Marcos rising from the grave
We Filipinos have a problem with our collective memory. We are not, and have never been, one nation—our daily struggles have never really been in pursuit of a common sense of identity. This is the unmistakable reason why our past continues to haunt us to this very day.
Difficult as it may seem, the burial of Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani is not so much a question of whether or not the late dictator was a hero. Heroism has no meaning to plunderers. The burial was simply a reaffirmation that in this country, it is power, not historical truth, that dictates so masterfully the destiny of men.
There is no mystery here that is yet to be unlocked. This is not the story of Dionysius who was sent away from his godly throne so that he will realize what it can mean to possess a human character. This only highlights the already obvious tragedy of everyday life for ordinary Filipinos.
Millions are slowly served their death sentences through hunger and homelessness. The exploitation of their powerless is apparent in the inability of a father to free his children from the bondage of poverty. But this and the future of his children have no meaning to most politicians. Yet, it is the children who bear most of the existential burden of the ill consequences of a corrupt regime.
And it is not as if we have a shortage of bright men and women; indeed what we lack is a sense of nationhood that must characterize the soul of a people. For instance, Filipinos right now are willing to burn bridges and destroy friendships in pursuit of an incendiary opinion, not realizing that it is the basic respect for another’s view that makes possible, in the first place, a person’s right to make his or her own.
There is no sense defending someone who does not even know you, and yet, people nowadays consider it as a matter of right not to be corrected, forgetting that above all else, in matters of justice, we have a fundamental responsibility for the truth.
But the times have not changed. Philippine society is still languishing from its colonial hangover. Our dark past continues to live in our present: Education remains a privilege for those who can afford it, while the poor farmer still struggles for land, and the factory worker has yet to find what decent living wages actually means.
In a democracy, social institutions are supposed to be the pedestals on which the public weal stands mighty supreme. But if our institutions turn a blind eye to a historical injustice, then there is not much to hope for in terms of freedom and equality.
We are, of course, a freedom-loving people. But this love of freedom is at the same time the very reason we cannot enjoy what it means to be free: Most of us lack discipline, and this is the one single reason this country has not been able to liberate itself from the deathly mask its colonial masters have cloaked its soul with. This is the root of the weakness of our society—a weakness that has allowed a situation wherein morality plays no significant role in the lives of many of our leaders.
Still, the Marcos narrative that is bedeviling us should not result in the death of our most cherished dreams. Democracy must not die because of a bad court judgment. Real democracy is founded in the power of ordinary individuals to persevere in their pursuit of truth and justice.
In the world of politics, everything is always possible, including the worst things happening to good people. But if we must rebuild this nation, then our true task at hand is to prevent Marcos from rising from his grave.
Christopher Ryan Maboloc teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. His latest scholarly publication is “On the ethical and democratic deficits of environmental pragmatism” in the Journal of Human Values.
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