Since it’s April Fools, let’s talk about pranks…
Last week, a scandal erupted in the local Internet scene as a malicious prank was pulled on an unsuspecting commercial establishment. News soon spread on Twitter, Facebook, and various other social networking sites eliciting various reactions from netizens across the country. A savvy few immediately recognized it for the hoax that it was while the more gullible majority vented outrage at the supposed discrimination that took place.
I am of course referring to the now infamous ‘Disturbing Realities’ sign posted by anonymous pranksters still at large. The sign proclaimed in the most bizarre and politically incorrect of wordings: “This is a private controlled environment. Poor people and other disturbing realities strictly prohibited. Thank you“
The news was quickly picked up by Yahoo News and soon turned viral across the Internet.
The commercial establishment in question was quick to issue an official disclaimer stating that the signage wasn’t theirs. Not that that it even needed to be said. The sign, as more astute observers pointed out, had several telltale clues of its illegitimacy. It had the wrong corporate logo, fonts inconsistent with standard design protocols and the name printed on the sign said “corporation” when it should have been “incorporated” (its official legal name).
But gullibility of the general public isn’t the real head-scratcher here. We’ve always known the average Juan will believe anything they see or hear. Case in point, the equally infamous “Harvard study finds that Filipinos are the World’s Most Gullible People” which was originally published as a satire by those wacky people over at the Mosquito Press. As if to prove the point, it was ironically cited by a rather clueless journalist in a leading daily as a serious study.
What surprised me more was the sheer amount of vitriol and rage expressed by over a thousand commenter against this perceived form of discrimination when the truth is, “discrimination” (in quotation marks) like this is already common practice in more than a thousand other establishments in this country.
Sign like this:
and even this:
are a common sight in various churches all over the country yet no one raises a fuss about it. Unless, there is conclusive evidence that it is physically impossible to pray while wearing shorts, isn’t this discriminating against poor people who can’t afford to dress nicely for church?
When other commercial establishments discourage people who have no business there from loitering around its premises, it raises eyebrows. But whether it’s a mall or a church, the same expectations apply: visitors go in, do their thing, deposit money to the establishment, then leave. No difference there, except perhaps that the church still doesn’t accept credit cards…yet. Whether you choose to go to a mall and hand over your hard-earned cash over to Henry Sy or go to church to donate your money to the coffers of Pope Ratzinger, these are both places of business – whether they ply their trades in goods that are material… or spiritual.
Places like these also have the right to expect a certain level of decorum from their guests to maintain the ambience of the place. As they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do“. At least the fake sign got its choice of wordings right: “Disturbing Realities”. Whether it’s a trendy mall or a soulful cathedral, patrons don’t want to be reminded of the sordid reality around them… all the poverty and squalor of the outside world… At least during the time they spend inside places like these, the illusion that everything is all right with the world must be maintained. Whether you find happiness in communing with Jesus Christ or with Louis Vuitton, it’s not so different when you think about it. Whatever form of escapism you prefer, you want to feel good for a moment and not worry about your guilty conscience being bothered by the “disturbing realities” outside.
Back when I was helping out in our parish church, I’d spend the whole Sunday morning assisting in 3 or 4 successive masses. The street children were always an issue. One of the ministers would often shoo them away from the church steps for loitering, begging, or plying their trade selling sampaguita and cheap rosaries. He’d chastise them for bothering the people who came to pray but they’d always sneak back in to seek shelter from the heat outside. Needless to say, he thought it was an eyesore to see a bunch of barefeet street urchins inside the church. They were his version of “disturbing realities”. If it were a mall, it would be the security guards who’d be shooing them away. But somehow, people would feel offending by the seeming discrimination of his actions. Is it because these guards are paid to do their jobs, thus evoking the image of the “hired goon”? How are their selective reception of visitors any different?
The more upscale the mall or hotel, the higher the standards one needs to be welcome inside. This is the same with the various churches. Churches in poorer parishes don’t mind the presence of “disturbing realities” too much but in the air-conditioned churches of the high-end residential communities and cathedrals we have signs like those, requiring rather stringent dress codes to be allowed inside. What then if you want to pray inside an uppity church but can’t afford to dress as well as their regulations require? One would just have to suck it up and find another church that isn’t so snooty with its parishioners. Going to a mall is the same thing – you go where you fit in. Different establishments cater to different segment of the market just like different churches have different policies in dress code. So why criticize one and give the other a free pass? Double standards? Now that’s the disturbing reality…
Happy April Fools Day, everyone.
[Author’s note: Those pictures of church dress codes are no joke, those are actual official signs posted on church bulletin boards and doors.]