By SARAH RAYMUNDO
There are various permutations of bourgeois narrow-mindedness which wrongly equates impartiality with stupidity, democratic deliberation and pluralism with the amplification of state discourse. In the following, the dissemination of these permutations is problematized in two ways. First, in terms of their concretizations in media and academic discourse. Second, in ideological trajectories vis a vis the revolutionary discourse of national liberation movements.
In the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Winnie Monsod talks about defending the repressive state apparatus because it has been “under attack” for the Lumad killings. Agents of mainstream media allow and propagate this political line in the spirit of objectivity and pluralism. What gives? The military, the central government, and mainstream media are as usual, reaffirming their basic unity to contemptuously cast aside a discourse that is gaining ground– a preferential option for the oppressed and the marginalized.
In a conversation, a Lumad datu laments the charge that his people are being brainwashed and controlled by the NPA. And for some liberal elites, this is reason enough for the Lumad killings. The datu rejects the charge by saying that long before the NPA was established (1969), his people had been living a hard life fighting against Spanish and American colonial power.
The Lumad’s anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle have won them their distinct Lumad identity. The problem with the discourse of identity is its current ridiculous reduction to lifestyle and some such culturalist assertions. Despite this academic trend, the Lumad insists on realizing their aims with the democratic movement of the basic masses who make up the labouring people of Philippine society.
Rappler comes out with a “dissenting opinion” (and when it does, we know that it is almost always an opinion in favour of dominant ideas promoted by ideological and repressive state apparatuses) about the film Heneral Luna.
The “film review” blatantly denies the senseless yet brutal discourse of the colonizer, and the repetition of the same in current neoliberal state discourse. By misrepresenting dissent as “hypernationalism,” the “review” is actually sweeping aside anti-imperialist politics, painting it as rubbish.
Yet another instance when “expert opinion,” media, and official state discourse come together in defense of the status quo— an exploitative and oppressive social order to many and lucrative for the very few. The appearance of this uncanny triplets is none other than the obscene machine born again.
In both discursive instances, our accursed and shameful past and present shaped by political figures like Aguinaldo,Paterno, and Buencamino are normalized and even presented as acceptable. The dampening of the democratic spirit by dominant institutions is nothing new. In fact, such disposition is lamentably predictable. So predictable that one cannot help but compare defenders of dominant practices and ideas with some roughnecks walking by us and stealing away our hard-earned gift of solidarity and reason for a little while.
The problem with media’s claim to pluralism and objectivity is its inability to refer to the same values without reference to the system of ownership and profit accumulation as a whole. What pluralism and objectivity mean in class terms, i.e., how these values are distorted by the interest to maintain social inequality is self-evident. The historical hijack of these otherwise democratic values by the ruling class is so undeniable and rampant that seemingly autonomous institutions like the academe is not spared from its consequences.
Media and academe are partly responsible for promoting reactionary rubbish by raising the same to the level of philosophy, economic and social theory. Both institutions have lionized academic figures who have chosen to make a career by refuting anti-imperialist politics and coach young minds against national liberation struggles worldwide.
Dwarfism and Citizenship
Who remembers the Stock Distribution Option forced upon by the despotic landlord clan Cojuanco-Aquino on the farmworkers of Haciendal Luisita? This proprietary option went as far as reducing their wages to barely Php 9.50. Eventually, this dire situation led to the huge strike in November 2004. Landlordism and impunity paved the way for the horrible Hacienda Luisita masacre on November 16, 2004. Killings of local peasant leaders took place soon after.
That is not a digression. The same mode of thinking is being peddled to students. Reactionary rubbish disguised as objectivity and pluralism, which in particular and crucial contexts function to combat revolutionary thought, is none other than the desire to turn students into petty proprietors instead of inspiring them to think against neo-colonialism and a backward economy attuned to the interests of global capital. Like despotic landlords who occupy bureaucratic positions in government, reactionary academics abhor the capacity of peasants and students to adopt the revolutionary proletarian vision.
The easiest path to dwarfism of humans is to make them believe (while they are young) that all they can ever aspire for is to become a voting small proprietor/bourgeois who is into recycling and defending the trees and animals against all amorphous evil.That is social responsibility that blends well with corporate social responsibility (which oftentimes is just greenwash) and a dwarfed notion of good citizenship.
The film Heneral Luna does not equivocate on the problem of citizenship. In fact, it intelligently exposes how the most vacillating and treacherous figures in history are the first to reject any possibility of constructing citizenship on the basis of freedom and independence.
We are still stuck with United States imperialism. Neoliberal policies are promoted to make this unequal Ph-US partnership legitimate. Legitimacy that is clinched by a puppet government steep in corruption, ruled by rich cretins, and promoted by paid intellectual buffoons is a mockery of democracy. Clearly, legitimacy does not make things right.
The most rabid opposition to the discourse of national liberation actually comes from champions of parliamentarism who take procedural democracy as proof for significant development since Martial Law. Thanks to People Power I/ EDSA revolution. Can anyone really refute me when I say that that event, for all its beauty, passion, promise, and force, did change the line of political development but only to an insignificant degree and for a little while? The Mendiola massacre took place in January 22, 1987, a month short of the first anniversary of the EDSA revolution. And that is just one case among many.
As for economic development, of course people in power and their hired technocrats can always lie about “new economic data.” As for opinionated creatures passing themselves for pundits by insisting that the radical left missed a big opportunity to change Philippine society during that brief yet crucial EDSA I moment, please know that the right of everyone to participate in government within the frame ruling class parliamentarism and elite democracy was by no means the goal of the national liberation struggle against US-sponsored dictatorship.
There is no use in insisting that the radical left could have changed the course of history had it been more keen. Unless, of course, the same bearers of the rabid anti-national democracy line want to make it appear like the radical left shared any of their stakes at some point.
Meanwhile, the open struggle for the abolition of a foreign dominated economy, which is none other than economic slavery, is undeniably here. That its champions are being killed, disappeared, criminalized and imprisoned demonstrates what Lenin would aptly label as “a torrent of reactionary mud poured on the head of democracy.”
When liberal democracy, Philippine elite-style turns against democracy itself, reactionary media and academic figures can only pour a torrent of mud on the head of democracy. Hence, we need to see how the continuing revolution being waged on all fronts sharpens the disputed visions of society.
This sharpening of disputed visions has been taking place long before the brutal killing of Heneral Luna, he who like the Lumad would fight fiercely for independence and freedom. Their killers come from the same class of butchers and intelligentsia whose duty is to wage war against the people’s democratic movement.
Fighting full tilt for freedom is in order.
Sarah Raymundo is a full-time faculty at the University of the Philippines-Center for International Studies (UP-CIS Diliman) and a member of the National Executive Board of the All U.P. Academic Employees Union. She is the current National Treasurer of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and the External Vice Chair of the Philppine Anti-Impeiralist Studies (PAIS). She is also a member of the Editorial Board of Interface: A Journal for Social Movements.