It took all of twenty-seven seconds to create havoc among the netizens.
Simply put --- we were appalled. Not merely disgusted but appalled. The reaction was spontaneous --- like combustion --- and unanimous.
There was a certain degree of pain watching two burly men assert their power over a much older man who was not even a fourth of their sizes. Worse, the older man was a traffic enforcer in uniform and the setting was right at the intersection of one of the busiest streets north of the metropolis. The actions rendered by one of those who assaulted the traffic officer clearly defined behavior that was unspeakable and inexcusable under whatever circumstances.
Another sample of road rage. No bullets were fired here --- but just more of the common type when harsh words and somewhat barbaric actions. This includes the raising of voices, slaps and punches and a lot of posturing. If one watches the video carefully, it was actually a performance not only for the victim but for everyone else in the periphery to see. It was like the preening of a peacock ... or the loud barks of an aggressive canine.
If you are a fan of the National Geographic Channel or Animal Planet, then you can recognize the same aggressive behavior when primates assert their territoriality over fellow simians who figure lower in the pecking order. In other words, what we caught in twenty-seven seconds follows the same behavioral pattern of chimpanzees, orangutans and baboons.
Except of course monkeys do not wear high-end purple shirts and costly shades. But that's a different thing all together. We would still like to think that we have evolved.
The point we are raising here is that people react to what they see and hear. Even for twenty-seven seconds.
The video taken from inside an adjacent car clearly illustrated the perfect example of a problem that has become most prevalent today: bullying. There are many advocates for the prevention of bullying in schools --- but the more dangerous kind happens among the alleged adults who have yet to deal with their awful childhoods, personal traumas or perhaps just a textbook case of very misguided upbringing.
Almost immediately the viewer or witness would respond to three distinct points upon watching the twenty-seven seconds of this video:
(a) There were two of them --- and only one of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) officer. Not only was the officer outnumbered but the two men (who turned out to be brothers) were, uh, plus sizes. They were hefty --- or approximately the same size as the car that they drove.
An addendum to this is that both men knew they could easily overpower the man they were confronting because they saw that the officer was a much older and weaker man. They were sure they had the advantage --- and could have handled whatever it was that caused them such anger in a manner less arrogant and flashy and physical. But they chose to do so because ... uh, it was like ... so macho to do so.
(And there were people watching. Did they also know there was a camera rolling?)
Well, true to the nature of inherent bullies, the more they see the opponent as weaker and vulnerable then the more they will assert themselves as stronger and dominant.
(b) The very sight of the bigger of the two men who humiliated and physically abused the officer in public already triggered the worse possible perception.
Now if he were less formidable in size and not the perfect prototype of villainy ( think of Popeye's Brutus or most recently, Batman's Bane ) then the response of the public would not have been as vehement, dramatic and even drastic.
The very presence of this individual --- garbed in purple, complete with goatee and body language that immediately screamed aggression automatically branded him as the enemy especially when he started manhandling an older man. He packaged himself as the astig. He presented himself as invincible. He is your textbook kontrabida simply by stereotyping.
There was no argument about that. He did not only look the role but portrayed the role with utmost sincerity and appropriateness. All the qualities were thrown into the pot (that eventually became his girth): arrogance, foisting pride --- mocking the weak but, worst of all, shamelessly terrorizing someone who was not fighting back.
But the real worst swing of things came a little later.
That was when the characters in the video were identified and data defining their existence spread throughout the net like crazy.
It was only when the curriculum vitae of this burly individual ascertained that he was actually a high school and college graduate from the most respectable Jesuit-run university that a new dimension was added to the already overly-dramatic and even muddled scenario. The realization that the man was not only rich ... but enjoyed the benefits of the best kind of Philippine education ... infuriated the netizens all the more.
The fact that the aggressor was an Atenean meant that this was another kind of confrontation. This pointed to:
(c) A class war between the arrogant, heartless and selfish rich with their privileged and most comfortable lives and the helpless poor. This became a battle for those who succumb to the maltreatment of the spoiled brats who think of themselves as above the law of men because they have the money (and therefore the clout and power) to go about doing what they want to do regardless of propriety, decorum or even civility.
And what made it even worse? The fact that the burly brothers were driving a Volvo (read: elitistang mayayaman na naghahariharian sa kalye) and that the source of provocation as to why the assault took place was because the traffic officer tapped his car to signal him to stop.
