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“Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.” – James Altucher.
A few years ago I attended a workshop on Ferdinand Marcos In De La Salle University.
There was a question that my fellow workshop participant wasn’t able to address, the question was asked by a young male student:
“My parents are Marcos loyalists; how do I convince them that what they believe is wrong?”
My fellow participant replied:
“That is a very tough question, and I think I’ll need some time to answer that. Would you mind giving me your email address so I can email you my answer?”
The student gave her his email address; however, I am not sure if she was able to answer him.
A year later she died of an auto-immune disease.
The student’s question hasn’t left my mind and has been marinating at the back of my head for quite some time that I decided to write about it after a series of other Marcos-related articles. (see the end of this article)
And because I deeply miss my fellow participant Ms. Susan Quimpo, the person I consider as my mentor and deeply admire.
To say that the question is challenging is an understatement, not only because it is a conversation between a son and his parents.
I would need to know the following:
- The dynamics of their relationship with him.
- The historical background of his parents and how they feel about Ferdinand Marcos.
- If they consider their beliefs part of their identity or an idea open for debate or intellectual discussion.
I also take issue with the term “convincing”.
Convincing people is not a walk in the park, because if it were that easy I would’ve been able to convince my own family who are Marcos and Duterte loyalists themselves.
I would even argue that people cannot convince other people, but that people are the only ones who can convince themselves.
However, there are different strategies and tactics in navigating between discussions such as these.
I have to warn you, though, that If you are looking for a quick answer to Frequently Asked Questions on Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law by Marcos loyalists, then this article is not for you.
The reason is because there are different kinds of Marcos loyalists, and convincing them depends on the evidence Marcos loyalists are willing to accept.
ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Now going back, If I was asked the question, I would need to ask the student:
“If your parents are given evidence that is contrary to their beliefs on Marcos, what kind of evidence do you think would they be willing to accept as true?”
The rationale behind this question is that there are different levels of authority that Marcos loyalists respect.
Being a former Marcos loyalist myself, my only source of trustworthy information solely comes from the Marcoses themselves.
The reason behind it is that the Marcos narrative asserts that every information contrary to theirs is not trustworthy (similar to a cult, see: BITE model), and all negative information about the Marcoses exists solely as propaganda against their vision of a new society for the Philippines. (similar to a person who is a flat earther and holocaust denier, see video below)
Some Marcos loyalists would even go as far as not to accept scientific and empirical evidence as long as it runs counter to what they believe.
(This is no different from what Duterte loyalists of today resort to when people criticize his government they state that: “Critics are just demonizing the government!”)
Marcos loyalists will also usually use the quote:
“History Is Written By Victors.”
This implies that history should not be considered as fact, and history is just a bastardized representation of the past that only benefits the status quo or, in Marcos loyalists’ own words, the “Dilawan,” the instigators of EDSA 1986.
If you encounter this you can argue that, the problem with this argument is that it is a blanket statement that denigrates the entire study of history.
Because if the argument is true, then no study of history is trustworthy, and everything is just about power, and everything we know about history is based on who benefits from its narrative.
The burden of proof lies with the one asserting that “History Is Written By Victors.”
The Marcos loyalist has to prove that history is tarnished without reasonable doubt, and he has to prove as well that there is no objective reading of history, even from academia, which is nothing short of trying to disprove an entire branch of academic studies recognized by universities.
(Alternatively, this way of thinking is no different from how Communist states control the behavior of their citizens.)
The ironic thing is that this is the same mode of thinking that the Marcoses demands of their followers.
Bottomline is, by being able to control which information is acceptable or not would ultimately result into controlling a persons behavior.
“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ― George Orwell, Animal Farm
So, in essence, understanding what kind of evidence Marcos loyalists are willing to accept is the first litmus test in having an honest conversation and, in the process, persuade them through verifiable facts.
BRIDGING THE GAP
There is also another factor involved in convincing Marcos loyalists, and that is the issue of TRUST.
Being able to have a conversation based on trust and mutual respect is the first step in arriving at a healthy discussion.
And because this factor is based on feelings, one must tread this tactic very carefully and strategically.
More often than not, attacking the false beliefs head-on of Marcos loyalists would make them more defensive will strengthen their resolve, and ultimately blur the lines between Ferdinand Marcos as an idea and their identity.
Instead of attacking head-on and telling them that they are wrong, it is best to ask where they are coming from.
Ask them questions such as:
“How they came to believe what they believe about the Marcoses?”
Often you will be surprised by their responses because most of the time, Marcos loyalists usually haven’t thought about these things through.
This approach also matters when it comes to understanding their value systems and the source of their beliefs.
You’d be surprised that many Marcos loyalists are frequent churchgoers, respect authority, and follow conservative values.
An important thing you need to remember is that oftentimes regionalism is the hardest glass ceiling to break because tribalism becomes stronger, especially when they are conditioned to believe that their ethnic or regional group is being victimized by the status quo (see Dekulakization). (ex: Apo Lakay’s Solid North being victimized by the Yellows)
When you are confronted with this dilemma you might need to have a good example of how such beliefs get out of control and be prepared to give examples of it throughout history. (see video below)
The bitter truth is, not all Marcos loyalists can change their beliefs right there, and then, because Marcos loyalists have been conditioned and programmed to believe what they believe for decades.
