Pride & Rage

At 36 with hypertension and a baby on the way, I feel I’m too old to be filled with rage; and yet, for the past 2 weeks, I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time on Twitter wrestling with paid trolls in virtual mud fights where I’ve used every curse and swear word to try to hurt my opponents, all the while knowing fighting with fake accounts with zero followers is the same as punching a brick wall with bare fists.

Practically all my tweets have been about the injustice of having the spawn of a dictator and the most brazen plunderer of all time be my country’s next president. I’ve stopped using Facebook because its twisted algorithm promotes fake news for cheap engagement. These days, they call this type of online behavior “toxic.” Well, to me, it’s the only rational emotion and reaction in response to the Marcoses returning to power.

I’m too old for this, I would tell myself during the brief moments when my head clears up and I can let out a sigh. What can I realistically do? I’m safely sequestered here in the peaceful province of Angono, taking care of my wife whose belly is ballooning every day, and I’m waist-deep in work from sun up ’til sun down in my little personal office at home. No protest marches for me; and I haven’t really participated in one since college. I joked to my wife that she might see me on TV getting sprayed by a fire hose and hit in the head with a truncheon. She said I should probably stop tweeting because Marcos’ men might break into our house and put me in a body bag.

It’s all hyperbole, of course. Aside from one or two tweets criticizing the state of things that have gone a bit viral, I’m nobody on Twitter. Besides, Marcos Jr. doesn’t have the balls.

I haven’t been this enraged in a long time; not even when Duterte caused ABS-CBN to shut down due to trumped-up charges of tax evasion, and freedom of expression and the respect usually accorded to journalists for reporting well-researched facts seemed to die with the network; not even during the gross mishandling of the pandemic by Duterte’s administration. Every day, he would do something morally inexcusable or say something that flies in the face of basic decency expected from a publicly elected official–but I’m far more infuriated now even compared to those days.

So what is it that ticks me off so bad?

I think it’s pride. A slight to pride hurts but even more so when you understand it never needed to happen in the first place. Not in a world where we are all rational, anyway.

The Philippines was given a simple choice in these elections: vote for someone who has a flawless track record of public service or someone whose family stole billions of dollars from the central bank, and murdered and tortured citizens calling for a return to a working democracy, and who himself owes hundreds of billions of pesos in estate taxes to the government. The answer couldn’t have been easier. Even a child wouldn’t make the same mistake if somebody put down the choices on paper and asked the kid to select who’s better, A or B. Filipinos, apparently living in another dimension where logic and reason are nonexistent concepts, inexplicably, overwhelmingly chose the latter.

This, I think, makes my blood boil. This willful self-debasement of a nation where I belong in. The kind that makes you seriously question how deep this pit of shame goes, and how we can even move on from here.

Admittedly, this has probably hit me harder as an alumnus of UP, widely known as a bastion of scholarly dissent, and more so having closely studied social phenomena such as authoritarianism and fascism as a student of sociology. In UP, Marcos is not an obscure hero in urban legends and tall tales, but a traumatic fragment of memory–a clear warning of what Philippine society can descend into again if people stop speaking out against everyday institutionalized injustices, and checks on government power are made to disappear.

And so, to me, the Marcoses returning to Malacanang despite their unforgivable crimes against the Filipino people, is a deeply personal issue. Sometimes, I feel like it’s the culmination of all education my parents paid for with blood and sweat. Maybe the only real, universal lesson to pick up after all is said and done: I know what goodness is and I believe in it because I know what wickedness is. Evil is Marcos. Marcos is evil.

To watch people I know turn their backs from the truth–even after they are presented with an overwhelming barrage of facts–is almost like witnessing the last rays of hope for this nation get engulfed by the darkest of clouds.

If we are unable to make the simplest of distinctions between what’s good for us and what’s bad for us, then what hope is there for the future?

More importantly, for the present, what degree of respect do we even reserve to ourselves?

Pride is drawing a line. On one side of that line lie tolerance, forgiveness, and understanding. On the other side, there’s only outrage. Self-respect is only possible because we are able to draw this line.

And anybody’s pride can be hurt. We all have different thresholds when we think enough is enough. We rarely even talk of pride and self-respect in our day-to-day dealings with local government to secure an ID, to file requests and such, even if we expect corruption to be part of the normal processes. Sure–corruption is a fact of public office and it’s endemic in virtually all forms of state bureaucracies. Granted, we’ve all paid our share of “lagay” and “pangkape” and these concepts are already inextricable parts of everyday life no matter how much we rail against them. But what the Marcoses did and are still–shockingly–doing are on a completely different level.

Words fail to describe the magnitude of $5 – $10 billion of plundered wealth.

Here’s an excerpt from a book about the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth I’ve been reading with information based on documents found on the plane bearing Marcos’ possessions when he and his family fled to Hawaii, as well as those found in Malacanang in the aftermath of EDSA People Power:

“Until Marcos came along, the top ‘kleptocrats’ were Latin American dictators like Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, Juan Peron of Argentina, Fulgencio Batista of Cuba, Marcos Perez Jimenez of Venezuela and Miguel Aleman of Mexico. The reported fortunes of the five caudillos between 1952 and 1961 was between $1.8 to $2.6 billion, which is still much lower than the $5 to $10 billion that just one dictator in Asia, Marcos, was alleged to have amassed.” – ‘The Philippines Under Marcos’ by Belinda A. Aquino (no relation to Corazon Aquino)

So if these astronomical figures denoting unlimited pillaging and looting of their own money over a span of 20 years can’t make Filipinos draw their line of pride–then how and where do we draw it? Can it even be drawn at all?

We shouldn’t even be talking about Marcos Jr.’s 203 billion pesos in taxes owed and if that can get him disqualified or cancel the validity of his victory because nobody should be able to get past the brazen criminal acts of his parents.

No logical conversation should even take place until after we’ve all agreed that our pride as a people has been insulted forever. Trampled to the ground by this family of thieves and murderers.

So this is where my fountain of rage draws from: an abyss of hopelessness.