The Making of an Emmanuel Goldstein
In one of the unforgettable scenes of George Orwell’s 1984, Ingsoc (English socialism) party members of the fascist Oceania superstate are invited to watch a film daily, depicting Emmanuel Goldstein and his alleged insurgent group, The Brotherhood. As their faces are shown, the party members shout and curse in blind anger, even throwing their chairs towards the screen to show their loathing for Goldstein.
But along with this hate-filled routine, the Ministry of Truth rewrites historical documents to fit the rhetoric of the Ingsoc party. In effect, its people forget the evils of the superstate, as Goldstein becomes the scapegoat for the societal ills of this fascist regime.
Thankfully, we do not live in Orwell’s 1984. The Philippine state is not fascist and a chunk of its citizens are impervious to historical revisionism. However, one common element between some Filipinos and the Ingsoc party members is an immense hatred towards one person.
Our Emmanuel Goldstein is the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
A common observation on Martial Law protests is its synonymy to being an anti-Marcos protest. In itself, there is nothing wrong with that. The human rights violations and embezzlements that occurred during the Marcos Regime are ceaselessly echoed in our history texts and by those who remember.
Filipinos have a right to be angry over the atrocities that occurred during the Martial Law era, but it is just as important that we are not blinded by our rage and point everything at the Marcoses.
Obviously, none of the Marcoses who pulled the trigger on the desaparecidos themselves, nor were they the only ones who conspired Ferdinand’s dictatorship. For something as historically complex as the Marcos Regime, there are multiple actors involved.
For example, a prominent figure during the Martial Law era is Juan Ponce Enrile, who allegedly faked his ambush in 1972 to justify the proclamation of Martial Law. Another one is Fidel Ramos, chief of the notorious Philippine Constabulary (former PNP) from 1972 to 1986. The Philippine Constabulary, mostly through the infamous Metropolitan Command, tortured and killed thousands of Filipinos during Martial Law.
But despite their involvement in the atrocities during Marcos’ dictatorship, they were rewarded with cabinet positions by the democratic president Corazon Aquino, absolving them of their past sins just because they jumped ship at the last minute. Post-EDSA, Filipinos continue to elect them, in the senate and even the presidency.
Contrast this with Germany, a nation that remembers its monstrosities during World War II. Even if their disdain for Adolf Hitler continues, the Germans did not forget the other Nazis. In fact, Germany allowed these citizens to be charged with war crimes until 2016, when the oldest Nazi to be persecuted died.
Because of the Germans’ holistic recollection of their history, we are called to be like them. But if we were to be like them, then let us have a comprehensive understanding of the Martial Law era. We cannot allow those who remember to remain forgetful.