Truth is in the (Im)Balance
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 matter. Chua’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.