Saturday, July 27, 2013

Hey, Joe!

Case File: X-40253
Subject: Investigation of Psychic Abilities in Citizens of Tibungco
Agent Assigned: Joseph Mulder

Field Report:


Despite countless eyewitness accounts in disparate parts of the world, the existence of so-called 'paranormal' abilities to read people's minds and know their most intimate thoughts have never been conclusively documented. All attempts to demonstrate these abilities in controlled laboratory conditions have conveniently failed to yield results, and discredit has been brought on these claims through the exposing of fraudulent mediums in what conspiracy theorists believe is a campaign to cover up a truth the American people are ill-prepared to comprehend.

I, myself, have never held truck with these tales of the supernatural, having consigned them to the realm of science fiction alongside alien abduction accounts, Sasquatch sightings and the theory of evolution. However, since arriving in the Davao region of the Philippines on an unrelated case, I have observed phenomena that I cannot reasonably deny.

Everywhere I walk in the barrios of Tibungco, complete strangers greet me with calls of 'hey, Joe.' Yet I never told them my name was Joe! A group of school children even shouted 'Amerikano' at me, without having seen my passport or any evidence that I hailed from America. With up to one billion people of European descent representing a white majority in dozens of countries worldwide, how could they tell this from my appearance alone? It could be theorised that news of my visit and my identity was leaked, if not for the final proof, when I headed back to my hotel in Davao City last night and the taxi driver asked if I wanted pussy. I did want pussy! This cannot be coincidence.

I have requested the assistance of a renowned expert in the field of parapsychology, Zlądisław Skülbhęrt, for further investigation into the cause and nature of this phenomenon. Doctor Skülbhęrt arrives in two days, I cannot wait to see his reaction when the locals discern his identity as skilfully as they did mine.


Okay, never mind. Provincial Filipinos are apparently just overly generalising, borderline racist cocks.

Hey Dave, where you goin' with that gun in your hand?

(translation by Jackie)

Making cruddy jokes about this irritating impulse of provincial Filipinos to notify friends, family and neighbours that there's an American person in the area, even if there actually isn't, is the best way I've found to curb the frustration I feel every time I hear it. And now I'm the token foreigner in a village of unemployed layabouts with seemingly nothing better to do than shout at passersby, I hear it all the time (I'm a self-employed layabout, it's different).

It's definitely a provincial issue, as nobody shouts at me when I walk around Davao City and other major cities in the Philippines, where I guess they're more accustomed to seeing foreigners. They still like to stare a lot, which I guess is because they're not accustomed to seeing foreigners under the age of 65 and not holding the hand of a girl young enough to be their granddaughter (I'm never going to let that go am I? You try spending extended periods sitting amongst these guys in hotel restaurants).

My similarly-aged girlfriend has similar disdain for our fellow villagers and seems to understand the confusing mixture of emotions I get when someone yells at the back of my head, especially now she's experienced getting stared at all the time in Vietnam, where they at least have the courtesy not to accompany their blatant stares with cat-calls. She lays the blame on a lack of education, but I don't remember a great deal of the National Curriculum being devoted to manners. I thought I just sort of picked it up.

Then again, she also erroneously believed the ubiquitous 'hey, Joe' cat-call had its basis in Hollywood movies, though the ever-reliable and only slightly racist think tank of Yahoo! Answers teaches me it's abbreviated from 'G.I. Joe' and originated as a name for the U.S. forces in the Second World War. So it's probably fair to say that the average Filipino also has no idea why they're saying what they're saying, much as a home-grown English Defence League patriot may not be interested in learning the obscure etymology for some of the terms of endearment they use when 'being friendly.'

You've got a weird definition of 'friendly'

The friendliest person in Tibungco

The opinion of most commentators on this issue is that white foreigners should just smile and bear it. After all, it's not usually intended with malice, and it doesn't have any of the history and associations of pejorative terms used for other ethnic groups. Filipinos living away from the cities are just surprised to see someone who looks different in their neck of the woods, and shouting the phrase their parents taught them to shout at people who look like that is just a form of friendly greeting. White people have just become too distrusting and self-absorbed to appreciate friendly greetings for what they are. Like I said, things tend in the direction of slight racism over at the think tank.

