by F. Sionil Jose
WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW: We are poor and in ever-worsening predicament because the majority of Filipinos are deeply ignorant. Many people are apathetic about socio-economic problems because they are not informed; and ignorance also reinforces apathy. People can be aroused to action with a well-formulated presentation of the problems that evoke their sympathy.
Thus we need first to eliminate our and/or their own ignorance, to educate ourselves to gain knowledge of the basic causes and remedies for social problems, including the economics, politics, and ethics of the problems and solutions. Then when we educate others, we must at the same time invoke their antipathy to the problems and arouse their sympathy with the remedies. When the impoverished majority, that is the "masa," are roused with sympathy and armed with knowledge of the remedy, the greedy in government, business and military who benefits from ignorance will either be swayed themselves to join the righteous battle, or be overwhelmed by the greater force of the righteous revolution.
It is and will not be an easy task. There are internal and external forces constantly at work to keep the majority ignorant. The internal forces (native Filipinos with economic and political powers) and external forces (foreign businessmen and TNCs). They all remind us of the Spaniards who kept us (indios) uneducated or the white Americans who kept the Negroes/Blacks illiterate for slavery.
In a previous post, I wrote about the subtle changes that neocolonialism imposes on our private and state universities (our foreign loans are predicated on following its conditions):
".....As to the present goals of the educational system: during the Dictatorship, Marcos followed the dictates and plans of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank/Asian Development Bank (IMF/WB/ADB) as to the direction of our Public School System (PSS) and educational system as a whole; that is, to provide cheap and trained labor to transnationals.
Stressing only technical vocations, though practical since they put food on the table, will only lead to the "dumbing" of the new generations of Filipino minds, to keep the majority ignorant; unable to comprehend the root causes of their predicament (btw, even American youth is getting dumb) which in turn will lead to perpetuation of the injustices in the socio-economic and political status-quo... "
Thus, the imperative is to educate the "masa," in terms of understanding "what's going on;" thereafter we can change what has been keeping us down; preferably peacefully; if not, by radical means, i.e. a revolution that is neither communist nor anticommunist, but a nationalist revolution.
Below article is a brief by our famous writer F. Sionil Jose on the "who, why, what" of a real revolution, necessarily nationalistic, for the common good.
“Nations, whose NATIONALISM is destroyed, are subject to ruin.” - Colonel Muhammar Qaddafi, 1942-, Libyan Political and Military Leader
“The true Filipino is a decolonized Filipino.” – Renato Constantino
"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini, La Revolucion Filipina (1898)
Revolution and the University of the Philippines
by F. Sionil Jose
What is an old man like myself doing here, talking about revolution?
Hindsight is the lowest form of wisdom. I can tell you what it was like when your campus was nothing but cogon waste, when all those trees that line your streets were just saplings. I can tell you, also, why we were left behind by all our neighbors when in the fifties and the sixties we were the richest, most progressive country in the region, when Seoul, Tokyo, were ravaged by war and Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta were mere kampongs, when Bangkok was a sleepy town criss-crossed by canals. I never was in China till 1979, but I know in the forties that country was always threatened by famine. It had a population then of only half a billion. Now, with more than a billion people, famine is no longer a threat, although hunger still lurks in some of its distant regions.
Hunger has always been with some of us, too, but not as much as it is now when so many poor Filipinos eat only once a day. Altanghap, I wonder how many of you know what that word means. So then, why are we poor? Why do our women flee to foreign cities to work as housemaids, as prostitutes?
We are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings, this in spite of those massive religious rallies of EI Shaddai, those neo-gothic churches of the Iglesia ni Kristo sprouting all over the country, in spite of the nearly 400 years of Catholic evangelization.
How can we build an ethical society? We must remember that so-called values are neutral--that so much depends on how people use them. James Fallows' thesis on our "damaged culture" which many of us understand is neither permanent nor inherent.
Ramon Magsaysay infused public life in the fifties with discipline and morality, Arsenio Lacson as mayor of Manila cleaned up City Hall. Even today, shining examples of honesty among our public officials exist, but they are few and far between and they are not institutionalized.
And it is precisely here where the university comes in with its courses in the humanities. Of all the arts, only literature teaches us ethics. Literature presents us with problems, complex equations that deal with the human spirit and how often the choice between right and wrong is made. In this process, we are compelled to use our conscience, to validate the choice we make, and render the meaning, the pith of our existence.
The university then is the real cathedral of a nation, and its humanities particularly its literature department, the altar. But how many of our teachers know this crucial function of literature, how many teachers themselves possess this sense of worth, and mission?
To know ourselves, to make good and proper use of our consciences, we must know our own history. So few of us do, in fact, we nurture no sense of the past. If our teachers know our history, if they soak it in their bones, then it follows that they also impart this very same marrow to their students.
