The shortness of their memories is not the worst attribute of Filipinos; it is the absence of knowledge. There’s much they can’t remember because, thanks to an educational and media system that has been steadily failing them, they never even knew it.

Ironic that it’s never been more evident than in the present, so-called age of information, when the Internet is supposed to be the instrument of empowerment through knowledge. The ignorance is starkly evident in most of the Philippine-based blogs that pretend to be about politics or anything else relevant to life in these isles of confusion (in contrast to those blogs by juveniles who assume that what they had for lunch yesterday, and their pedestrian thoughts on the latest Transformer movie, is of interest to the universe). Access to a computer and the Internet has enabled an entire class of Epsilon semi-morons to throw at the world at large anything that comes into their so-called minds — bad grammar, worse logic, total ignorance and all.

The ignorance is depressing because, multiplied via a virtual community that runs into the millions, it includes not only ignorance of such events of the distant past as what happened in, say, 1872 (Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora were executed) , but even of history as recent as the martial law period and the events that preceded it. What’s worse is that the ignorance is disguised by a film of sophistication developed by contact with US popular culture, with its emphasis on fun, self-indulgence, and cynicism about anything and anyone.

The result is a mindlessness that can’t and refuses to understand what’s happening because it doesn’t have the means to do so. Warnings on the possibility of the imposition of martial law are thus dismissed as so much fear-mongering, and even disparaged as the rantings of conspiracy theorists.

The disconnect between the affected sophistication of that view and the recent bombing and bomb-threats in metro Manila and the provinces should be evident. Obviously the coordinated bombings and bomb plantings at least suggest that a conspiracy’s afoot. But that’s not the worst of it. It’s the absence of any grounding on the character of Philippine society and the elite that rules it, and whose interests in remaining in power as well as methods have remained the same for decades that’s doubly disturbing.

In a major indication of why there is little sensible analysis in these parts over the Internet, one blogger claims that the Philippine “elites” (apparently misunderstanding that word to mean individual men and women rather than as a collective) have been changing in that they’re no longer the same people.

The elite may not be made up of the same people (individual men and women do die), but their kin do still make up the same ruling class descended from the principalia, whose collaboration with foreign interests and monopoly over political power to the exclusion of other sectors is key to the continuing pauperization of this country. In furtherance of that elite’s focus on keeping that monopoly, it hasn’t ruled out any means fair or foul, which certainly and primarily includes the use of state violence.

The example of martial law is instructive. Representing the upstart wing of the ruling class driven by the demented desire to monopolize access to the country’s wealth, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972 to stay in power beyond 1973 and to crush the vast movement for change that was taking shape in the universities and factories, and in the streets and paddy fields, of a country that had been ripe for revolution for centuries. Before he did, however, he needed the support, or at least the consent, if not of the vast majority of Filipinos, at least of the middle classes, the country’s traditional opinion leaders.

Among other tactics, the Marcos military orchestrated a series of bombing incidents and bomb threats to convince the middle classes of the need for the government to take drastic measures in the face of the threat not only to the daily routines but also to the very lives of the populace. The bombings — of a department store in Quiapo, Manila, and of the Quezon City Hall among others — preceded his immediate excuse for the declaration of martial law: the “ambush” by “communist insurgents” of the car of then defense secretary Juan Ponce Enrile (he was conveniently not in it at the time, and during the EDSA revolt of 1986 would reveal that the “ambush” was stage-managed).

A bit of history should suggest that in much the same way that the same ruling class (seemingly divided but essentially one in the defense of its common interest in preserving the vile status quo) has remained with us despite EDSA 1 and 2, its tactics have also remained the same. The country is witnessing the same bombing and bomb-threat incidents that are likely to escalate as July drags on to August — when a plan to install Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s chosen generals in key military posts prior to the declaration of martial law is supposed to take effect.

While the details of that alleged plan have yet to be confirmed — and are unlikely to be confirmed — what can’t be denied is that the bombings and bomb-threats are taking place, and that it’s all happened before as a prelude to the political cataclysm that was the declaration of martial law. In a country ruled by the most rapacious and most violent ruling class in Asia, and in which everything is possible as a result, a repeat of that very same catastrophe — which in 1986 many Filipinos had vowed never to allow to happen again — is not only possible, but likely.
History should be the country’s the best guide in the worst of times as in the best of times. Unhappily, however, history’s not the Filipino’s — specially the young Filipino’s — strong point. And by the way, it doesn’t help any that even some UP students nowadays don’t have to take a single history subject to graduate.


Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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  1. Ouch! Bato bato sa langit, as they say, and I think I’ve been hit. Altough, I think I’ve tried to inject a bit of history into our blog’s shallow comedy.

    I did take four history classes when I was in UP,though, but more out of curiosity than because it was required.

    PS: August Moon is supposedly set to be implemented in October despite the name.

    Also, I love your column.

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