The anatomy of “respect my opinion”

“Papanam?”

My family would ask whenever I exited our home wearing a pink shirt. In total, I wore the same shirt five times: once in Manila, Pasig, Pasay, Baguio, and Makati. I knew as a national democratic activist that the ills of our society do not end within the dictates of the ballots. Nonetheless, for a while, I felt a tinge of hope whenever I donned that color with thousands of other people.

Attending the Tropang Angat’s rallies was my way of persuading my family to switch from Marcos Jr. to Robredo. I was hoping they would positively question within themselves why I saw the need to join the latter’s crusade for good governance despite how jam-packed my commitments were as a student-leader.

Yet after hours of sharing my sweat with strangers, getting stuck in traffic, and snaking through a sea of people just to get a good view of the performers and speakers, I was met with just three words from them: “Respect our opinion.” My family knew what I was trying to do and I felt defeated.

Out of frustration, I parroted the liberal view on political opinions being a supposed reflection of one’s moral standards — far from the dialectical materialist lens I usually subscribe to. I told them that opinions that disrespect and deny the tenets of human life, rights, and truth are not worthy of my respect.

It was only after the fraudulent victory of Marcos Jr. that I realized that the way no one is born into this world already “woke,” no one is also carrying these “disreputable” opinions fresh from the womb. In the final analysis, these opinions are not formed in a vacuum or by the individual alone but are shaped by their material conditions.

With the aforementioned analysis in mind, I delve into the social, political, and economic contexts in which my family grew up. First, they were born and raised in Cagayan Valley, one of the only two regions that experienced a decrease in the number of families living in poverty by the end of Martial Law [1]. This minuscule “improvement” in the region solidified it as a consistent bailiwick of the Marcoses during elections.

Second, despite the reduced poverty rate in Cagayan, my family was still considered poor to the extent that they experienced pairing rice with mere condiments just to fill their stomachs. My parents and their siblings also went to school without having any breakfast and with meager allowances, affecting their learning performance and possibly, their retention of topics including history [2]. This is discounting an anecdote of my mother’s elementary teachers who directly discussed tales of peace and economic prosperity during Martial Law and attributed them to Marcos Sr.

Third, beyond my family’s material conditions affecting their stance on the Marcoses are the systemic failures of post-dictatorship administrations. Due to financial constraints, state universities and colleges (SUCs) were my parents’ and their siblings’ only chances to obtain a diploma. However, these SUCs were often victims of budget cuts that lessened the quality and capacity of their educational services.

Moreover, their rapid neo-liberalization — geared to respond to the employment demands of imperialist nations seeking cheap labor — reduced the required number of General Education (GE) units of subjects under the humanities and social sciences (HUMSS) [3]. This treatment of HUMSS as an afterthought conceived a forgetful generation stunted in critical thinking — the perfect mass base for the Marcoses.

Lastly, the failure of said post-dictatorship administrations to hold the Marcoses accountable for their sins against the nation allowed the family to enjoy their loot, giving them the means to cleanse their name in the eyes of our history, justice system, and the same forgetful generation. Specifically, through well-orchestrated political comebacks and disinformation networks on social media platforms and more recently, in cinemas.

As the cherry-on-top of this elaborate comeback, the erosion of our societal institutions — from our economy to our education — brought about by the neoliberal agendas of post-dictatorship administrations conditioned the people to “crave” the alternative “Golden Era” propagandized by the Marcoses.

At this point, we may have already pondered that our crusade has reached its end. Lest we forget the Katipunan who once thought that they would be subjugated by the Spaniards for centuries to come; the militants during Martial Law who also thought of the conjugal dictators reigning for more decades. So, no. This is not the end and there is so much more we could and should do.

We must immerse ourselves with the masses and in the process, expect that we will meet people whose opinions may trigger us to be antagonizing. At the very least, we must tirelessly respect and gauge where these opinions came from, and acknowledge that they, including my family, are victims of decades of superstructural failures.

The liberal analysis may claim that recognizing the masses’ victimization takes away their agency, instead of redirecting our focus to our narrowest target. However, what really infantilizes the masses is imposing a monopolist view on moral correctness upon them.

Finally, we must also understand that this would be a fight that may protract beyond our lifetime — a fight that would transcend, to reiterate, the dictates of the ballots and latch into the existing revolution in the countryside. We do not have the machinery that the enemies possess but we have the masses who, looking back on our history from the 1896 Revolution to the EDSA People Power, and all the mass movements in between, always stood by our side.

So the next time we alienate someone whose opinion we do not deem worthy of our respect, let us ask ourselves: Does this hurt the enemy in any way or am I giving them more bullets?

REFERENCES:

[1] Martial Law Museum. (n.d.). Martial Law in Data. https://martiallawmuseum.ph/magaral/martial-law-in-data/

[2] Adolphus, K., Lawton, C. L., & Dye, L. (2013). The effects of breakfast on behavior and academic performance in children and adolescents. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00425

[3] Anakbayan. (2017). Neoliberal na Opensiba ng Imperyalismo sa Edukasyon. Anakbayan.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store