Modern-day Marie Antoinettes

Modern-day Marie Antoinettes (Infographics by Justin Umali/ Bulatlat)

Villar and Marcos’ position in Philippine society echoes back to Marie Antoinette’s – a landed pseudo-aristocracy whose power stems from their stranglehold of economic production. These compradors and landlords have differ little from the old nobles of feudal societies.

By JUSTIN UMALI
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — The phrase “Let them eat cake” is frequently misattributed to the former Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. The story goes that when told that the lower classes were struggling to buy bread, she helpfully came up with the aforementioned suggestion.
She never really said the phrase, but it does help illustrate a point. Marie Antoinette was the symbol of French decadence; a nobility that was so far removed from the average French citizen that she cannot fathom why the peasants were struggling with basic necessities.

Fast forward to the modern era. Eminent land-grabber and Senator Cynthia Villar told people struggling to buy galunggong at 300 pesos/kilo to “just stop eating it and buy something else”. A month later, while thousands are forced to evacuate due to the Taal volcano eruption, the Cultural Center of the Philippines decides to host an extravagant dinner to honor its founding chair, graft convict Imelda Marcos.

People like Villar and Marcos prove a point. There is an entire class of compradors and landlords that exists in the country, whose lives are so detached from the basic struggle of the Filipino, and who sadly hold political and economic power in the Philippines.
They represent the bankruptcy of contemporary society, with class interests diametrically opposite to the majority of workers and farmers who end up suffering as a result of their decisions. It is an unfair and unequal arrangement that has led to poverty, landlessness, and death.

It’s hard to expect any other outcome as well. The callousness behind Villar’s remarks and Marcos’ actions stem from fundamental differences in economic relations between them and the majority of Filipinos. We cannot expect somebody who controls land or capital to understand why they are participating in a flawed system.

Villar and Marcos’ position in Philippine society echoes back to Marie Antoinette’s – a landed pseudo-aristocracy whose power stems from their stranglehold of economic production. These compradors and landlords have differ little from the old nobles of feudal societies.

Most notably, they fulfill the same role of maintaining the status quo of their respective societies. Why wouldn’t they? Society is constructed so that they would get the most benefit; any change would only mean displacement from their lofty positions at the top of the social triangle.

This proves another point: progress could never come “from above”, or from people like Villar or Marcos. If history has taught us anything, it is the people in power who are most invested in keeping the state of affairs static.

If history has also taught us anything, it’s that change will always come “from below” – from the people who most need that change. The French Revolution came about when the merchant class finally pushed back against the aristocracy. Liberalism took form as action, and the common citizen brought the monarchy reeling down.

And it’s the same in every society. Eventually, a revolutionary tide will rise from below and bring about change once more. It’s only a matter of time. And, if Marie Antoinette is anything to go by, then it shouldn’t take a genius to figure out what will happen to people like Cynthia Villar and Imelda Marcos. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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