Truth is in the (Im)Balance

By in

I figure that this passing essay belongs in the immediate domain of someone like, say, @iwriteasiwrite or @ellobofilipino – but having not written anything for the past few weeks I think I should write something here as meaningful filler.

I firmly believe that the wrong solutions to the wrong problems find their roots in a wrong sense of history.  A wrong sense of history leads to wrong perspectives, in turn creating wrong analysis, which leads to the wrong methods to achieve the wrong goals.  Worse, a wrong sense of history is, for all intents and purposes, a wrong sense of truth.

Note that I’m talking about senses and not sides: to say “side” would mean entertaining untruth into the way we view ourselves (which is really what history essentially is: to recognize truth).  Which is why I’m writing this post as meaningful filler: when and how we tell the story of our nation is to tell – so to speak – the story of us.  While the function of something like, say, social media is to grant us the right to say something, the function of history is to grant us the wisdom and perspective to understand.

When social media functions as a historical resource, it should share history.  Truth, for that matter.

The video is entitled, “AQUINO COJUANGCO: FACTS THEY DONT WANT YOU TO KNOW HD.”  To state that word – “Fact” – must assume that everything in the video is true and contextual.  To say that there is no modicum of truth in the video would be unfair, but to say that the cherries from pickin’ season (no innuendo intended) would make up the entire cherry tree would be too much.  Instead, we have a medley of “blame Aquino” problems and a backmasked jingle to simplify our view of history.

I’d make comments on the veracity of the cinematographer’s interpretation of historical facts and news items, the peddling of conspiracy, and perhaps an admission that the video does look very good and professional indeed, but Michael Chua debunks many of those statements better than I can.  Granted that the Aquino-Cojuangco connection is by no means “Lives of the Saints,” but to configure history to make it look like Philippine neo-feudalism is entirely the fault of one family’s actions is non-factual oversimplification of historical context.  Even the most critical of those who oppose Aquino will agree with me that the history of “oligarchy” in the Philippines preceded that family.

(Or even “oligarchy,” as a word: for all we know, elites circulate.  For all we know, the “oligarchy” we have is the result of an iron law that comes with a society that allows elites to go unchecked, or encouraging it.  For all we know, we may agree with it on principle: after all, in an oligarchy, wealth is the criterion of merit.  Maybe – just maybe – the word is plutocracy.  Or crony capitalism.)

Which brings me to the crux of the matterChua’s riposte directly and summarily rejects the content of the so-called “viral” video (more on why I don’t like the word “viral” when I feel like it) with all the frankness, candor, and thoroughness that any social scientist will deliver when presented with a hodgepodge of half-truths and whole lies that deceive the sense of identity a nation tries to build.  But in peddling a lie, the video misrepresents itself as fact with people gobbling it up: while it fails in its function as a historical resource, it more than succeeds in its function as a cog in the machine of anti-Aquino, Marcos-apologetic, self-mortifying propaganda.

Now this is all well and good if our only intention, implication, and consequence is to exercise our right to free speech.  Sharing information is not a completely neutral matter devoid of intention: when we share propaganda we become part of its machine.  We share its truth and take ownership and custody of it.  To share is not the problem: what we share is.  Could one imagine the historical interpretations shared in this video taught at school?  Maybe, but the ramifications of it are harder to comprehend.

That should be enough to make us more aware of what we share, especially for a matter like history.  Our self-identity and self-awareness is in the balance more than our perspective of the Aquinos and the President, and anything passed off as history should contain rigor and factual bases.  Not because history is accountable to the way we view the President and his family, and not because history is accountable to our own entertainment, but because history is vital to our understanding of our own identity and a realization of our national truths.  No one requires history to be fair or balanced: the only requirement of it is to be true.

The fact that the video is untrue brings our history to imbalance, and along with it our identity, our connection with our past, and our visions of the future.  The fact that the video has less historical rigor than expected and demanded should have consequences in the way we see ourselves, and effects in how we build our nation.  Oh, how easy it would be to divide the world between “evil oligarchs” and “good intellectuals.”  The world is more complex – much more complex – than that.

