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[Pulitikultura] September 21: Livin’ la vida loca

Marian Pastor Roces


[Pulitikultura] September 21: Livin’ la vida loca

1972, 50 years ago, the document antedated the announcement of the imposition of Martial Law on the country. It was read on the 23rd of September. Even the date was a sleight-of-hand.

It was a regime built on calibrated falsehood from Day One which, to press the point, was not Day One. The insanity produced by the initial bang (and the undetected precedent bang) proved enduring. Half a century on, malicious calibration of falsehood has had an inglorious run, and now, disinformation is normal, deceit is rewarded, “decent” is just an act, and government is the playground of petty tyrants.

For Filipinos who can still be troubled by the daily reversals of sanity and insanity—and these are often indistinguishable—mental stability must be rebuilt constantly.

Litany of abominations

Universal suffrage is sustained and thwarted at the same time by satanic levels of vote-buying.

Our people power Constitution provokes dark creatives into sabotage: the bellyaching about federalism, for example, to hand over power to provincial dynasties; deliberate quarrels over human rights provisions; the nearly complete demolition of balance of power.

Elections are gamed. It is an all-or-nothing gladiatorial contest with vast entertainment value and grief to pay.

The democratizing intent of the party-list system is mangled beyond recognition. It has become the instrument of brazen vested interest.

People power was overhauled and became the manipulated power of populist zombie hordes.

The democratizing promise of online media at the time of its emergence is now the reality of The Matrix.

Liberal democracy was surreptitiously renovated to become illiberal, and then it is fait accompli.

The Martial Law gestation

Of course these were all gestated in the two decade long Martial Law of Ferdinand Marcos. The normalization of aberrations to democracy was set in place by the ways he camouflaged fascism with legal process.

Torturing and killing dissenters were sanitized by (ironically enough) dirtying the victims as Communists and separatists in Cold War language. Dissolution of Congress, effectively by fiat of the declaration of Martial Law, allowed the President to become a one-man legislative body. Paternal “discipline” was the façade of fascist control.

Rationalizing the militarization of the countryside in the name of peace and order obscured plunder of the environment.

Cooking the Central Bank books at the precipitous decline of the Philippine economy hoodwinks Filipinos to this day. Martial Law is regarded by the hoodwinked as a golden age of democratically distributed wealth.

Yamashita’s treasure, total bs, was made to explain the incomprehensible wealth of the Marcos family.

The machinations of the National Media Production Center set the template for manipulated information circulation that eventually morphed into the monstrous trollospere today, operating mostly covertly but with an above-ground presence that is most official indeed.

And the illicit Marcos wealth can buy his resurrection. Martial Law did not end in 1981 with Proclamation 2045. And, from a cultural perspective,

Martial Law did not end in 1986 with the flight of the Marcoses to exile Hawaii.

What the wholly militarized regime gestated did not die. It is fully grown today.

Marcosian culture

The killing, not just of journalists but journalism itself, was inconceivable before Marcos’ Martial Law.

The violent suppression of dissent, while certainly exercised before Marcos became president, was turbopropped during his two-decade tenure to such a degree that it is a virtual possibility and an actually mobilizable imperative to all Philippine presidents thereafter.

The theft of government monies was so outrageous in the Marcosian realm that even its perfection under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be credited to precedent culture.

Duterte’s wreckage of democratic institutions—his nearly perfect, calibrated demolition of the judiciary and disembowelment of Congress—was possible in a Philippines where there is enough of the population under the 50-year-old cultural pall of the purported goodness of it all.

Hence, while intransigent Filipinos are always asked to be grateful for Marcos period cultural infrastructure, why, No! The structures built came with too high a price to pay.

Filipinos are paying for Marcosian culture by having to live with the impunity of those who manage to wrest power by illiberal maneuverings. And the Marcosian restoration will solidify illiberal democracy.

Filipino culture is not a damaged culture as much as it is a duped one.

Made prone to lies and to revel in ignorance, to enjoy the theater of despotism in various forms (now, cloaked in nefarious elegance), and to display cruelty because it is fashionable, Filipinos relive September 21 (or 23), 1972 over and over.

Marian Pastor Roces works internationally as an independent curator, critic of institutions, and analyst of culture and politics. Through her corporation, TAOINC, she curates the establishment of museums. She is also a founding Partner of the think tank, Brain Trust, Inc.​She has long argued that governance, civil society action, and policy making in the Philippines are weakened by the absence of cultural analysis. Such analysis, in turn, needs to work with updated data. Hence Pulitikultura, Roces’ platform for probing the intersection of culture and politics.

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