I'm acutely aware of the differences between Filipino and 'Western' society (like 'Western society' is a thing). I'm capable of understanding these differences, but 'friendly' isn't the vibe I get from the 'hey, Joe' ejaculation at all, as its delivery is usually calculated at the last possible moment, after a long bout of staring and eager waiting, just as I get out of range to respond. When you feel like greeting someone, do you normally wait until they've started to cross the street and loudly announce a generalisation of their race? Maybe I'm just really antisocial, but I've never felt that urge. I've compared it before to a white person sitting on a wall and shouting 'hey look, a Chinese guy!' as a maybe-Chinese, maybe-Japanese tourist walked by. Not exactly racist, but not exactly welcoming either.

Sometimes I'll get it from a guy on a motorbike, boldly exclaiming it at 30 miles per hour without fear of repercussions, whose co-riding girlfriend will doubtless be charmed by her lover's anthropological knowledge. Other times it's from a group of motorbike taxi drivers using it as lazy shorthand for a sales pitch (it always has the opposite effect). Often it's from parents, skulking in doorways and looking bored with a litter of impressionable children scurrying around, so I don't have hope that this trend's going to die out for a few generations yet.

What they think about you

My girlfriend if she was from other places. I prefer her just the way she is.
You know, with a real face rather than a weird computer-morphed one. You're welcome, honey

Supporters of the 'hey, Joe' outburst also point out that usage of the phrase doesn't carry negative connotations as Filipinos love white people, something that can be clearly seen in the popularity of skin whitening products (I couldn't find a single brand of soap in the convenience store that didn't boast of its whitening properties) and decrepit white husbands. Desiring pale skin and eyeing up a foreigner perceived to be rich doesn't necessarily indicate love though, as I know from experience you don't have to look far in some suburbs of English and Scottish cities to find frequent customers of tanning salons voicing unsavoury opinions of races whose skin colour they're trying and failing to emulate. The racist orange twats.

Filipinos can be just as racist as anyone else, and without the pressure felt by some racist citizens of 'Western' countries (there I go again, I'm just as bad) to hide their prejudices through fear of being revealed as a bigot, they're usually up-front about it. Check out this misleading map of racism by country and consider whether it really reflects what you know of your elderly relatives, or if some countries were just trying to show off. As ever, white foreigners get an easier ride here than Filipino minorities that the majorities hold exaggerated grudges against, such as Filipino Chinese and Muslims, but some of their ideas about people from other countries are still pretty strange. Especially when it comes to white women.

According to a couple of Filipinas I've asked, the general view of white women among people over here who've clearly never met you is that you spend too much time drinking and partying, keep a filthy house and don't respect your husbands, leading to them ultimately divorcing you. By contrast, white men are generally viewed as gentler and more dependable than Filipino husbands, especially if they're old and consequently less likely to have the energy to play around. I wonder where they got these ideas? Do you suppose it could have anything to do with the disproportionate number of old, divorced white men retiring to the Philippines and spreading this bitter, self-effacing bullshit? It makes even Yahoo! Answers look credible.

My friends back home would be mortified by these scandalous generalisations

While we're here, Filipinas also tend to idolise Koreans, an opinion that many sadly discover isn't mutual after they complete the forests of paperwork required to visit that country. English people are believed to possess royal blood, while Scottish people - who?

So what are you going to do about it?

If I hear someone 'hey, Joe' me, I don't let it lie. I go back and ask them what they said, which has so far only resulted in awkward smiles in return. Yeah, I'm the guy who deliberately creates mutually uncomfortable situations to alleviate his irritation and desperately try to feel like he's won. If I do this every time I might eventually teach my 'lesson' to every household in Tibungco, right? It's the same attitude I have when I tut or make a face at someone littering or spitting on the ground - they're going to go home and lie awake in bed, unable to sleep, thinking about that tut and that face and vowing to change their ways forever. I should persevere in futilely trying to impose my upbringing on people from other cultures rather than trying to chill out and save myself a lifetime of unnecessary stress. Come on though, spitting's horrible.

I'm clearly having trouble fitting in here, and if I do end up living in Davao permanently (I don't want to take Jackie away from her family, especially as I don't really have ties of my own), it'll have to be away from the tranquil, scenic racism of the provinces towards the grim city. Or I'll just change my name to Joe and say hi back. Blasting loud music in headphones works too.

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