Again, the 1972 Martial Law anniversary is here and we likely have people attacking the so-called Marcos Myth. The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos is no war hero, there’s no secret gold that made him rich, etc. However, there’s still another part of the Marcos Myth that needs busting. One that would usually escape the Filipino’s simplistic mentality, and it would take a probably wide-ranging, far-reaching, preconceived notion-breaking mindset to understand.
The Myth that Everything Evil came from Marcos
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I saw a Facebook friend come to the conclusion that Filipinos started having survival mentality and became bad-habited during the Marcos Era. It was that impression that the Marcos Era was what made Filipinos bad. I wanted to reply, no, it’s been around longer than that, even before World War 2. That mentality made Emilio Aguinaldo have Antonio Luna and Andres Bonifacio killed. And more. However, I decided to put that thought here.
Here again is the more serious part of the Marcos Myth. It is saying everything “evil” in the Philippines came from Marcos, and Marcos alone. As if everything that was corrupt in the Philippines was suddenly introduced only once Marcos took power, and everything before it was good. So if everyone in the Marcos family (since the guy himself is dead) is put away, the country will magically be cleansed. That’s the real revisionism being spread around here.
It’s one of the classic scapegoating cases of our society. It’s what I defined as a thief publicly flogged or punished to satisfy the people while the other thieves are ignored. As another friend’s witty comment went, it’s putting away Ali Baba but forgetting the 40 thieves.
Again, I’ll quote Carl Bankston III, who said Marcos is a product of the bad culture of the Philippines that led to corruption, murders and all, and not its creator. As if back then, indigenous Filipinos weren’t killing each other back then as headhunters, enemies and such. As if, among our “heroes,” there were no squabbles leading to what Aguinaldo did to Bonifacio and Luna as I mentioned. As if during World War 2, guerillas and other Filipinos fighting the Japanese were not quarreling among themselves for many reasons, among them territorial ones. As if there have been no murders, killings, “salvages,” crimes of passion, rapes or other crimes that led to many deaths outside of government-caused ones, and even before Marcos. Whatever demons that divide us and turn us into monsters have been around for a long time.
Filipinos seem to be big fans of the scapegoat tradition. Perhaps they are just stubborn and refuse to accept more reasoned ways of looking at things. But such a thing, as I said before, is injustice. Yet that is likely what Filipinos want: injustice, having someone “punished” on basis of whim. Indeed, that can explain the violent culture of the Philippines, whether you mention death squads, riding-in-tandems, massacres whether by government or a crazed drunk person, or the likely unreported murders over selos (jealousy).
It is Revisionism?
Many staunch anti-Marcos advocates are worried about historical revisionism. But I doubt any revisionism is happening. What’s really happening is people are just sticking to the narratives they know. For example, people who have believed for decades that Armando Lite invented the M16 rifle will stick to it – even if Eugene Stoner came in front of them and told them he was the one who designed it. Same with those who believe the Code of Kalantiaw is not a fiction, that a Filipino invented the Lunar Rover, and more. In the same way, those who are pro-Marcos have always stuck to that.
Oh yes, about those who were once at Edsa and now support Marcos (or not) – “historical revisionism” and “fake news” aren’t to blame for that. It’s because the alternative to the Marcoses – the so-called anti-Marcos heroes, the “Yellows” – are themselves corrupt. The new bad guy made the old bad guy look good. Really, just look around. These people believe they’re not revising history, but replacing a false narrative with a true one. The false: the country was saved from a vicious dictator by heroes. The true: the country simply passed from one corrupt regime to another.
Another flaw in the Filipino mentality is believing we are naturally good, even if we do wrong, and it takes a “special” person like Marcos to be evil. That unfortunately makes them into arrogant, boastful asses that refuse to admit their own mistakes, and become murderous and selfish even on the road. The ego-based narrative of being a “special people” that our escapist culture propagates continues to hobble us.
Heroes and villains is a distinction that is clear-cut only in the movies and fiction. In real life, every one of us, and I speak about humanity as well as Filipinos, are, deep inside, secret villains waiting for our chance at letting it out and doing things with impunity. When faced with this jarring idea, we are influenced by our egos to deny it and instead deceive ourselves that we are “heroes.” In truth we are anything but that.
As long as Filipinos feel “perfect,” are unwilling to accept their own faults and believe that they can never be “evil,” they will continue to deny the existence of problems and their egos will be huge roadblocks to meaningful change.
An apt closing is this line from the TV series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit:
“We blame all kinds of people for creating monsters, why not ourselves?” – Olivia Benson
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.