EDSA and the dis­il­lu­sioned youth

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORIES! - JAMES EDGAR T. SIA

THIS week marks the 33rd an­niver­sary of the EDSA Peo­ple Power Revo­lu­tion, which ac­cord­ing to our his­tory books is widely rec­og­nized be­cause a peace­ful but per­sis­tent de­mon­stra­tion by the peo­ple man­aged to bring down decades-long dic­ta­tor­ship.

How­ever, I’ll leave it to the his­to­ri­ans to dis­cuss the de­tails; right now, I in­tend to write about what it means to us in this day and age, es­pe­cially among the gen­er­a­tions of younger peo­ple that came after the Mar­tial Law ba­bies.

Some nu­merol­o­gists would say that an­niver­saries with re­peat­ing dig­its like the num­ber 33 should be more aus­pi­cious than those neatly di­vis­i­ble by 10, such as 20th and 30th an­niver­saries. Judg­ing by how things turned out last Mon­day, how­ever, this year’s com­mem­o­ra­tion is any­thing but aus­pi­cious. At best, it was un­event­ful; Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said a few per­func­tory but pleas­ant words but did not at­tend the cer­e­mony at the EDSA Shrine, but to give ev­ery­one credit, it would seem that the po­lit­i­cal play­ers who’d be squab­bling on any other day put aside their dif­fer­ences out of re­spect.

As for ev­ery­one else, it was busi­ness as usual, and stu­dents were more than happy to get the day off. And here’s the rub – that is pre­cisely the main rea­son why young peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate EDSA, if you can call that ap­pre­ci­a­tion. Most would be happy to just mem­o­rize facts, dates, and events as taught in his­tory class and write es­says on why the oust­ing of Fer­di­nand Mar­cos was a good thing and how it couldn’t be any­thing but a good thing, all for the sake of com­ply­ing with aca­demic re­quire­ments.

How­ever, a grow­ing num­ber of young peo­ple – mostly mil­len­ni­als and Gen Zers – are turn­ing to al­ter­na­tive sources on the In­ter­net that ar­gue that un­less you were an avowed com­mu­nist or Moro sep­a­ratist and there­fore an en­emy of the state, life in gen­eral was much bet­ter un­der Mar­tial Law (and that’s just the tip of the ice­berg).

Vet­eran jour­nal­ists who lived through the pe­riod like the es­teemed Raissa Robles would no doubt be aghast at this de­vel­op­ment. How dare the youth of the na­tion be­tray the prom­ise and legacy of EDSA by say­ing Mar­cos did noth­ing wrong – and even worse, be­liev­ing it com­pletely?

But that is pre­cisely the thing: EDSA had a prom­ise back then, and it has a legacy now. And it failed our coun­try on both counts.

It is widely ac­cepted that the main prom­ise of EDSA was that the Philip­pines would have a taste of true democ­racy at long last: not an Amer­i­can-backed com­mon­wealth govern­ment, not a govern­ment by and for the good old boys of the up­per ech­e­lons, and most def­i­nitely not a dic­ta­tor­ship.

How­ever, good in­ten­tions not­with­stand­ing, in the years that fol­lowed, it be­came clearer and clearer that one big dic­ta­tor was top­pled, only to be re­placed by a plethora of smaller dic­ta­tors all over the coun­try – namely, politi­cians and oli­garchs. And don’t get me started on the dy­nas­ties! It was as if the feu­dal or ha­cienda sys­tem were re­in­stated all over again, but this time wear­ing the dis­guises of democ­racy and cap­i­tal­ism.

As for the legacy of EDSA, you can see it all around you to­day. Re­gard­less of your opin­ion of Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, it can­not be de­nied that dur­ing his time, the Philip­pines was an eco­nomic pow­er­house. Filipino botanists and agri­cul­tur­ists at the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines Los Baños made ma­jor strides in the cul­ti­va­tion of high-yield and hardy va­ri­eties of rice, which re­sulted not only in wind­falls for Filipino rice farm­ers, but also in other coun­tries send­ing their most bril­liant sci­en­tists to learn this new alchemy of rice in Philip­pine class­rooms, from Filipino pro­fes­sors.

Heavy in­dus­tries such as steel, sugar, and petroleum were na­tion­al­ized, and full­swing plant op­er­a­tions both na­tional and pri­vate guar­an­teed jobs for blue-col­lar work­ers. Im­ports were strictly reg­u­lated, and peo­ple ev­ery­where were strongly en­cour­aged to buy Philip­pine-made goods in­stead of their for­eign coun­ter­parts.

But to­day, you can­not say the same about our coun­try. If any­thing, it’s as if the sit­u­a­tion back then had been turned com­pletely on its head, and the Philip­pines has since be­come an eco­nomic cesspit. It would seem that Mar­cos was guid­ing the coun­try on the path of eco­nomic self-suf­fi­ciency (al­beit with an iron fist), but nowa­days we have be­come too de­pen­dent on in­ter­na­tional aid to stay afloat.

Com­pare this with the sit­u­a­tion in the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China, where heavy in­dus­tries re­main se­curely na­tion­al­ized to this day, ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions like Huawei re­main firmly in Chi­nese hands, and all the wants and needs of mod­ern-day liv­ing are man­u­fac­tured on Chi­nese soil – in other words, no need for im­ports (and if they re­ally wanted to, the Chi­nese could even iso­late them­selves from the rest of the world again!). Xi Jin­ping may have 99 prob­lems, but debt and in­fla­tion aren’t one of them.

The youth hear noth­ing but glow­ing words about EDSA from their teach­ers, the me­dia, and other in­sti­tu­tions. Mean­while, they see that our cur­rent cir­cum­stances tell a com­pletely dif­fer­ent story. Now can you un­der­stand why they have grown dis­il­lu­sioned – dis­gusted, even? Can the Peo­ple Power Revo­lu­tion’s most ar­dent pro­po­nents give a sat­is­fac­tory an­swer as to why this is so, with­out heap­ing all the blame on Mar­cos? We await their re­ply.

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