If this is so, how come that when Bongbong Marcos visited Diliman some time ago, he was mobbed by students who wanted his autograph? How come that in La Salle, business students cited Marcos as the best President this country ever had?
Not too long ago, I spoke before freshmen at the Ateneo and was told that since so many practice bribery, it must be right, or how could anyone get things done if palms are not greased? In this university are professors who served Marcos. Have they ever been asked what their role was?
We are poor because we are not moral. Can this immorality as evidenced by widespread corruption be quantified? Yes, about 23 billion pesos a year is lost according to NGO estimates.
We are poor because we have no sense of history, and therefore, no sense of nation. The nationalism that was preached to my generation by Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada was phony; how they could have convinced so many intellectuals is in itself the failure of those intellectuals to analyze that inward, socially meaningless nationalism.
Recto and Tañada opposed agrarian reform, the single most important political act that could have lifted this country then from poverty and released the peasantry from its centuries-old bondage.
We are poor because our elites from way back had no sense of nation--they collaborated with whoever ruled--the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans and in recent times, Marcos. Our elites imbibed the values of the colonizer.
And worst of all, these wealthy Filipinos did not modernize this country--they sent abroad their wealth distilled from the blood and sweat of our poor. The rich Chinese to China, to Taiwan, to Hong Kong, the rich mestizos to Europe, and the rich Indios like Marcos to Switzerland and the United States--moneys that could have developed this nation.
How do we end this shameless domestic colonialism? The ballot failed; the bullet then? How else but through the cleansing power of revolution. Make no mistake about it--revolution means the transfer of power from the decadent upper classes to the lower classes. Revolution is class war whose objective is justice and freedom.
Who will form the vanguard of change? Who else but the very people who will benefit from it. Listen, when I was researching for my novel POON at the New York Public Library, I came across photographs of our soldiers of the 1896 revolution felled in their trenches by American guns. I looked closely and found that most of them were barefoot. They were peasants.
The peasant is the truest nationalist. He works the land with his hands, he knows instinctively what the term Motherland means. He loves this earth, even worships it. The Ilocano farmer calls it Apo Daga.
But never romanticize the poor. Once, a group of Ph.D.s lamented the futility of their efforts in organizing and motivating them. When the elections came that year, the poor sold their votes, or voted for Erap.
Understand why they are often lazy, contemptible, fawning, cheating and stealing. Imagine yourself not having a centavo in your pocket now, and you don't know if you will eat tonight. There is nothing honorable about poverty--it is totally dehumanizing and degrading. But once the very poor are roused from their stupor, they become the bravest, the most steadfast. Remember those Watawat ng Lahi followers felled by Constabulary guns on Taft Avenue in 1965? They believed that with their faith they were invincible.
It is with such faith and righteousness that our peasants rebelled in living memory, the Colorums in 1931, the Sakdals in 1935, and the Huks in 1949-53.
The Moro rebellion, the New People's Army--the cadres of both are from our very poor, just like it was in 1896. And now, here is the most tragic contradiction in our country. Our Armed Forces--its officers corps--many come from the lower classes, too; they got to their exalted positions through public examinations and entry to the Philippine Military Academy. Our Armed Forces enlisted men--most of them come from the very poor. When the poor kill the poor, who profits?
The Ideology of the Revolution
Revolution starts in the mind and heart. It alters attitudes to enable us to think beyond ourselves, family and ethnicity to encompass the whole nation. If the communists win and I don't think they ever will, they will rule just as badly because they are Filipinos unable to go beyond barnacled habits of mind, hostage as they always are to friends and family and to towering egos. The same egos aborted the revolution in 1896, the EDSA revolution in 1986, and now, we see the same egos wrecking havoc on the Communist Party. We see these egos eroding our already rotten political system.
The core belief that should guide us in redeeming our unhappy country is in our history, in our peasantry. It is not in textbooks, in foreign intellectual idols, in Marx. And what is this ideology which Bonifacio believed in? Which those barefoot soldiers killed by the Americans believed in? Pedro Calosa, the peasant leader who led the Colorum uprising in Tayug, Pangasinan in 1931 said it is this: "God resides in every man. God created earth, water and air for all men. It is against God's laws for one family or one group to own them." God and country; translate this belief into your own words and there you have it in its simplest terms the creed with which the unfulfilled revolution of 1896 was based, and which should be the same creed that should forge unity among us.
Who will lead the revolution?
Certainly, not the masa, but one from the masa who understands them, who will not betray them, the way our leaders betrayed the masa. Estrada is the most shameful example of that leadership that betrayed.
The leaders of the revolution could be in this university, who have the education, but who are not shackled by alien concepts, or the attitudes of superiority that destroy leadership. Such leaders, like Ho Chi Minh, must lead by sterling example, with integrity, courage, compassion and willingness to sacrifice, who know that when the revolution is won, it is time to change from conspirators to even better administrators, remembering that they have become conservative, that they must now work even harder to produce better and cheaper products. And this massive work of modernization can be achieved in one generation. The Koreans, Taiwanese and the Japanese did it. It is not the Confucian ethic that enabled them to do this, they understood simply the logic of government which is service and that of commerce which is profit.
