As I remind prospective advertisers and would-be guest posters from the Indian subcontinent when they get in touch, this isn't a travel blog. It's just my diary, so I'm not beholden to anyone to say nice things about the places I visit and am at liberty to expose unsavoury truths. But letting off steam doesn't mean unleashing your inner dick (it's normal to have one of those, right?)
I created the borderline racism tag at this blog's genesis and have made liberal use of it since, each time I voice my irritations in various lands. The tag isn't an excuse, but it helps to remind me that some people might conceivably take issue with the things I'm writing (whether they're right or not) and to make sure I think carefully about what I'm saying, so I can justify it when enraged nationalists leave comments two years down the line.
Other grumpy ex-pats don't have that filter between their brain and the keyboard when slagging off the country that's welcomed them, so I don't see why I should give them any slack either. What the fuck are they even doing here?
Beyond the borderline
When I met my girlfriend and it gradually became clear I was going to be spending more time in the Philippines than could reasonably be called a holiday, I read up on various aspects of life in these islands to give me an idea what to expect (accounting for the fact that I don't live a normal life, so anything involving human interaction need not apply).
The real insights of real people are typically more useful than the generic, promotional disinformation that people like me are paid to write about things we don't know anything about (it's a living), but they aren't always reliable - especially when they tell you a lot more about the writers who are "letting off steam" than the subjects they're criticising.
One dark Saturday in 2009, I somehow came across a gore website for the first time. I'd never had any particular interest in gore (whatever Dave, we remember the dead babies blog), but when I found myself on a site passionately archiving footage of hostage decapitations, suicide home movies and other black moments I couldn't un-see after spending an hour or so methodically and compulsively clicking through, I spent that whole weekend in a well of despair. I even closed my Facebook account because I didn't want to face the world any more (so there's the origin of that! It would have happened sooner or later).
While I haven't strayed back into that particular dark side of the internet since (and have avoided the world of deviant porn too, even after a departing colleague tried to initiate the whole office as a leaving present), a couple of months back I was similarly morbidly transfixed by the horrendous race hate of a community I found for bitter expats in the Philippines. Its contributors write their accounts on a site I won't link to because I don't want you to get stuck there too, but a quick google will reveal its identity as easily as I managed to find who these anonymous posters are in the real world. This is the story of one of them. He spouts his country-specific hate under several guises online, but let's call him Alfred because that's his name.
This 26-year-old bag of bile makes the pervy pensioners on sex holidays look like respectable ambassadors for their nations. Reading hypnotically through his Philippine-bashing, self-aggrandising posts (I'm one to talk) is almost like a piece of interactive art, as each criticism he makes really offers more insights into how much of an absolute loser he is, a suspicion that's confirmed when you see what else he's up to online. Still, he prefers to stay optimistic about his own failings, instead casting the blame and frustration outwards to the society around him... and on his beloved wife.
Screw that bint for being born here. He gets even more charming as his introduction continues:
I don't know about you, but it wasn't the wife and her idiosyncrasies that I felt contempt for after reading that. I try not to imagine their married life from her perspective. Where's her blog?
As well as contributing numerous posts covering whatever facet of life abroad is unreasonably troubling him this week (again, I'm one to talk), you're always guaranteed to see Alfred chipping in with irrelevant comments around the site, which add to the overall tapestry. One particularly heated conversation about whether the Philippines deserved to be devastated by typhoons last November (which side are you on?) soon got back to more important matters:
What's rice ever done to him? A few minutes later he remembers more essential things that are wrong with this country and shouldn't be overlooked:
No objections here, especially the 'a' thing. I can totally see how that's worth getting riled up by or, you know, even worth mentioning at all. Inexact mastery of English as a second language (or a third language for people outside the Tagalog dialect region) isn't limited to Filipinos, but presumably it doesn't annoy him as much when a foreigner of European origin makes similar flubs with their English, because those guys grew up in civilisation or whatever.
