What prejudice is all about

What infuriates me are people who don’t seem to realize that their prejudice is a function of their insularity, pettiness, and/or unwillingness or, poor souls, inability to engage in worlds different from theirs

DR MARGARITA HOLMESMy brother-in-law Quentin once called me a “money-grubby Chinese.” In typical fashion, he didn’t say this to my face, but rather to my husband, his brother.

Actually, instead of money grubby, I like to describe myself as “matter of fact” about money.

For example: When having dinner with people who drink endless bottles of wine while I sip my tap water, I suggest we split the bill down the middle after  they’ve paid for their drinks.

When someone suggests he pays for something first instead of my giving him cash in advance, reassuring me that it doesn’t cost “that much,” I ask what exactly it amounts to in pesos and centavos, because what doesn’t cost too much for a politician’s wife may cost a hell of a lot to a mere columnist.

One pet peeve is the response I was given in the past when I asked for a raise. “Ikaw?!!? Hihingi ng taas ng sweldo? (You, of all people, asking for a raise?!!?)”…with the  accompanying “How can you be so, well, money grubby, when you’re so rich?” 

At first, I was stunned that people could be silly enough to think that was enough of a compliment to lull me into forgetting the raise I had asked for. Now I ignore anything remotely like this and simply state the reason I think I deserve my raise — which is “The last time I got a raise was 17 years ago…Prices have risen a bit since then.”

But my No. 1 pet peeve is people “advising” someone not to count how much comes in and goes out. “You worry too much about money. Life is much more than counting dollars and cents.” This is usually said to a hardworking person, with relatives dropping heavy hints about how much life would be easier if someone would give them some money to help them this one last time. They hope their advice will discourage their victim from bringing up how many other last times they’ve asked him for money.

This is pet peeve No. 1 because people who don’t have the heart to say no, mainly out of guilt or because they don’t want to be accused of “money grubbiness,” then never get the chance to spend their own hard-earned money. Or get to save for something they really want. All because they cannot deal with those with no compunction to use guilt, blackmail, or fear of being talked badly about.

Eye of the beholder

So while the ultimate responsibility lies with the person with the money to lend or give, the criticism has more to do with the one asking for it. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is finding fault with others.

This reminds me of a joke about the Rorschach test (more popularly know as the “inkblot test.”) A psychologist gives a man the Rorschach with the instructions to tell him what he sees in these cards.

When he sees the first card, the man says, “An interracial couple f*cking;” the second card: “A cougar f*cking her dance instructor;” the third, “Two teenagers f*cking” and so on until the last card is shown.

The psychologist tells him, “You seem to have sexual issues.”

He answers, “Why do you say that? After all, you’re the one showing me all those dirty pictures.”

In fairness to Quentin, I must qualify that he never tried to borrow money from me. What he did, though, was something far more offensive. Not to me, but to the poor Chinese (after all, we’re not talking about the Shoal-claiming, military-solution-threatening Chinese here), tainted with the same brush as I, especially since I am only 50%. But try telling Quentin that.

Dealing only with people who needed or made tremendous amounts of money as an investment banker in HK, Quentin felt he knew whereof he spoke. However, his maligning the Chinese was not merely projection, but also generalization.

This too, is typical of some expats here—from the ADB, foreign embassies, major corporations—who spend no time with Filipinos except their secretaries and minions who serve them at work, their maids, their drivers, gardeners. The less sophisticated thinkers among expats don’t seem to realize that the kind of job you have is also a function of social class, educational level, mentors you had or didn’t. Said unsophisticates seem to think being boss is a function of race.


The Philippines is full of Filipinos who care about art, science, literature and not only appreciate but excel in them. We have many Filipinos who love traveling abroad but choose to live here, have a great sense of humor and yes, even irony. But expats who stereotypically lump Filipinos into one type, usually negative, are expats who have never gotten to know other kinds of Filipinos.

Sigh…but I guess water always seeks its own level.

That, to me, is perfectly all right. After all, how relaxed can you be when hanging out with your “betters?” What infuriates me are people who don’t seem to realize that their prejudice is a function of their insularity, pettiness, and/or unwillingness or, poor souls, inability to engage in worlds different from theirs.

I daresay, if I were as myopic as racists, I would end up spouting equally cruel myths such as, “All Americans are rednecks who, to quote a comedian, ‘meet their future spouses in family reunions’” or “ All Germans are, deep down, neo Nazis.” But I am much better than that…as this bitchy article shows you (teehee). – Rappler.com

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