I helped bury Marcos as a hero
Today, I became a tool for historical revisionism. Today, I buried a dictator as a hero.
I played a key role in interring Ferdinand Emmanuel Edralin Marcos, Sr. – corrupt president, merciless strongman, and patriarch of an entire family of politicians that has persistently plagued Philippine society for decades – in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, and I didn’t even have to grab a shovel to do it. No, I did nothing of that sort.
In fact, that’s exactly what I did. Nothing.
I, like many others who have no intention of forgetting about the Marcoses’ excesses and the injustices they had inflicted (and continue to inflict) upon the country, have been quite vocal about my distaste for their entire bloodline.
I, like many other millennials who, despite being born years after the fight to remove this tyrant from power ended, chose to learn about the horrors that transpired before our time, took to social media – the medium of choice of modern-day opinion leaders and armchair activists – to express my frustration and despair. Social media, where activism is rapidly becoming less about becoming a true instrument for change and more about being the quickest to come up with share-worthy political puns and witticisms, and where reposting screenshots of Sandro Marcos’s hilariously misguided (and sometimes grammatically questionable) tweets counts as being woke.
I actually hate the term woke, or at least the meaning it has now taken on. Woke is now practically synonymous with being socially relevant, and using it to describe oneself implies that one’s eyes are finally open, that this moment in time somehow marks the end of a long slumber. That the so-called woke person is at last aware of the inequalities and injustices happening all around them, and that no amount of wool can be pulled over their eyes any longer.
The thing is, with this awareness – with this state of being woke – tends to come a horribly overestimated sense of power. We formulate our opinions based on our feelings – and, if posting on Twitter, make sure that they fall under 140 characters – and post them online for our friends to see, secretly gunning for positive reinforcement in the form of likes and shares, partially expecting our contacts to have the same thoughts as we do, and mostly to eliminate that nagging, sinking feeling of helplessness every single time something that offends our sensibilities on a national scale comes to light.
This attitude causes us to end up with the notion that our Facebook status messages will always bear tremendous weight on their own, and that loudly expressing our disdain over nationwide extrajudicial killings, catcalling, Mocha Uson’s constant hatemongering, and Donald Trump’s victory will somehow make a significant difference.
That if we all screamed loudly at the same time on this digital platform, change will magically happen, the world will fix itself, and we can all stop being that cartoon dog who chooses to sit inside a burning house, convincing himself that everything is fine as his face melts off his skull.
What we sometimes fail to realize is, for all of the power that we think comes with our social media updates, our inability – our unwillingness – to act is much, much more powerful.
Because you don’t need a shovel to help bury a tyrant on hallowed ground. You don’t need a gun or a motorcycle to perpetuate brazen and almost nightly murder. You don’t need a fan page with followers in the millions to allow lies and misinformation to spread on social media like a cancer.
All you need is to keep shouting and do nothing else.
All you need to do is to shout as loud as you can on social media, from the comfort of your bedroom or office cubicle, collecting likes and comments until a discussion on overpriced concert tickets, the newest episode of your favorite television show, or, heaven forbid, a cat video distracts you and makes the anger go away. After all, once you’ve posted that update, you’ve “done something.” Or at least, your fingers have.
Well, here we are now. Ferdinand Marcos’s burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani will be written in history books. And if you think this is the last unpleasant surprise that will offend your sensibilities and make you question reality, think again. Something dark and terrible in my gut tells me that we’re in for worse injustices, and that this is just the beginning.
I helped bury Ferdinand Marcos, and I am ashamed. Yet here I am, still not standing there. I did not fight my way through the cops, and I am not doing everything short of pulling that fucking coffin out of there myself.
I am not saying that we all deserve to be punished, and I admit that I have no moral high ground to stand on. I am in no way chastising people for acting – reacting – the same way I did. I have no right to do so.
All I want to do is to pose a question – one that I admit even I don’t have an answer for, even as I finish writing this. And it’s a question that you don’t really have to respond to.
Are we prepared to dig the dictator out of there ourselves and put him where he belongs… or are we fine with just screaming about it?