The problem is not in what the Aquinos have done, but in our desire to simplify the complexities of our history to the cleave of Rich Against Poor, Landed Against Unlanded, we no longer tell history: we tell history the way we want to because it entertains, because it evokes emotion, because it looks good.  All the while in our act of remembrance we selectively forget: because it’s just so not-entertaining to portray complexities, idiosyncrasies, and ironies.  Maybe because it’s too difficult.  Maybe because we just don’t like the President and we’re smarting from the most personal elections in recent history.  Maybe because it lacks hits, and making it shock-and-awe counts for a lot.  Maybe because fiction is more entertaining and (here goes) “viral” than documented truths.

History comes with its responsibilities: rigor, truth, dedication, conviction, openness.  If we do not have the best idea of how it got this way, we’ll never find a way out of the quandary.  Which brings even bigger ironies to light: that “we who know better,” when presented with and subscribe to bad history, may not know at all.

17 comments on “Truth is in the (Im)Balance”

  1. Reply

    Been avoiding watching that video because it might give me a heart attack. But I think I have too.

    Well-said Maro.

    1. Reply


      By all means, watch. 🙂

    • sunshine
    • November 7, 2011

    grabe, binasa ko talaga yung mga twitter exchanges niyo. pati na rin ang mga kasunod na blog posts.

    honestly, i was more intrigued by the debate that was going on than the youtube video. but, ok, andami ko naman naisip sa sinulat mo (which may sometimes be conflicting).

    first, isn’t everything propaganda? i think i heard an old professor tell me this – i forget. you separate history from propaganda because history is based on facts that are not devoid of context, but context is still based on another man’s perspective, right?

    that’s why i completely agree that history is really much more complex than just facts and a certain group’s idea of “truth”. hell, even the propaganda we have everywhere are also getting much more complex, that’s why sometimes we don’t even recognize propaganda anymore. it’s easy to separate the cheap, bad propaganda with the really, really good ones (so good, you’d think they’re absolute truth – if there is one). it’s just like saying you’d rather read the broadsheet than the tabloid. but still propaganda. so are we just avoiding the bad propaganda here? and who’s to say what’s bad and what’s not? how do we compare? most base it on aesthetics – propaganda with so much class always wins, right? just look at all those commercials on tv.

    but what am i saying here? ayan, nawawala na ko. i don’t know if i’m even making sense. pasensya – i’m no intellectual here. nakiliti lang sa mga tweets at usapin niyo.

    anyway, in all your other points, i completely agree. oh, and before i completely end my stupid comment, huling hirit lang:

    “The problem is not in what the Aquinos have done, but in our desire to simplify the complexities of our history to the cleave of Rich Against Poor, Landed Against Unlanded, we no longer tell history: we tell history the way we want to because it entertains, because it evokes emotion, because it looks good.” – You can get rid of all the other parts of this statement and just say “We tell history the way we want to.” – but who are the writers of our history? sabi nga, history is the end product of the truth (or facts if you may) that have survived – or something to that effect.

    siguro nga masyado na kong nag-digress from your topic. but, oh well…just my 25 cents. hehe.

    1. Reply


      Many thanks 🙂

      Oo nga naman, context is based from a human experience (“subjective,” ika nga) but what I didn’t stress here enough (dito ko na ise-stress) is historical method. Sa usapin ng konteksto hindi pwedeng pinag-tagpi-tagpi lamang, dapat buo. Yun yung nagkukulang minsan sa pag-intindi ng kasaysayan at face value: dahil posporo yung isa at posporo ito, match. Which is not the case: kunwari, backmasking ng jingle. Di naman historical yun. Yung mismong pag-correlate ng SCTEX sa “Noynoy Superhighway,” klaro naman sa post ni Xiao Chua na distortion iyon. Sablay sa metodolohiya kaya mali ang analysis, mali ang solusyon, maling problema ang tinutukan, mali ang basehan dahil sa haka-haka at tagpi-tagpi nanggaling. Kailangan diyan ng primary research, secondary sources: masusing pananaliksik na kulang sa video.

      Sa usapin ng “good propaganda” and “bad propaganda” ito ang dahilan kaya dapat kritikal (note: hindi kritisismo) ang pagtingin natin ng kasaysayan at paglalahad nito. Oo nga’t madaling masilaw sa kagandahan ng isang commercial sa TV, kunwari, pero dapat ang kagandahan nito ay di lamang aesthetic, pero functional and factual. We compare based on our own experiences and our own researches; yung ating pag-unawa na rin sa kasaysayan, na base sa tamang method, tamang insight, tamang analysis. Yung nakakalungkot lang, yung “maganda” yun yung nananalo, kahit sa masusing pagsusuri man (gaya ng ginawa ni Mr. Chua) lumalabas na mababaw ito. Pero heck, shala naman eh, so why not. That’s why it should be approached and appreciated with a critical mind, not a criticizing mind.

