried in court. We will argue and let us see who can convince the people. BTW I dont know that PGMA has influence on the justice system so I may lose the case, my bad....