If, like me, you were wondering what Alfred gets up to when he isn't checking his favourite blog several times a day or attending classes he's too old for, there isn't much in the way of variety. Here's his YouTube feed, where he gets the chance to explain his thoughts to Filipinos rather than like-minded haters. I've only edited out the bits between comments - slagging off the Philippines is literally all he ever does:
That last one's the craziest. It's like he watched hoping that the Philippines would show up so he could chip in with helpful analysis, but when it didn't he just went ahead and said it anyway. Poverty is a sad issue, so it's good to lol about these things. There's more on his limited-but-telling Yahoo! Answers account (the fact that he even has one should be information enough that he's some kind of opinionated bigot):
He's even relentless on his Facebook wall, where his Filipino classmates can read his posts (as can anyone, since he doesn't know how to set it to private, clearly). It's slightly toned down, since he's using his actual identity this time, but this is still all he ever says:
What's with all the 'likes?'
If you're hoping this profile provides a means to contact his wife and expose the terrible things he's been saying, you won't find her on there. He claims to have kept his marriage a dirty secret from people back home, in accordance with his plan to ditch her as soon as his college finishes so he can escape back to a life of presumably not being able to get a girlfriend and living off his parents again. If that's true, his decision to mix old friends and family contacts from Texas with new associates from Manila on the same page is pretty reckless. You could even say it's dumb as a bag of rocks.
If you found yourself making comparisons between my criticisms of Alfred and some of my own bitter excesses on this blog and character flaws in general, I'm fully aware of it and that's the reason I wrote this in the first place. Now I've seen what happens if you let yourself get trapped somewhere you don't want to be and vent these frustrations onto the people around you rather than dealing with your own problems. It's useful to have a benchmark. But who can be the Alfred for Alfred?
Maybe he's right and some people just are inferior and hopeless after all. Here's his desperate plea on a different blog begging for a benefactor's money, because I want to share the mirth he evidently takes in mocking people who are worse off than you:
It didn't work, I just feel like a dick now. But also a kind of anti-discrimination vigilante, clearly.
If you were hoping for a twist ending where I reveal this was just me taking on a persona all along, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I'm not that committed to your entertainment. This is an actual human being. But there is a glimmer of hope, as before he became a fully-fledged racist some time last year, he once tried to take decisive action in cleaning up the streets where he lived with a fundraising project:
Sadly, he fell a little short of the target:
I think we've found his origin story. Sorry Alfred, I've learned that being mean isn't fun. But you started it!
So why are you here? If you don't like it, why don't you go home?
They are the cliched but sensible questions every ex-pat gets asked when they complain about their new home. There can be many reasons - financial, criminal, being too old and generally repulsive inside and out to get a girlfriend fair and square at home. And of course it's justified to complain about things that piss you off or seem genuinely crazy wherever you are in the world, once you've accounted for the foreign culture and determined that it's a genuine problem rather than just your intolerance for difference. I don't always succeed in that part, but noise is noise.
It's true that the Philippines has plenty of problems and isn't always an easy place to live (for foreigners or locals), but to a large extent it just takes finding your sweet spot. People like Alfred need to sort out their lives instead of laying all their problems on the convenient scapegoat of the country they chose to be in.
Maybe he'll find a way to acclimatise, or at least to stop being such a whiny dick, but if not he's leaving in a few years anyway, and everyone will be happier for it. But then where will he direct his bile? To the Muslims? To the a gays? Don't worry, people like Alfred will always find something to hate and blame for their shortcomings, and you can be sure he'll never tire of berating this country that produced the only woman dumb enough to care about him.
The Philippines isn't for everyone. Is it for me? I don't know yet. I don't need to take my girlfriend away from her family and her church, so I won't unless it becomes necessary. My online work means I can effectively insulate myself from the world when I like, and in my air conditioned bubble it doesn't really matter what country I'm in most of the time. Now we just need to find a quieter place for when we come back to the country in a couple of months, so I won't be disturbed by the sound of mechanics during the day and shit karaoke singers through the night that threaten to turn me against the entire country as a whole. Don't get me started on people eating rice and saying 'a' when no 'a' is required, it's basically subhuman innit?
If my blogs start mentioning genetic predispositions to violence or questionable studies of national IQs, please arrange to have me forcibly extracted. It's not even like I live in one of the horrible cities, it's really not that bad down here.