Thursday, December 27, 2007

Reassessing the New Society

In his latest opinion column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the ever incisive Manolo Quezon challenges readers on the occassion of the death of Marcos’ apologist Adrian Cristobal, to objectively reassess the Apo’s (not Jim, Danny and Boboy but the Great Ferdinand) New Society.

I agree with Manolo that it is about time to cast an objective eye on the Marcos years and have a better appreciation of why EDSA 1 etc including latest spin-offs like the la affaire Trillanes flopped. If we deal with the Marcos years, we can also have a more realistic assessment of Corazon Aquino's presidency. We can also have a sane assessment of Jose Maria Sison's Maoist Revolution (in which on the 39th anniversary of the CPP he suggests the house where the party was founded turned into a tourist spot. It is a Long March in capitalist tourism from Pangasinan to Utrecht!) and why it also flopped!

Manolo assesses the career of Adrian Cristobal who ghost written a lot of Marcos' works. But Manolo really revisits the idea of a New Society. Manolo and I belong to that "Martial Law babies" generation. We are in our late 30s or early 40s and what I can recall of that time is the Bagong Lipunan march played on TV, Marcos preempting Mightor on Channel 9, PLEDGES in school and later on Voltes V (unbeknowst to the Regime has a Coup d' Etat subplot!). Jessica Zafra has written a landmark essay entitled "Who Killed Voltes V?" on how Voltes V really started the End for Marcos. It really wasn't the Ninoy assasination.

Many memoirs have come out in the last 25 years or so of Germans writing about the Third Reich they saw as a child. Children are usually insulated from dictators but not in Hitler’s Germany. Children had to join the Hitler Youth. The memoirs try to recreate the impossible (their innocence) but not quite since years afterward even these once small children are tainted with a sense of guilt. But virtually none of these now 60-80 year old Hitler Youth would want another Hitlerian regime in Germany today. PanzerKardinal Joseph Ratzinger now Pope Benedict XVI belongs to this generation.

In contrast a recent survey of Martial Law Babies suggests that they want a return to the Marcos years! EDSA 1 where the young adult "babies" kicked the ass of the Marcoses and threw Joma Sison's revolution into a tailspin from which it never recovered, is considered by this generation as a betrayal. What has Marcos' New Society have that Hitler's Third Reich did not have? It is apparent that Marcos had tried to form his own Hitler Jugend.

The Third Reich was crushed and Nazism with it. None of the Regime's top honchos got to serve in the German Federal Republic and its parliament . Hitler and Goebbles ended up as ashes in Berlin. The others ended up in Nuremberg (hanging) or in Spandau. The Marcoses? They have returned and ended up in the Philippine Congress!

We need a reordering of society including some sort of Marxian (not Marxist) redistribution.

So we did not have a year 0 or 1 which involves not a few deaths. But as Manolo Quezon writes

"But there is wisdom in recognizing the inherent preference of our people for avoiding wholesale slaughter."

Is this a weakness or something to celebrate about? I am of the opinion that we can still salvage Marcos' vision and the democratic ideals of EDSA 1. The martial law babies know that somewhere along the way these visions and ideals for the Philippines were hijacked.

Manolo writes that only the Marcos regime really seriously sponsored the arts and culture. And unlike in Nazi Germany where the arts community largely resisted, many artists and scholars gladly contributed their services. Marcos' most obvious legacy is the Cultural Center.

But before we can find the way out we have to have as much as possible a balanced view of history. We need to revisit the works of writers like Cristobal.

And the Martial Law Babies have to write up what they saw and experienced and how their parents compromised.

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