      Salamat! 🙂

    • sunshine
    • November 7, 2011

    salamat sa reply. award! onga naman…dapat may historical method.

    when i saw the video actually, mukha siyang joke. but it can really fool people, what with the inflammatory statements and the shala graphics which everybody loves. pero meron yatang nabibiling software for that. dami ko na nakitang ganyan. panalo ang backmasking. parang eraserheads lang. hehe. g’nyt!

    1. Reply

      Hahaha! Speaking of backmasking I read somewhere that when you backmask Rihanna songs (like “Umbrella”) you’ll hear words like “he is taking my faith, he is murdering” and stuff like that. Then again it’s not like it’s Josie and the Pussycats that it became a #1 hit because of subliminal messages. In fairness sa video though, maganda pagkakagawa.

    • Dan
    • November 7, 2011

    The high falluting words drowned written here drowned out some questions. What about those who died going against the Cojuangcos? Don’t tell me it’s just “propaganda”. What about the SCTEX exit to Luisita, Jesus, I’ve been through that exit a couple of times? Don’t tell me they’re “propaganda”. The reason why the Cojuangcos and the Aquinos have gotten away with these crimes is because whenever someone raises them, people will just think “they’re just smarting from the election defeat” or “they’re just working for the Arroyos or the Marcoses”. One-sided, ain’t it?

    1. Reply

      1. I didn’t say the Aquinos and Cojuangcos were saints.

      2. I’ve been to Luisita. Heck, I was there with the farmers after the HL Massacre. The farmers themselves acknowledge that there is a deeper historical reality to their situation than the doings of just one family. If there’s any one goods resource on the history of neo feudalism in the country it’s any protesting farmer in Luisita. And yes I’ve been on that road many times over. There’s no more private toll.

      3. All I’m saying is that things require a more robust method if they pass themselves off as fact or history. Otherwise we question the effects of bad history.

      1. Reply

        And since when did backmasking and logo deconstruction become historical methods? Don’t those things fall under propaganda?

        • Dan
        • November 7, 2011

        #1 – point taken
        #2 – “The farmers themselves acknowledge that there is a deeper historical reality…” <–you are generalizing. I'm married to a daughter of a Luisita farmer (who made good in Manila), she and her sibling do not agree with your generalizations. We went to Tarlac to my wife's family for the Nov 1 celebrations – we exited via the Luisita exit at SCTEX, the tollgates are still there.
        #3 – I agree the presentation could be better. In all honesty, there have been far "more robust" methods presented, all you have to do is go back and read through the archives. Inquirer did a very well researched (and very detailed) documentary (3 parts) prior to the 2010 elections about Hacienda Luisita including the murders (very few people bothered to read it). What PinoyMonkeyPride did was condensed the presentation (albeit in a sensational way) because he knew that very few people bothered to read "other well researched, more robust methods".
        #4 – I agree the 'backmasking' and symbolism was over the top. BUT questions still remain that the Aquinos and the Cojuangcos must answer for allegations of murder, graft and corruption.

        1. Reply

          Of course.

          As for generalizations, I’ve been there. For the record, I went to Luisita too, when the massacre happened. And you’ll be happy to know that the farmers and workers do know that their situation is tied to larger ones in the way of new feudalism. Amado Guerrero tackles that (for all its errors din) in Philippine Society and Revolution.

          As for method, that is my biggest beef. It’s bad enough that we don’t remember those who died in Luisita by the hands of the rash actions of Sto. Tomas and the military by virtue of whitewash, but to replace that with sensationalist method because “the masses won’t get it” is itself deceiving.

      • sunshine
      • November 7, 2011

      there were important issues raised in that video. nasayang lang because of how the video was made, so people will tend to dismiss it as propaganda. there are better videos than that on the issues against the aquino-cojuangcos. really riveting, insightful and well-researched ones. unfortunately, they fail to go viral mainly because they’re not made in the same tabloid-fashion as the one being talked about.

      1. Reply

        ^ yun.

  2. Reply

    Brilliant. Spot on, Marck.

  3. Reply

    Well – written piece sir! Keep ’em coming 🙂

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