Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jealousy and the Pinoy

A SPATE of tragedies makes me wonder if jealousy may rival politics as the national passion.

While refilling grocery shelves, a worker was recently stabbed to death by a rival who suspected the victim of having an affair with the latter’s live-in partner.

Three other incidents in August led authorities to also blame the love triangle.

Approximately a week before the grocery attack, a female call center agent was stabbed to death by her partner, who also turned the knife on himself, in Lahug.
In Lapu-Lapu City, two kids had their throats slashed by their father, who then hanged himself.

In Mambaling, a woman was stabbed dead within hours after reuniting with her family. Her children blamed her live-in partner, who was overheard accusing their mother of reuniting with an old flame.

Psychologists hold that jealousy is part of the human condition. Even five-month-old infants are observed to exhibit insecurity and possessiveness.

But what triggers jealousy, defined as a fear of losing something or someone of value, to leap from self-inadequacy and sadness to murderous rage and an obsession with retaliation?

In the four cases mentioned earlier, the attackers were all males. All suspected their partners of being unfaithful; two were actually left by their partners.

Why was violence resorted to by the aggrieved males? Is it, as sociologists say, due to the primary insult inflicted by their partners against their machismo, the personal sense of identity and honor that decrees men must dominate, at least be regarded as better than other men?

Three of the four attackers were unemployed. Is the act of infidelity also perceived by the male Pinoy as a more grievous form of emasculation, specially when the replacement is younger, employed, better at providing; thus, the alpha male edging out the weaker rival?

Novelists and soap opera script writers always show males fighting to win the affection of their woman. Did it ever occur to the attackers in the four cases to win back their love? By seeking a priest or counselor to help them repair their union; cleaning up their acts and looking for a job; or pleasing their partners in bed, in the kitchen, with the kids’ assignments, in all fronts that matter? Was reconciliation ever considered? Why did everything have to be reduced to “me or nothing”?

Why does a man retaliate against an unfaithful partner by killing their children? According to philosopher Johan Frederik Staal, “runaway evolution” explains why there are masculine characteristics that are exaggerated to single out males as more virile, stronger, the better bet for survival.

So if the peacock can fan out his tail, the rooster strut with his brilliant cockscomb, and the male fiddler crab snap an enlarged claw, perhaps some males regard children as their extensions, proof of paternity and patronage.

The Lapu-Lapu City attacker texted his partner, “You can’t take our children with you because you have hurt them.” Then he slashed the throats of the children, aged four and six. Would it have hurt to ask the children to choose between being betrayed or staying alive? Did he not think he could raise two children by himself?

Perhaps suicide, like male inarticulateness, is not evolution-dictated, only mass media-created. Few things can be as addictive as pining heroines and strong and silent heroes.

But for the sake of those victimized by the runaway green-eyed monster, I hope the stuff of our melodramas can create new machos: one for whom relationships are lifelong processes, not mating competitions; whose self-esteem is not just in holding on to their women but also nurturing families. 09173226131

*First published under the “Matamata” column of Sun.Star Cebu’s Aug. 30, 2009 issue

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