1. On Blind Politics and Historical Perversions

    The recent hullaballoo caused by the latest twisted take on Philippine history (and continuing series of Marcos apologetics) has been best covered by @marocharim, @ellobofilipino, and now @cocoy over at ProPinoy. So, to what they have written I really have nothing extra to add. Though, I will.

    One mystery for me is how leftists and so-called ‘radicals’ have ended up on the side of legitimizing (and forgiving) the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship.

    It is possibly an example of how perverse ideology inevitably blinds; the fractured sort of worldview that results in the adherence to an -ism. It might be something ever more simple: The antipathy felt towards the current leadership.

    Yet, it boggles my mind that knowing the excesses of the Marcos regime, knowing the levels to which the country was reduced, videos such as the one now circulating still try and whitewash the Marcos regime in pursuit of a single agenda. Then we find journalists and high-profile bloggers jump on the bandwagon; naturally allowing their own prejudices and internal biases to wholly govern their decisions in this matter. In supporting the entirety of the video, whether there is a modicum of truth held within, they are inevitably supporting that interpretation of Philippine history.

    They are basically saying that American imperialism (classic and neo), the rise capitalism and the creation of an international system of patronage and client-state relations, the Japanese Occupation, the Cold War, the Marcos Dictatorship and all its attendant ills, have had less effect on the fortunes of the Philippines than the blind greed of a single family. It reminds me of those conspiracy theorists out there who still believe the world is controlled by the Illuminati. 

    Even worse, at least for me, it betrays a continuing critique I have of ‘leftist’ politics and historians (chief among them Agoncillo and Constantino): They treat Filipinos as little more than illiterate, mindless, automatons; capable of being manipulated by any and all with little capability for personal thought and considerations. We see that most readily with the treatment of the Philippine Revolution and Republic; we see that same pseudo-intellectual thread maintained with the decontextualization and gross simplification of EDSA I and broad reactions to Marcos socio-economic depredations.

    Setting critical analysis aside, as @marocharim well pointed out, what casts this as bad history and nothing more than propaganda, is its utter lack of historical methodology. It works backward from a certain view and cherry-picks, twists, and misrepresents moments in Philippine history in pursuit of a single narrative thread. That is the worst type of history, one that purposefully excludes contextual elements in pursuit of an ideology. It, as well, a common practice in Philippine historiography; representative of a sort of shallow interpretation, and I think somewhat lazy, approach to what history means. Then again, this type of shallow historical analysis is representative of a larger malaise seen in our so-called intellectual and academic circles.

    Everyone brings biases to the table. The question becomes is how rigorous is that person in trying to mitigate bias in pursuit of the story. The same holds true in journalism as in history. Methodology, a rigorous analysis of evidence and primary source documents coupled with questioning assumptions, helps separate ‘proper’ histories from polemics and propaganda. When any document offers itself as factual and accurate it invites close scrutiny of its agenda and biases. In the world of history and cultural analysis, most writers are upfront with the framework and school of thought in which they are writing. This is part of disclosure and a key element in maintaining intellectual honesty. When a writer chooses to hide those biases, distract from them, or maintain that they are offering the one true view, that calls into question, not their impartiality, but their openness to discourse and their capabilities to rationally discuss issues. In this they share similarities with dictatorships; their first inclination is to suppress dissent through shaming, innuendo or outright banishment. Ah, maybe that helps explain why a movement in support and to whitewash the Marcos dictatorship seems to be growing in those circles.

    Interpretation of historical data is what history is based on. I can hand a single primary source document to five different historians, from different ideological schools of thought, and arrive at five different interpretations. Depending on what framework they come from that document will fit in different ways. The key is they are basing their interpretations on evidence, filtered through a logical and apparent framework. And quite frankly, all of their interpretations will have merit. I personally have never had an issue with leftist interpretations of Philippine history. I do have an issue with histories that rely too much on ideology and forgo actual evidence based and methodologically sound processes.

    When there is little evidence and only innuendo? That is propaganda. That is bad history. And that does little more than inflame passions and obscure the past. When we lose track of the past, when we forgo basing our understanding of the past on evidence and cohesive analysis, we lose the capability of truly understanding the realities of today, and developing effective solutions to address existing social iniquities.