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Of Dogs and False Dichotomies

Manic in Manila

Much as this infuriates me, and much as I would like to pretend this never happened, and much as I would rather not talk about it (because I prefer to focus on things that don’t make me want to punch something), I find myself compelled to tackle this matter, yet again. Too many times, too many of us suffer from a serious case of “Lookaway Syndrome” – this disease is a social one, and its main symptom is the uncontrollable tendency to look away from a situation that makes us uncomfortable. It is also marked by the sudden, inexplicable inability to speak up and make a stand about pressing matters.

There is only one cure for the Lookaways, really; and that would be to kick yourself in the rear and give a damn.

So, this is me, giving a damn. Hang in there!

A doggone disaster

You would have to have been living under a rock since pre-Christmas 2016 to be unaware of the horrific intentional slaughter of a dog, in the name of Philippine independent film. This is the excuse the director and producer tried to make, of course. But really, those of us who did not just fall off of yesterday’s turnip truck know better. This inhumane, monstrous act was committed in the name of fame, and the (not-so) Almighty Peso. Then, to make matters worse, when questioned, said director and producer blatantly lied about having slaughtered the poor, helpless, clueless animal. It was, quite literally, a doggone disaster.

Animal rights activists have been up in arms about the matter since it was first discovered; the film was eventually pulled out of cinemas; and one of the awards it was bestowed was subsequently stripped. While these are commendable efforts, I believe that they aren’t enough, by any measure.

But, this column is not exactly about the come-uppance. I believe the culprits should receive. I digress, as I lay this foundation, and I seethe, all over again.

A false dilemma

What I do wish to discuss and expound on is what ensued, after the fact. The irrational reasoning (oxymoron most definitely indented) of many people went something in this vein: “It is sad that the movie has become about the death of one dog, when what really matters is the death of four miners.“ Note that the miners were killed long before the movie was made – the dog was used as a prop, and beaten to death for the sake of “authenticity.”

Yet, flawed and utterly idiotic as this reasoning is, some folk began second-
guessing themselves: gasp! Do I really care more about a dog than the miners
who were murdered??? HOLD IT RIGHT THERE. Can we not care about both??? Do we not have enough brain cells left in us to know that BOTH are wrong??? While I am sure that a portion of my gray matter has been sacrificed at the altar of Bacchus and at the feet of age, I am also certain of a crock of crap, when I see, hear and smell it.

The reasoning that is being shoved down your throat is a falsehood! It is known as a false dilemma, or a false dichotomy – and it is as big as lie as the one that the filmmakers made to try and cover up their bloodstained tracks.

Way more than Fifty Shades

A false dichotomy or false dilemma, also known as “black-and-white thinking” and the “either-or” fallacy,” will try to convince you that there is only one possible choice or alternative in a given situation. Usually, you are made to pick between two extremes in a situation in which limited alternatives are presented – most often, intentionally so, although sometimes, accidentally so.

All other options, scenarios, shades of grey, are omitted in an attempt to manipulate you towards one side or the other.

Can you smell the stink, yet? A false dichotomy will pressure you into making a choice, usually one that will play on your guilt, instead of your sense of reason.

“Human rights abuses make you angry? Well, then, you must be pro-drugs and criminality!” Does that sound familiar, by way of another shining example of a false dichotomy?

Smarter than that!

False dichotomies are most often created by people who A) are small-minded
and not smart enough to realize the complexities of most issues, or B) are ruthless and think that we are small-minded and unable to comprehend the complexities of most issues. Philosophers and scholars throughout history have studied the workings of a false dichotomy, and while there are many aspects to this, one thing that we must see is this: danger awaits those who buy into a falsehood created either accidentally or intentionally. These fallacies are generally meant to force our hand into making a decision, without carefully weighing all the options.


Down with false dichotomies. Life is hardly ever lived in black and white. Instead, it is an array of shades and hues; a spectrum of color which is as dazzling as it can be dizzying.

Don’t let the dictates of the foolish or the power-hungry take your power of rational thinking and steal your gift of choice. Sometimes, there is crimson blood, behind the glaring gold – and we need to make sure we don’t look away or aren’t blinded by the sheen of the latter, that we can no longer see the reality (no matter how harsh) of the former.