Of Tyrants And Martyrs: What Difference Does It Make?


"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."George Santayana

When I was a teenager growing up in the Philippines, some people were concerned about the president consolidating his power by demonizing and quelling his opponents. He did everything to dismantle the opposition, weakening them, destroying them, even bombing them. The majority of the people did not believe that he will ever do anything to harm the country. He was popular, charming, intelligent, educated, spoke well, had an attractive family and many people idolized the man at a fanatical level. Truth was elusive and in its place were lies. He shut down any press organization that questioned his policies and jailed the editors with trumped up charges. The remaining press was a willing partner and became his propaganda machine. He gave entitlements to the people, gave them rice. They queued for giveaways during events which were prominently reported by the media. He visited disaster areas and posed for photo opportunities with victims and relief workers with flashy uniforms. They portrayed him as a benefactor of the poor. His wife sang with schoolchildren. He demonized the rich. 

Many incidents happened that made the public concerned and afraid for its safety. There were shootings, bombings and assassination attempts. The president's administration disarmed the people. The economy was getting worse due to uncontrolled spending, graft and corruption. There were food shortages. Inflation was high. A nation of rice eaters, some families had to eat ground corn. To save the country and establish peace, stability and security, he declared martial law. He abolished Congress, the Supreme Court and the Constitution. He jailed dissidents and opponents.  Some people were stunned, others knew it was coming, the majority seemed to welcome it. To them finally peace will reign.  They willingly gave up their liberty for farce security.

Thus began the tyrannical dictatorship that would destroy my birth country. The Philippines, once considered a developing nation in the sixties, became a banana republic and a Third World nation. The dictator looted the treasury. He banished his opponents. He nationalized private industries and corporations. He outright took corporations away from private citizens and redistributed them to his cronies. With the press as his propaganda machine they concocted an elaborate tale of how they were the chosen savior, the first lady as the reincarnation of an Egyptian queen. It's laughable now, but the Philippines a nation of intelligent men and women was held captive. During the dictatorship the country produced martyrs. We have forgotten most of their names, some disappeared and were never heard from again.

Fast forward: The economy in shambles. The opposition leader in exile returned and was assassinated in broad daylight at the airport tarmac. The people had enough. They staged a bloodless revolution - People Power. The dictator was exiled. The people returned to democracy. After more than thirty years and for a long time, the Philippines is still recovering. Corruption and cronyism are hard to uproot. The people learned a very painful lesson that seems to have been soon forgotten. Most young people today, especially those born in the eighties have no clue what my birth nation and its people endured. They seem more interested in Korean soap operas, game shows, Facebook, celebrity worship...Many of their parents are working abroad as the most educated domestic workers in countries that were way behind in academic, education and economic ratings in the sixties. The economy is still trying to recover and there are not enough jobs in the country. The dictator died but his family is back in government. Filipinos are so forgiving and forgetful.

Last month in the wake of a hold up-shooting incident in Manila, my former teacher commented how she longed for the days of martial law when all the guns were confiscated... what price are we willing to pay for presumed feeling of security?

Déjà vu

"It's déjà vu all over again." Yogi Berra


Steve E said...

Ces, did you write this last year also, and the year before? It is sounding so familiar. Or maybe it is because we reenacting the same stage play?

In the end everything will be OK.
And if everything is not OK--it is not the end."

Bella Sinclair said...

Someone give Kim Jung Un a history book. Please.

Tsup tsup tsup

Ces said...

Kim Jung Un does not need a history book. He's got it made. He is head of a nation that can cry on command. Now I wonder how long that will last.

Shirley said...

Wow..what an incredible post Ces. Great read of tyrants and martyrs. I'm so sorry about your birth country's history. You say they are a forgiving and forgetful people..it's unfortunate that memories are not long. I will hope for a future of wisdom and strength for your birth country! Thank you for your visit today - I'm stealing some internet from my in-laws right now..for 15 minutes and wanted to say hello and Tsup!! Though I am having some good no-tech time away, I do miss being connected..oh goodness, I hope I'm not addicted. I fear that I am! Wishing you well with your rule program writing. It sounds to be a mountain of work!