It’s nothing short of a memetic explosion. Get Real Post articles that dissected and, in the process, eviscerated the ill-conceived conceptual foundation of a statement released by the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) faculty, denouncing Martial Law “historical revisionism” and baldly accusing Philippine senator and vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos of “brutality” have strongly-resonated amongst the Philippines’ young voters.
Many observers have noted that this strong challenging of the edicts of this hallowed elite Catholic institution of learning is long-overdue. The ADMU has long stood tall as a bastion of progressive thought — or so its officers and student body would like to believe. Though the Ateneo community boasts a long track record of activism, most notedly their participation in the uprisings that led to the 1986 “people power revolution”, the possibility that this stance and the thinking that underpin its interpretation of history may now be obsolete. At the heart of this obsolescence is the idea that “the Martial Law years” — a catch-all phrase that is used to describe the period over which former President Ferdinand Marcos ruled — is a singular cause of the failure of the Philippines to progress.
Part of the frustration and, now, defensiveness of the once glorious champions of Yellow-branded “freedom” can be traced back to the core of the euphoria that permeated Philippine society in the 1980s — the misguided thinking that the Philippines, after the collapse of “the Marcos regime”, held infinite promise of progress and a triumph of justice presumably fuelled by the “freedom” it had “won” and the “democracy” its champion, then President Cory Aquino had “restored”.
Unfortunately, history, as it unfolded, did not necessarily empathise with this “hope” Filipinos harboured in the midst of that euphoria. The 30 years that followed the 1986 “revolution” had proven that the so-called “lack of freedom and justice” that these activists insisted characterised the Marcos years was not the real cause of the Philippines’ inability to join the ranks of its prosperous neighbours in the region. Whilst Filipinos soaked up the freedom that was available in excess since 1986 to churn out brain-killing entertainment, elect morons into public office, and seal the Yellow brand of the Aquinos as the de facto franchise holder of this “freedom” and “democracy” that marked those three decades, the nation sunk deeper into degeneracy.
The problem, however, is that this nationwide groupthink persisted in Philippine society like a deadly cancer. It prevented even the finest Filipino minds from stepping out of the din of chatter emanating from the clique once known as the Philippine “intelligentsia” to regard the situation from an outsider’s perspective. The Ateneo de Manila University counts itself as one of the stalwarts of this groupthink, but it had long ago become sloppy in its approach thanks to a lack of a will to challenge its own belief systems and allowing itself to become cocooned in a paradigm well past its use-by date.
This is an ironic condition for an institution that routinely encourages its students to reflect and go into periodic “retreats” where one could induldge in luxurious meditation and exercises in self-actualisation. Perhaps the key ingredient missing in these efforts to enhance mindfulness of one’s surroundings is to remain open to inquiry and challenge. Do Ateneans really learn from all those immersion activities where members of both student and faculty come “down from the hill” to expose themselves to the challenges of the poor in programs like Tulong Dunong (“help with knowledge”)?
Evidence of a yawning gap between theory and intent and actual practice is in the attitude Ateneans have taken towards the brilliant and groundbreaking articles Get Real Post had, in recent days, put out there to challenge the Ateneo faculty statement against Senator Marcos’s alleged “historical revisionism” efforts. Some faculty members engaging the authors of these articles in social media have downright refused to read the articles themselves claiming that doing so will “contribute undeserved traffic” to Get Real Post. Some have retreated into that zone of comfort where Atenistas have long been legendary — grammar Nazism. Indeed, many Ateneo scholars have long tales of woe to tell surrounding the ostracism they receive from paying Ateneo students who make a sport of nitpicking on and making fun of their grammar gaffes and inability to deliver a natural Arrrneeoouww accent that, we are told, is a mark of a “true Atenean”.
Therein that refusal to engage intelligently with people who beg to differ lies the downfall of the Ateneo. Singing about coming “down from the hill” will certainly not ameliorate a strong tradition of institutionalised elitism that closes the impressionable minds of the kids of the country’s top taipans and politicians that pay mega bucks to have their kids educated by the Jesuits in the hills of Loyola Heights.
Perhaps this episode (and there will be many more to come) should be regarded by the Ateneo community as a call to action. Rather than shrink away from the matter of the perceptions (fair or unfair) of elitism they cop from the broader Philippine public, Ateneans should be that “man for others” they fancy themselves to be and confront with courage these perceptions with an open mind and a measure of that self-reflection they supposedly learned in their classrooms.[Photo courtesy PhilStar.]
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