“A generation which ignores history has no past—and no future.”—Robert Heinlein
The assault on truth in this digital age of instant, ubiquitous and free-for-all communication has escalated. Through unrestrained social media (in addition to traditional mass media), people, specially the young, are massively exposed to “fake news,” “alternative facts” and self-serving “spins” of statements and events—euphemisms for what we simply used to call lying and falsehood.
And now come their more pernicious siblings, “historical revisionism” and “legal revisionism.”
Lately, Filipinos have been exposed to a mythical version of martial law, through a pathetic and incredible video “interview,” which was immediately and vigorously belied by numerous survivors of that dark era.
Recently, too, we have seen the judiciary making decisions that “legally” obliterated the existence of facts recognized and accepted by everyone for many years, i.e., summarily nullifying the appointment, including the already served term of office, of an incumbent Chief Justice; the magical and selective voiding of an amnesty, legally granted by a former President and Congress, to a senator.
Such revisionist acts are progressively eroding the people’s trust in a judiciary which is there precisely as the ultimate check and defense against abuses of the other government branches in a democratic society.
Because of their propensity to visit innumerable sites on the internet, today’s young people are exposed to countless “tweets,” “blogs” (text) and “vlogs” (videos) on practically any subject or issue. Many of these messages come with an agenda, either personal, advocacy-inspired, or paid for by special interest groups. These messages usually sound convincing, passing for the truth or a semblance of it. This makes it difficult to glean what is true from the merely specious or the outright false, specially in matters of national importance.
Here is where we, as parents and grandparents of the next generations, or even just as concerned elders, come in. We are the frontliners, even before the school or the media, in guiding the young in the pursuit of truth. We cannot escape responsibility for this role.
This is specially true when it comes to our recent history, particularly regarding events which we have witnessed or of which we have had first-hand experience. We must resolutely resist all attempts to distort history for the purpose of mitigating abuses perpetrated against our countrymen, or exonerating those guilty of these acts. I am talking, of course, about the terrible atrocities and unabashed plunder committed during the long era of the dictatorship.
In 1986, I celebrated my birthday, which falls on Feb. 25, in Edsa, holding vigil with my family and colleagues, with the millions who participated in what is now famously known as People Power.
Fast forward 30 years later, I celebrated my milestone 75th birthday (the 30th anniversary of Edsa Day), not by throwing a party but by gathering my many grandchildren for a “teach in” about what happened to our country during martial law, and how the Filipino people finally threw out the dictator and regained their freedom during those four fateful days in Edsa.
At the beginning of our session, I asked my grandchildren if they were taught about martial law in school. To my dismay, they told me they learned about it in a general way, without emphasis on the lessons we have learned from it. I wondered about the many other young people whose parents never bothered to talk to them about this dark period in our history.
While I was growing up, my mother used to tell me stories of the exploits of her hero father, my grandfather General Servillano Aquino, who fought the Spanish in the Philippine revolution, and soon after, the Americans in the Philippine-American war. She regaled me with stories of how he was twice condemned to death as a prisoner of war, first by the Spaniards, and later by the Americans, and how he was almost miraculously saved from execution both times.
Very impressed, I looked up to my bigger–than–life Lolo Mianong whom I often visited his home in Concepcion, Tarlac. A longtime widower, he even remarried in his 70s and sired a son at the ripe young age of 75. (His life and adventures are chronicled by Nick Joaquin in the book, “The Aquinos of Tarlac.”)
The point of these stories is that parents, as the first educators of their children, can develop in them a genuine appreciation of the past through an honest and substantially accurate retelling of events they themselves have witnessed, or which their own parents have passed on to them. This is far more valuable than simply letting their children navigate their way through the maze of contradictory versions of the recent past being peddled by third parties through the many forms of modern media.
There is a saying that history is written by the victors of any conflict. This is precisely why it is important that, regardless of who the victors are, there must be people whose “sense of history” is strongly committed to the truth, and who make it their mission to instill this trait in the generations that follow.–CONTRIBUTED