There is a saying: Success is the best revenge. When someone wrongs you, you could either choose to be a victim or go on to be successful.
Not the Philippines. It seems the Philippines chooses to remain a victim of “the Martial Law regime” of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos. Indeed, the theme of one of the more popular “activist” movements amongst Filipinos nowadays revolves around a pathological need to assure themselves that those terrible “Marcos years” never again happen. And so born of that profound victim mentality is the “Never Again” slogan that has come to symbolise anti-Marcos “activism”.
Trouble is, 30 years have gone by and none of the alleged perpetrators of Martial Law “atrocities” are in jail. The only thing that is imprisoned are Filipinos’ minds — imprisoned by the notion that in victimhood lies some perverse form of validation.Victimhood is an addictive comfort zone. In the case of Filipinos, it has given them an identity to latch on to. Filipinos define themselves as a people who remain butthurt by Marcos’s “Martial Law regime”. Upon that definition they’ve built an edifice of a mythology premised on the idea that there remains some sort of Laban or “fight” to “continue”. Interestingly, that 30-year no-results period is what lends credibility to this bizarre idea — that, to this day, there is a “fight” to sustain and that every Filipino has a patriotic duty to “educate” the next generation of Filipinos to recognise the bygone enemy of this Laban.
This victimhood also absolves Filipinos of any responsibility for failing to build a country they could be proud of. To most Filipinos, the Philippines remains poor, crime-ridden, and corrupt today because the money allegedly stolen by the Marcos family has not been recovered. As long as Filipinos are victims, any failure could simply be explained away. Quite convenient this victimhood is, isn’t it?
To Filipinos, victimhood equals righteousness. Anti-Marcos people are good and all the rest are bad. By holding on to that idea, Filipinos who are afflicted with this national victim mentality cocoon themselves in that warm fuzzy feeling of belonging. In short, Martial Law “victims” have formed a community to which they identify with and march with to their battles against all who beg to differ.
Perhaps it is about time Filipinos understand that it is ok NOT to be a victim.
The challenge facing Filipinos who aspire to escape the mental prison of their Martial Law victimhood is to confront the reality that not being a victim is hard work. Some would even say that because Martial Law victimhood has defined the Filipino archetype for so long, letting go of that victimhood may leave Filipinos feeling like a hollow shell — as if the substance of their very being had been sucked out of them.
The good news is that this uniquely-Filipino victimhood is an artificial problem. This is an astounding epiphany considering the massive activist edifice that had, over the last several decades, been built on this so-called “problem”. When Filipinos recognise that they had saddled themselves with a perceived problem, only then can they start to erase that perception.
The truth is, there is a vast future out there to look to. Hold that thought and reflect on the relatively small past Filipinos have been focusing on. The immense prospects for moving forward that lie ahead utterly dwarf the smallness that the much ballyhooed “Marcos years” have shrunk to in comparison.
In that regard, perhaps many Filipinos will be surprised to learn that they actually have a choice. Filipinos have it in their power to choose to stop being Martial Law victims. Indeed, it is encouraging to observe that many young Filipinos today have started to challenge the sacredness of the notion that the Martial Law years were “all bad”. What it takes is the proper motivation and the proper education. Rather than teach young Filipinos what to think, the country’s esteemed institutions of learning should focus on training them how to think.
Part of the process is to start relying less on hearsay and the dogmatic shrieking of so-called traditional “thought leaders” and start building a more self-sufficient intellectual frame of mind.
In short, Filipinos should start asking themselves:
What do I think?
“What do I think of the Martial Law years?”
Think of the hard decision Neo had to make when faced with the choice of staying in the Matrix or irrevocably turning his back on the “reality” that constituted the very fabric of his identity and then unplugging himself from that world.
In the words of C.R. Strahan…
Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.
It’s time Filipinos stop being a victim and start focusing on becoming a successful people.
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