Why the Marcos brand remains popular | Inquirer Opinion

Why the Marcos brand remains popular

/ 04:05 AM October 26, 2021

Two of the world’s “impossible professions,” according to Sigmund Freud, are education and politics. His German contemporary, Max Weber, further built on the idea by delivering two famous lectures in Munich during the final days of the First World War. Quality education and true scholarship, Weber explained, have been compromised due to a “precarious quasi-proletarian existence,” while “there are a lot of mediocrities in leading university positions.” If anything, education itself demanded a rare kind of passionate commitment, which is “mocked by all who do not share it,” and is ultimately a lonely profession where “success is by no means guaranteed.”

As for statesmanship, it’s another thankless vocation, where there is a constant struggle to “make an impression” on donors and the general public without compromising one’s convictions and political calling. Weber warned that even the best of statesmen could succumb to vanity, which he described as “the deadly enemy of any commitment to one’s goals.”


The German thinker was speaking at a time when the future of his country was at peril, precisely because of the ossification of its educational and state institutions, which are the bedrock of any vibrant society. Not long after Weber’s passing, the well-meaning yet feeble Weimar Republic collapsed under the pressure of polarized and increasingly authoritarian politics, leading to the rise of Nazism.

In many ways, the gathering storm of authoritarian nostalgia, and the growing appeal of the heirs of our former dictator, can be explained along a similar axis. Our political leaders as well as our educators also fell far short in accomplishing their basic duties following the collapse of Ferdinand Marcos’ regime more than three decades earlier.


What we have sorely lacked in the aftermath is a generation of fully-committed statesmen and educators who could deftly combine, to use Weber’s categories, the “ethics of personal conviction” with the “ethics of responsibility.”

In retrospect, the 1986 people power protests were supposed to be the beginning, rather than the culmination, of a true revolution in our society following centuries of feudalistic politics and extractive economics.

The late 1980s following the Edsa revolt was a period of immense turbulence, with half a dozen failed coups rocking the Cory Aquino presidency. But it was also a time of great opportunity for the true transformation of the Philippines. For almost a year following the demise of the Marcos dictatorship until the promulgation of a new constitution, there was an unprecedented window to enact radical reforms, including the abolition of oligarchies in key sectors of the economy.

Instead, what we got was the swift restoration of the old liberal elite, many of whom ended up reasserting their grip not only on the pillars of the economy but also on the vital organs of the state.

The 1987 Constitution, for instance, didn’t even bother to institute automatic laws against the proliferation of predatory political dynasties, nor did it insulate key sectors of the economy from oligarchic capture (or recapture). As a result, the Philippines, even in subsequent periods of high economic growth, struggled to create truly inclusive development—thus sowing the seeds of long-term discontent, which is fueling authoritarian populism nowadays.

As for our judicial institutions, the picture is equally depressing, given the depth of generalized impunity and the systematic lack of accountability in the state apparatus. Thus, soon enough, the scions of the former dictatorship managed to seamlessly return to the country and, accordingly, begin clawing their way back to power.

The post-Edsa administrations all fell woefully short of ensuring that our basic education curricula instilled critical thinking and soulful awareness of our not-so-distant dark past. Instead, what we got was not only an army of underpaid teachers, but also a broadly whitewashed version of history that overlooked the horrors of martial law and the catastrophic economics of a crooked, incompetent dictatorship.


A whole coterie of self-aggrandizing academics and mercenary influencers have since established a new cottage industry of historical revisionism and denialism. To use the words of Noam Chomsky, these are the “champions of the strong,” who in our case shamelessly question the real and present plight of countless victims of martial law in the name of supposed “academic skepticism.”

A century earlier, Weber called on true statesmen and active citizens to step up to the plate and “reach for the impossible,” since “[p]olitics is struggle” and freedom demands sacrifice and devotion. Nothing could be more true when it comes to our besieged democracy today.

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TAGS: Ferdinand Marcos, historical revisionism, Horizons, Marcos martial law, Richard Heydarian
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