Passion Rules Reason: Blind, Superficial Nationalism

They’re all over the place. From legitimate digital news editions to satire pages to pseudo-political dumb-founded blogs. Through the power of FB Free Data, we have seen the rise of “political” commentators and analysts zealously launching their “discussion” through hodge-podge images of the President with a tagline of support against a backdrop of poorly edited or grossly exaggerated “positive” information. They accuse mainstream media outlets of being “bias” without thinking that their defense against real and imagined mistakes of the president is also a form of extreme, gross bias. Invite them to a debate using proper and academic sources and most of them won’t respond positively. Challenge them with legitimate local and international sources and most of the horde will just chide you that they’re free to voice-out their own opinions; #OpinionLang.

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Opinions are good so long as they are open to critical, reasonable, and proper discussion. They become bad when they try to resist critical analysis and still insist and demand the right to be publicly heard and propagated.

But what is striking among most of these people is that they equate their defense of this Beloved Leader to that of the highest level of Nationalism; they brand themselves as the Patriots of a new and rising Philippines!

These people believe it to be their nationalistic duty to unconditionally uphold and support every bit of our leader’s words and deeds regardless, it seems, of objective analysis and common sense. The Beloved Leader’s gestures are to be emulated, his words quoted like Scripture, and his acts are regarded by some as “God’s Hand”. His mistakes and “bad manners” are forgivable if only to see the Philippines transformed like Davao City (such parochialism); it’s the biased yellow media that paints him bad they say. And I won’t be surprised later on if, just to push the jest a notch higher, the Beloved Leader is imbued with god-like qualities!

Personally, I thank the President for helping me know some of my friends: that some of them can nonchalantly toss aside innocent life and brand them as collateral damage (a label created to dehumanize the victims of conflicts) and that most of them would not want to understand and recognize the importance of an objective study of things.

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“Western” systems of understanding “Asia” have identified that “Asian” regimes like ours are paternalistic, hierarchical, authoritarian, with low to zero tolerance of oppositions, and preferring socio-economic and material incentives over political liberties. Such is the case, it has been said, of Singapore’s “supervised” democracy and PRC’s democracy with Chinese characteristics. Another so-called feature is Personality Politics: “Project of Mayor ____”, “Libreng tuli ni Konsehal _____ “, “Tulay ni Pangulong _______”, among others. Besides, here in the Philippines, there’s also Necropolitics too (thanks to papa and mama and the other ancestors).

Are there greater and lesser nationalisms? I don’t think so. No one is still capable of evaluating the degree of love in any form from a scale of 1-10 definitely. But I believe that there are Superficial and Conscious Nationalisms.

Superficial Nationalism relies on names, artifacts, and symbolic effects embodied by arbitrarily-designated “national” and cultural symbols performed in the course of national imagination (to cite Benedict Anderson). The superficial nationalist feels an exaltation of Philippine-ness when adobo is served in posh New York or when she wears the “national” clothes of piña and husi or when he is moved to tears when “Bayan Ko” is sung or when the “Pambansang Kamao” brings home the belt. Politically, his nationalism relies on being awakened and stirred by a Personality, a Name; like how Ninoy and Cory were for EDSA 1986 and Duterte for Pilipinas 2016.

The superficial nationalist awakens, moves, and dies together with the political personality behind his life force. You will find that his most passionate issues of the day are the very same issues of his/her leader; no other besides that regardless of critical and objective analysis. He mistakes the symptoms of the root of cancer. So which came first: Drugs or Poverty?

The conscious nationalist, on the other hand, goes beyond names and forms and recognizes the true situation of his/her nation. Nick Joaquin, writing on Culture and History, correctly stated that when the United States “granted” political independence to the Philippines, it instead shackled our economy to theirs. Claro M. Recto pointed out the mendicancy of our foreign policy and our overall subservience to the United States. To argue that the good done by the American invaders was simply out of goodwill as well as aid in the legitimization and historical revisionism project by the cohorts and family of the Dictator, Butcher, and Thief Ferdinand Marcos is to be guilty of gross historical ignorance and a terrible case of historical amnesia.

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Conscious nationalists learn and realize that the inherent contradictions of the wealthy few versus rampant poverty, the landlessness of farmers, and the contractualization of workers amidst a wide array of local and foreign employers have been caused by a structure built upon the systematic exploitation of the social services-deprived, education-denied, and economically compromised and limited masses maintained currently by a supposedly democratic regime. Conscious nationalists advance and struggle for the interests of the nation and its people regardless of who sits on the throne of Malacañang.

Conscious nationalist read and study, analyze information critically and apply their theories through Praxis—Integrating with the base sectors of society, Arousing the Political Consciousness of people from different sectors, and Organizing them into coherent political bodies to Mobilize them into the making of just and relevant changes towards National Democracy.

I understand the unbridled passion of some of our people at this moment of exaltation. We have experienced and are thankful for many firsts: Progressives in the government, the Peace Talks, US and Chinese imperialists dressed-down in an international political gathering and a very commiserating and masa-inclined leader whose colorful tough talk is matched by an admirable local governance track-record. But the thing is we do not owe it to him; he owes it to us, the People.  The historical lack of a commonly-held unifying center may be one of the reasons why our nationalism remains fragmented. But if we want Change to last, then our Nationalism must go beyond names and titles, artifacts and symbols; we must go beyond Duterte. Or else …  from that Summer’s Dream we wake, to find Despair before us, Vanity behind.



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Dom writes for pay by day and writes for passion by night. He is a Japan major at the University of the Philippines. He’s fond of ramen and anime but not of nice people.

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