Nothing smacks more of oblivious privileged energy than a rich boy attempting to school critics of the status quo. Matteo Guidicelli, apparently having had some sort of enlightenment after 30 days of reservist training, has been all praises for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its commander in chief. He made a now viral and pointed post beseeching his fellow celebrities to “stop talking smack about different issues” and instead “unite so we may progress to make a better tomorrow.”
Yet another youth, it seems, lost to propaganda. If we had any doubts that this patriotism he endorses is anything other than blind loyalty, those doubts were quickly put to rest. When challenged about his newfound affiance with the AFP, the actor’s abrupt reply was “I suggest you just stop talking. Thanks.” How very like a privileged boy to assume that legitimate criticism is mere sport, and actual cries for help are mere complaining, as though matters of human rights, life or death, access to education, destroyed homes were all just as shallow as parlor gossip.
As ill informed and inconsequential as it was, the comment struck a nerve somehow, as this column has recently pondered the increasing role of columnists in a society where the audience has stopped listening critically, and where protestations have less and less power in affecting any political change whatsoever. Is all we’re doing “talking smack”? How much of what we’re doing is critical and important, and how much is merely divisive? How much of what we write will make even a small dent in the public consciousness, compared to a propaganda-fed actor with a significant platform?
Jose Almonte, former national security adviser, spoke to Rappler last year about the President’s increasing reliance on the military, and how much of that depends on a preconceived notion of the nature of soldiers: “That is the training of the military, to obey, to comply. They are not trained to complain.”
Of course it isn’t true that soldiers are uninterested in, or incapable of, dissent and debate. But as criticism of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and Guidicelli’s enthusiastic promilitary posts have pointed out, the environment can breed a blind loyalty that makes the administration’s critics uncomfortable. Guidicelli makes it obvious, and it makes us wary. Kabataan party list called him a protector and enabler of fascism, and honestly, if the shoe fits…
To critics of the AFP, the military is responsible for displacement of indigenous people, for the killing of farmers, for uncomfortable details that often doesn’t make it to the news feeds of those of us residing comfortably in the Metro. Through Guidicelli’s rose-colored glasses, he envisions his experience as something to be cherished, something about discipline and patriotism and heroism. And, apparently, about silencing criticism. If this is the new definition of patriotism, I’ll take “talking smack” everyday.