According to Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III, history taught in Philippine schools should consist only of “truthful information” and not “the web of lies spun by propagandists and revisionists.” This is what he makes the underlying principle in his latest project — to rewrite Filipino history books according to what he thinks actually transpired.
President BS Aquino was quite specific about what he thinks need to be “corrected”.
Among the revisionist information that he wants corrected are the following: that Martial Law resulted in less crimes, that Martial Law caused the number of communist rebels to dwindle, and that the country’s economy boomed during the Marcos regime.
Where BS obtained this information is not stated in the Interaksyon.com report. But regardless of how reliable his prescribed revisions are, that he is being as specific as he is in his order to correct the historical record is quite disturbing.
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Updating the historical record per se is not by itself a problematic proposition. There is nothing wrong with a politician organising an independent review of the information currently in history books used in the public education system. In this case, however, the nature of the revisions have been all but spelt out by the President; recommending that the historical account should be made to show,
(1) that crime was more rampant during Martial Law;
(2) that the communist insurgency worstened or remained unchanged in its badness during Martial Law; and,
(3) that the economy remained stunted over much of the Martial Law years.
Perhaps so. Then again, perhaps not. Will there be a process put in place to systematically determine whether it is the earlier or the latter? Or will the project be more about implementing what the President has already decided actually transpired during the Martial Law years?
This is an important question considering that whether or not the Martial Law years were actually that bad remains debatable to this day.
The key question to ask in considering this “debate” is quite simple:
Who said so?
That the Martial Law years were that bad is simply taken as gospel truth today — because, quite simply, to state otherwise is not done in polite company. To do so will attract ridicule, because an entire generation of Filipinos have been born — and practically baptised — into the notion that the Martial Law years were baaaadddddd. Consider how hundreds of generations of 14th- to 15th-Century Europeans so believed in their hearts that the world was flat that they’d be be unlikely to think twice about burning someone at the stake for stating otherwise. It took a systematic approach to teasing out the truth from a sea of data to change people’s minds. That systematic approach is called the scientific method.
Where is the science in what President BS Aquino is proposing with regard to the content of future Philippine history textbooks? There is none. As we now observe, he has already decided what should be written in Filipino history textbooks. Never mind that there is a lot of debate to be resolved and a lot of information to sift through. If President BS Aquino really wants the truth to emerge from the data, a scholarly environment needs to be created and not the political one he seems to favour for this exercise.
For so long, Filipinos have delegated the writing of their history and its interpretation and embedding into the collective consciousness to private enterprise — specifically to media giant ABS-CBN whose producers practically single-handedly engineered the whole Yellow Edsa-as-“revolution” and Laban (“Fight!”) rhetoric of the ruling Aquino-Cojuangco feudal clan.
But what a joy it must be for the rest of the melodramatic Aquino fans who love living in the past at the expense of the poor. Likewise, the oligarchs that benefit from a family memberâ€™s stay in Malacanang are basking in the glory coming from a guaranteed grip on the peopleâ€™s minds for years and years to come. The Filipinos have indeed, given â€œpeople powerâ€ a new meaning after 25 years. The political opposition should never have underestimated the power of illogical people moving in large groups.
It has been said that the victors get to write history. It has also been said that propagandists get to use history to their advantage. Thanks to the lack of progress in the country, the victors of the so-called â€œrevolutionâ€ have been reduced to resorting to propaganda in recent years. Since none of the perpetrators during the Marcosâ€™ years have been put on trial or convicted anyway, the Aquino family and their cronies continue to use media outlets owned and operated by their own family and friends to continue demonizing the Marcos regime. By doing so, the Aquino family likewise continue to come across as martyrs. The victors â€“ the Aquinos â€” are quite successful applying this approach towards keeping the majority of the population beholden to them even when democracy in the country is alive only in theory.
It is quite a mind-boggling exercise to ponder the question of why most Filipinos have such a screwed up memory of the events that unfolded after Edsa I. Four years after Marcos was ousted, Coryâ€™s administration was highly criticized for its failure to deliver on the much-needed economic reforms and was plagued by allegations of corruption involving Coryâ€™s wealthy and influential relatives â€“ the same allegations they used to topple Marcos in the first place.
Was it the application of independently-sourced information, objective analysis, and critical evaluation that led Filipinos to the conclusion that the rhetoric of the Yellowist “Laban” mob is good and the militaristic regimented soberness of Martial Law nationalism is bad? Or was it all just an emotional high churned up using the same methods of persuasion employed by Nazis and jihadists on their largely frustrated and ignorant adherents that created these now popularly-held beliefs? Perhaps Maria Ressa was right when she extolled the virtues of keeping people “on a perpetual emotional high” in a speech she delivered to University of the Philippines students during the UP Los BaÃ±os campus leg of the â€œSocial Media for Social Changeâ€ of “social news network” Rappler.com.
It is a tried-and-tested persuasion technique:
Keep people emotionally-charged, and they are less likely to think.
Personally, I look back to the 1970s and remember a decade when “original Pinoy music” (OPM) was experiencing its golden years, when parents didn’t think twice about letting their kids out to play on their own unsupervised, when news — albeit allegedly controlled by the state — was reported in a dignified and sober manner, and when schools of little guppies swam in Manila’s storm canals. But were we “free”? Coming from my perspective, that suddenly sounds like such a silly question. Perhaps the abundance of choice 21st Century Filipinos enjoy today gives them that comfy illusion that they are a “free” people.
I’d think twice about whether “freedom” is really all that it is made out to be. It’s not as if being free and being able to elect their leaders necessarily made Filipinos a better people. That “social media” “activists” today are digitally-lynching the direct outcomes of the popular vote — people like Senator Tito Sotto and “Senator” Antonio Trillanes — and people who display their mugs on banners and tarps says a lot about the epic failure of imagination Filipinos have applied in the use of this so-called “freedom”.
So let’s go ahead and follow the lead of President BS Aquino — rewrite history and further propagate the debatable notion that it was all bad back then and all good today. Like elections, history is applied information science. You need an engine to apply intelligence in the conversion of data into good quality information. Until they learn to apply intelligence rather than drink the Kool-Aid served by their so-called “thought leaders” that gives them that much-hyped “perpetual emotional high,” Filipinos will continue to muddle along in that unique brand of mediocrity they have become renowned for.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.