(But let it be told that there is an entire psychology behind men and cars.
It is quite apparent that men treat guns and cars as extensions of their masculinity, like a form of penis compensation.
That is why it is also said that men take care of their cars more than their women --- because cars become the sacred extension of everything they represent or perhaps make up for whatever they lack physically.
So when the Officer tapped the green Volvo, should it be an unexpected knee jerk reaction that Mr. Hyde or the Incredible Hulk should emerge from the otherwise decent persona of this sparkling sample of the male of the species? Did the old man unwittingly cross over the territorial boundaries or even violate the very symbol of some very hot headed male's pagkalalake?
Can we therefore explain the reaction leading to violence as --- typical male aggression?
Perhaps. If we were living in the Neanderthal age. )
Add all these three elements together and you get the perfect recipe for being the object of the internet lynch mob.
When netizens decide to gang up on you, then better brace yourself for next viable solution: a witness protection plan that can enable you to change every available data about yourself and be shipped off to somewhere as exotic as Martinique or Ethiopia just so that you can have a new life. OR you can join the monks in Bukidnon where you can grow quality premium coffee for the rest of this present earthly existence.
The moment the internet identified the culprit --- everything about him, including the size of his waistline, was spread all over the net. Social media went crazy identifying not only his school but also a) his professional position and b) his place of employment. Added to this, even his c) cell phone number and d) car license plate were soon revealed together with ... uh, the name of his mother.
In other words, the netizens went crazy and turned into a virtual lynch mob. The netizens resorted to their own bullying.
Before the night was over, the Road Bully had pulled down his Facebook, Twitter and Linked In accounts --- but a tad too late because there are so many brilliant tekkies out there who were able to retrieve the data --- including his photos --- and started using the joys of Adobe Photoshop.
Even before midnight, his name was already trending in Twitter and has earned the distinction of being The Most Hated Man in Cyberspace while mainstream television was also dedicated in bashing and grinding him until he has been diminished into one big hamburger patty.
There are moral lessons learned here --- and the problem is that there is more to this than what is apparent.
The netizens were up in arms because of such heartless bullying --- and decided to punish Big Boy by bullying him as well --- making him taste his own medicine --- except for the fact that he is being virtually assaulted.
The enemy is no longer a single old man who had the mistake of tapping his car but an entire legion of faceless people who are out to avenge what they felt was blatant injustice and shameless arrogance.
How did they intend to do that? In the worse possible way. Now he was helpless as he watched his life being stripped piece by piece of everything he holds sacred. That includes his privacy. And his identity. And his affiliations. And, yup, his professional credibility. Now everything was out in the open --- being vulgarized and, in the process, trivialized.
His company has apparently suspended him as investigations continue with criminal charges filed against him by the MMDA.
When media showed the old officer he tormented --- and showed the humble house where he lived with the four daughters he was raising on his own because he was a struggling widower --- the die has been cast.
The battle between the powerful and the inaapi has been so scripted and everyone knows which of the two sides they will take --- out of sheer decency. No, maybe humanity.
Although it would be unfair to drag the name of his school to this issue (as I personally feel so awkward to take the line of defense of Ateneo considering I am a graduate and a die hard alumnus of the other school ) because all colleges and universities have one bad apple in their bushels of graduates, the fact still remains. The background of the aggressor --- and his supposed Catholic education --- has made the scenario all the worst.
How could someone raised with such privilege do something as inhuman as this ... and still, to this moment, foist arrogance and absolute lack of retribution? Epic fail, Man. Epic fail!
All it took was twenty-seven seconds and an entire life has been changed. Why? Because we live in times where there are always eyes watching us ... as well as camera lenses. A friend of mine said that we should be more wary that God sees everything we do ... and not only be threatened by the possibility that somebody is secretly recording what you are doing.
Maybe he is right. Or maybe the camera lens is actually God's eyes sharing His vision for the rest of the world to see ... what we have become or what we are still capable of becoming. Like the primates featured in the Nat Geo specials.
Maybe Darwin still needed to fine tune his entire theory of evolution.
But for the sake of convenience, we can simplify the lesson in just one word: BEHAVE. And that, we guess, is much easier said than done. Especially if you are going around in a Volvo. Even if you know Big Brother is watching you.