Reports of the emotional health of newly-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno continue to make discussion fodder for the Philippines’ chattering classes. Sereno is noted for being rated a four on a 1-to-5 psychological stability scale (5 being the lowest) by a test administered by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC). According to “unverified” news reports, she was allegedly characterised as â€œdramatic and emotionalâ€. Yet, despite MalacaÃ±ang reportedly brushing off the results of that psych test, the administration of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III has been compelled to issue statements aimed at discrediting that information…
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said such a report is deemed unconfirmed, at least for now.
â€œHindi naman verified ang sources niyan, unconfirmed reports. Sinama ng JBC sa shortlist ang ngayong Chief Justice, si Chief Justice Sereno. Hindi na kami magkukumento roon,” she said on government-run dzRB radio.
When asked if the Palace considers the psychological test moot, she said, â€œItâ€™s not that. [The supposed information] is not an official release from the JBC….”
Much has been said about Sereno’s relative youth and gender — a lot of it the usual positive affirmations associated with being young: “fresh perspective”, “energetic”, yadda yadda, and being female: (I’ll do the sensible thing and not comment about that). But youth is a double-edged sword. The young also lack the benefit of seasoning that comes with experience. And in a society such as the Philippines where gray hairs and a penis are held at a premium in politics, administration and leadership, Sereno is inherently disadvantaged by her brain-wiring and physiology.
To be fair, her predecessor, former Chief Justice Renato Corona was also quite the emotional basketcase over the course of his impeachment trial. He was inclined to public prayerfulness and emotional breakdowns during his court battle against Uncle Peping’s legal forces. Sympathy for Corona coming from both the public and the Senator-Judges was put in jeopardy by his walk-out from proceedings during his first appearance before the Senate Impeachment Court. And much of his testimony then and in the second time he appeared was laced with appeals to emotion.
So much for the cold steely fortitude most of history’s truly great leaders served as exemplars of. Unfortunately, Filipinos being the drama junkies that they are reserve no amor for stoic silent types. You can see this in the way they mourn their dead — often wailing and flailing like they are trying to awake their loved ones even as their remains are lowered into a hole or shoved into a concrete niche. It is why necropolitics is so potent an opiate for the Filipino electorate. The most celebrated Filipino “heroes” die not in glory on the battlefield but as victims in sordid tales of woe — and Filipinos lap it all up: habitually launching entire political eras and catapulting whole dynasties into power on the remains of dead “victims”.
Yet, as the Deputy Speaker of the Philippines’ House of Representatives opined, one has to be emotionally switched on to see one’s self and the people one leads through challenging journeys…
[Deputy Speaker Jesus Crispin Remulla] party whip of the Nacionalista Party, said Sereno would need a lot of â€œemotional quotientâ€ to withstand the pressure of being the chief justice.
â€œSereno has got to have a lot of EQ. They may all have equal IQs but being the best of the best requires a lot of EQ to deal with and being among equals,â€ Remulla said.
Perhaps the concept of “emotional intelligence” should be clarified for an entire nation of people raised on a media diet of teleseryes, idiotic comedy, and necropolitics. Emotional intelligence involves (1) knowning when and when not to exhibit emotion, and (2) having the skills and constitution to manage emotion to suit a situation. Obviously, one characterised as “dramatic and emotional” has a lot of skills upgrading to do in that department — assuming, of course, emotional intelligence can be learned.
But if we consider the latest findings coming from the emerging field of evolutionary psychology, the prospect of “learning” emotional intelligence may turn out to be another one of those consultants’ empty promises. Evolutionary psychologists hold that behaviors or traits that occur universally in all cultures are good candidates for evolutionary adaptations including the abilities to infer others’ emotions, discern kin from non-kin, identify and prefer healthier mates, and cooperate with others. In other words, one’s emotional make up is strongly determined by one’s genetic heritage — in short, there is only so much upbringing, education, and training can do as far as our core character is concerned.
In the 1998 paper Sex differences in the Big Five personality factors: Testing an evolutionary hypothesis strong evidence was found that “females showed, on average, significantly higher scores on the Agreeableness and low Emotional Stability factor than did males” and that “the differences between males and females were maximized along this factor and were not significant on all other factors”. This puts a bit of science behind what it means to be a female in power in a man’s world, and adds some perspective to the manner with which we might consider what MalacaÃ±ang’s rah-rah boys celebrate about Sereno’s appointment: her being female, young, and “God-fearing”.
This is not about being sexist or ageist. This is about being scientific and grounded on the latest ideas. Indeed, when someone tells you that you have “the balls” to do the job, it is usually considered to be a compliment — even to a woman. That simply points to the reality of what it means to succeed in human society which, contrary to the insistence of some emos, is still one dominated by the male of the species. Having balls is all about not getting all girly when the pressure starts to bear down.
Who knows? Lourdes Sereno just might surprise us.
[NB: Parts of this article were lifted from the Wikipedia.org article â€œEvolutionary psychologyâ€ in a manner compliant to the terms stipulated in the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that governs usage of content made available in this site.]
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