Have we found ourselves in the arena of the ancient Greek mythological culture, we would have easily succumbed to the belief that the gods of Mount Olympus needfully descend in Las Vegas and watch from the ringside every Manny Pacquiao’s fight. His global fans could have easily attributed his warrior, well-chiseled body as the gift of Zeus and its sustenance to the ambrosia. And the few daring ‘Socrates’ among us would tweet with something like : “Manny P as the direct descendant of Zeus? Baloney!” causing their twitter accounts to close down after they were maliciously hacked. Hacking, political oppression, summary execution, below-the-belt comments or cyberbullying are some of our present-day hemlock.
But from the time of Socrates, the gods slowly waned and eventually gone. Or perhaps we just give different names for Demeter or Hera or Hermes. I can name two: scientism and humanism.
Our age is the marriage of both and this seems to be one reason why victorious warriors in the likes of Manny Pacquiao or Holyfield thrive in this culture, get rewarded. To succeed on the ring, one must think and act scientific; the Pacquiao team must approach boxing scientifically. It is no wonder that the most economically advance countries often garner the Olympic golds largely because of their scientific, methodical and meticulous preparations. Chinese divers are probably the most scientific in a perfectionist sense among the bunch of Olympic divers. Their training starts at a very early age. The scientific mind is a very methodical mind, the outcome as foreseeable as the clarity of the method. In Manny Pacquiao and the team, this scientism is translated into the rigor of a very disciplined training – physically, dietary, kinesthetically, geographically, tactically. Every practice punch is counted, every jogging pace matters. Manny through all these years has showcased his capacity for deep focus during training, perhaps as equally deep as the mental focus of a Buddhist monk in meditation. Regardless whether it is Kobe Bryant or Paris Hilton who watches at his training gym, one can sense that distraction is almost an alien word for Manny. And so are the gods of Mt. Olympus. In here, the science of mental focus flaps its wings, spews fire, knocks down. It is Manny’s secret dragon – the science of singlemindedness, hard work, determination, individual talent sculpted like the muscles of warrior Poseidon.
And scientific, individualistic, pragmatic, money-loving America loves Manny Pacquiao. Manny suits well to the American culture. Partly, Filipinos love Manny Pacquiao because Pinoys continue to idolize the American ethos and the fact that there remains mostly latent in us (some get pirated, some brain-drained) this scientific mind that America is quite ahead of.
Filipinos glimpse in Manny Pacquiao the embodiment of productive, billion-earning discipline and in the ring of national poverty, Manny and his fortune is godlike. This is where the god of humanism haggles with scientism, increasing Manny’s traction especially to the masses.Talk of populism. We have a few rags-to-riches billionaires around. Admittedly, they’re not as appealing to the masses except to the recipients of their largesse. They do not have the charismatic command of Manny Pacquiao though some remain in illusion with Erap. We may wonder why. Here are some thoughts.
First, Manny earns his money clean. It remains highly disputable to say the same with other Filipino billionaires. Filipinos are tired to the point of numb about bank accounts earned slyly.
Second, Manny Pacquiao as a billionaire does not belong to the oligarchic elite of Philippine history (Villar almost succeeded in creating this image) who are largely responsible for the downward economic drag of this country. Manny still scores high in the social conscience intelligence test.
Third, Manny Pacquiao is our Oprah regardless whether you like Oprah or not. He is very visible as a product endorser, actor, recording artist, reserve military officer, luxury car owner, business magnate, politician, game show host, philantrophist, friend of the poor. Manny is simply a world icon, adorable as Oprah because this is how Oprah became America’s Oprah:
“deep childhood poverty made yet more harrowing by sexual molestation and domestic violence; the power of nothing more than an idea, a dream for oneself, to change a life forever; the triumph of material success after a harsh beginning; the particular, feminine joys to be found in buying and redecorating a beautiful house; the dirty rotten tendency of bad men and false friends to run off with one another, leaving you brokenhearted and humiliated; the ability of such betrayals to cause you—and this may be the single biggest theme of all of Oprah—to lose your voice, leading to the realization that, no matter what, you must regain your voice; and finally, the necessity of going Ancient Mariner on the whole experience, telling every secret thing to every available listener, until you and they are both free.”
This is the god of humanism that Filipinos adhere to turn Manny Pacquiao into an incomparable icon – the human potential to transcend our limited beginnings and talents into something even Manny has not imagined. Being and becoming a good steward of one’s talent in a clean, humble, disciplined way because as the devout Christian runner Eric Lidell in Chariots of Fire had declared: “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
The Manny Pacquiao phenomenon – not really short of being religious but this requires another space to write on.