By what right do I have to urge revolution upon our people who will suffer it? What right do I have to urge the young to sacrifice, the poor to get even poorer, if they embrace the revolutionary creed? I have no such right, nor will I call it such. I call it duty, duty, duty. Duty for all of us rooted in our soil, who believe that our destiny is freedom.
Not everyone can bear arms, or have the physical strength to stand up, to shout loudly about the injustices that prevail around us. Those who cannot do these, who cannot be part of this radical movement, must not help those who enslave us. Do not give them legitimacy as so many gave legitimacy to Marcos. Recognize, identify our enemies and oppose them with all your means. This will then test integrity, commitment.
Nobody need tell us the exorbitant cost of revolution, the lives that will be lost, senselessly even as when Pol Pot massacred thousands of his own countrymen in Cambodia. We who lived through the Japanese Occupation know what hunger, fear, and flight mean.
Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus and Jose Rizal--writers I admire deeply, all warned against revolution because it breeds tyrants, because it does not always bring change. But look around us, at the thousands of Filipinos who are debased and hungry, who are denied justice. Be shamed if you don't act. And as Salud Algabre, the Sakdal general said in 1935-- "No rebellion fails. Each is a step in the right direction."
Revolution need not even have to be bloody. How many lives were lost at EDSA I? Not even 20. So Cory goes around telling the world that she had restored democracy in the Philippines. Sure enough, we now have free elections, free speech, free assembly but these are the empty shells of democratic institutions because the real essence of democracy does not exist here. And that real essence is in the stomach--as when the taxi driver in Tokyo eats the same sashimi as the Japanese emperor, or the bus driver in Washington who can eat the same steak as President Bush in the White House. Contrast these with that jobless Cavite laborer whose two children died because he fed them with garbage.
No, Cory Aquino's EDSA revolution could not even have our garbage properly collected. Worse, nineteen farmer demonstrators were killed near Malacanan because she refused to see them. True to her oligarchic class, she declared a revolutionary government without doing anything revolutionary; instead, she turned EDSA I into a restoration of the old oligarchy. So today, we are reaping the results of her negligence, ignorance and folly.
Yet, even capitalism can be very helpful. South Korea is a very good example of how capital was formed by corruption, and how a single-minded general lifted that nation from the ashes of the Korean War, into the thriving modem economy which Korea is today.
Remember the slogans of American capitalism--a chicken in every pot, a Ford in every garage. Money is like fertilizer--to do any good it must be spread around. Those robber barons at the turn of the 19th century were rapacious, they exploited their workers, but they built industries, railroads, banks, the sinews of American capitalism. And the most important thing--they kept their money home to develop America. Unlike our rich Chinese, our rich meztizos and the likes of Marcos who sent their money abroad to keep us poor. They are the enemy.
It has been said again and again that we are, indeed, a young nation compared with other Asian countries whose august civilizations date back to two thousand years or more. Indeed, so are the Filipinos who shaped this nation--those who led the revolution against Spain--they were all young, like you are, in their twenties or early thirties. Rizal was 34 when he was martyred.
How then do we keep young without having to grow old only to see the fire in our minds and hearts die? How does the nation's leading university maintain its vitality, its youth against the ravages of consumerism, of globalism?
How else but to keep the mind ever healthy, ever alive by empowering it with those ideas that nurture change and revolution itself, by ingesting the technological age so that we can use technology for realizing our ideals.
How else but to embrace the ideas that make us doubt technology, society, even revolution itself, but never, never about who we are, what we should do and hope to be.
We cannot be beholden to any other nation. Jose Maria Sison doomed his revolution when he turned to China for assistance; he ignored the "objective reality"--the latent anti-Chinese feeling among Filipinos, in fact among all Southeast Asians who fear a Chinese hegemony. We must mould our own destiny, infusing it with the strength of a sovereign people. The Americans, the English, French, Russians, Cubans, Chinese, Vietnamese--all achieved their unique revolutions. We must have our very own, defined only by us.
How to build it, direct it, use it for the betterment of our lives, the flowering of liberty--I see all these as the major function of the university which, after all, shapes our leaders. I pray that UP will graduate the best doctors, the best engineers, the best teachers, the best bureaucrats. The revolution needs them all. But most of all, let this university of the people produce the ultimate modernizer, the heroic nationalist revolutionary--we need him most of all.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." . – Frederick Douglass, American Abolitionist, Lecturer, Author and Slave, 1817-1895)
Neocolonialism - The dominance of strong nations over weak nations, not by direct political control (as in traditional colonialism), but by economic and cultural influence.
"The selfish spirit of commerce knows no country, and feels no passion or principle but that of gain" - Thomas Jefferson, 1809