04 May 2015

The Psychology of Defeat

So this past weekend, there was a very publicized boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. And as anyone who has been following the news has already seen, Pacquiao lost the fight. I am not a boxing fan, and therefore I really couldn't care less about how the fight went, but I still couldn't avoid seeing the news coverage about this fight, both before and after. And what really amazes me are the reactions of people after the fight, especially those who were rooting for Pacquiao, mostly, reactions from Filipinos.

See, for weeks, before the fight, there were so many news articles about how Pacquiao has been training. How he had an 11-car convoy who drove from California to Las Vegas (where the fight was), and how several Filipino government officials and celebrities were in California to provide Pacquiao support. The Filipino people were in a frenzy, all rooting for the National Fist.

This just made me shake my head. I mean, how newsworthy is it, really? I found news articles on the major news sources in the Philippines saying that there won't be power outages during the fight. I mean wow, that is worth reporting? It just shows the maturity of the Filipino public, where the media actually can get away with these reports of mediocre quality.

Anyway, I digressed. Now, what I find amazing is how the Filipino public deals with defeat. It's perhaps safe to say that almost every Filipino was rooting for Pacquiao. I mean, who wouldn't? People seem to have the innate desire to root for one's own, dogmatically. It's not a rational desire, more some unexplainable quasi-religious instinct, to root for someone, simply because this person comes from the same country as you.

And what is more interesting is how people dealt with Pacquiao's defeat. It was interesting seeing the news, reporting how people reacted to that. The issue of Pacquiao's hurt shoulder immediately came out. There were people who said that Pacquiao was at a disadvantage because he wasn't fighting in his home turf. There were Filipino celebrities who even made sexist remarks against Mayweather on Twitter. And then there were others who said that in their minds and hearts, Pacquiao still was the winner of the fight, no matter what has happened.

I guess for some, Pacquiao is invincible, some superhero, who can never be defeated, no matter what happens. How dogmatic.

There were a couple of things that struck me here. First, I am always amazed at the ability of the brain to "rationalize" events that are initially negative and spin it off as something positive. It's a coping mechanism, after all. And these news reports are just detailing the different manifestations of this coping mechanism. Second, I find it pitiful that the Filipino society is not educated enough to see and ponder weightier issues than this. I am afraid that Pacquiao would then want to step out of the boxing ring and attempt to enter Philippine politics. He already has, and I am afraid he wants to get the nation's highest position, that of President. I am afraid that he Filipino people will elect him, not because of his political track record, but because of his popularity. If he has a good track record of winning his boxing fights, then sure he should be a good President, no? I am afraid most Filipinos will not see that reasoning as fallacious.

Oh Philippines, you have so much more rice to eat. When will you learn? Now that the National Fist lost the fight, can the Filipino people deal with the outcome, and move on, so that they can focus on more important social issues?


  1. I've heard about the fight (somehow! I don't exactly follow boxing events...!) and I find your insights into the mindset of Filipinos interesting. Now I'm not sure sure about turning a boxer into a politician... but again, Schwarzenegger in the US--can't be worst than Terminator turned politician!

    1. Zhu,

      Well, given Pacquiao's track record about social issues in the Philippines, I am really afraid that things wouldn't be better if he becomes President. Let's hope people see better than that.