Some of their information also comes from the people they admire and deeply trust, so the first thing that you will need to acknowledge is that IT WILL NEVER BE EASY.
However, holding a discussion and being listened to is already a huge step in putting a stone in their shoe at the same time empathizing with them thus earning their trust.
OTHER HARD OBJECTIONS
Another huge Marcos loyalist objection is that Martial Law should be taught ‘objectively’ in schools.
This means that Martial Law’s positive and negative sides should be laid out instead of just the negative ones.
When confronted with this objection you would need to ask what they mean about being ‘objective’ and then ask them about what they mean about ‘positive and negative sides. ‘
There’s also the opportunity to rephrase their objection to:
“What are the things that Martial Law did right and what are the things that it did wrong? And if so, why do you think that it’s right, and why do you think that it’s wrong?”
Another follow up question is by asking them what their breaking point is, or as this article states:
“(Where is the) line that, once crossed, signifies to someone that the ostensibly good or noble thing they currently support has soured or, as the case may be, gone completely bad.”
Or to put it simply: “What does it take for a Marcos loyalist to think that the Marcoses has gone too far?”
Because whether we admit it or not, everyone has a breaking point or a line that they would never dare cross.
By having them answer these questions, their realm of morals and values gets clearer, and you’d have an idea of where the Marcos loyalist stands and why.
For example, my rabid Marcos loyalist cousins’ breaking point was if Marcos’ forces directly attacked our family. Still, because that didn’t happen (even though it happened to other people because, according to him, they were pesky or ‘pasaway’), he’d instead stick with his beliefs.
ADDRESSING THE “LACK OF DISCIPLINE ARGUMENT”
Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end – Immanuel Kant.
The other more common objection by Marcos loyalists is that Filipinos “lack discipline.”
Now, this objection takes a little bit of prodding, and it would serve you well to ask the Marcos loyalist what they mean by lack of discipline because if true, then this assertion also applies to the Marcoses.
But if ever the Marcos loyalist answers you by giving an example on “crimes” and “corruption,” you might need to request for empirical data that is scientifically verifiable and on which both you can agree that what he is telling you is objectively true and not just hearsay.
But in the case that the data isn’t available you might need to ask this question:
“Are human beings inherently evil or inherently good?”
(The implication of such a question is to steer the conversation away from who is telling the truth, because the worse case scenario is that the Marcos loyalist will never admit that he’s lying or wrong.)
Most often than not, the Marcos loyalist will answer that Human beings are inherently evil. But then again, this applies to the Marcoses as well.
So, the Marcos loyalist will be forced to answer that human beings are inherently good, in which case you’d follow up with the question:
“If human beings are inherently good, then they wouldn’t lack discipline, correct?”
By stating this question, you’ve already made the Marcos loyalist rethink his earlier assertion about people’s lack of discipline and need someone like Marcos.
It also matters to explain how checks and balances work in the country’s form of government, the different branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial and why we follow such model.
I believe most people are essentially good; I know that I am. It’s you I’m not entirely sure of. – Stephen King
At this point you would need to transition and talk about the concept and importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
(Note: Be mindful though that Marcos loyalists may not be able appreciate this because they are conditioned to believe that humans cannot think for themselves, so they need someone to do it for them because of lack of discipline; thus the need for a dictator or in their own words “kamay na bakal” (Iron Hand))
However, if the Marcos loyalist continues to argue for the importance of having a leader that rules with an iron hand, you can ask him this question:
“What do you mean by Iron Hand? And what is the trade-off or what do you sacrifice when you have a leader that leads with an Iron Hand?”
And this is where you can discuss information on the different freedoms that will be taken away and rights the Marcos loyalist enjoys that will be demolished. (You can start with the freedom of speech, freedom of information, and freedom of expression and then move on the level of control of the state over their person and slowly ease in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
If everything falls into place you will never need to tell Marcos loyalists that they are being lied to, they will be able to figure that out for themselves, which brings me to that secret weapon that you can use to “convince” a Marcos loyalist and perhaps obliterate all of their arguments. (Speaking from experience)
THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN
Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters. ― Albert Einstein
The most crucial question to ask the Marcos loyalist is: “What do you think is the highest virtue that developed societies, civilizations, makes people successful and loved?”
The Marcos loyalist will think of many answers, but the answer for this question that you can put forward is HONESTY.
I would’ve wanted to answer TRUTH, but many Marcos loyalists have a very hard time in distinguishing truth, and as I mentioned earlier, evidence and facts don’t mean anything to them.
However, honesty always counts for something because no one wants to live anywhere near a person who isn’t honest.
And honesty fosters trust, which brings you to the next series of questions:
“Are human beings honest enough to admit to themselves that sometimes they can be wrong about what they believe in?”
“Do human beings need honest people to tell them what’s wrong?”
“How do you know if someone is being honest?”
“What would you feel If you find out that Ferdinand Marcos and his follower lied to you?”
Now you can end the conversation there and give him the chance to say the last word or perhaps you can explore further but rest assured you’ve told your piece, and there’s a fifty-fifty chance that the Marcos loyalist will change his mind.
But given the steps I laid out above, chances are he will have a massive headache to deal with when he goes to sleep every night as it did mine.
(CTTO of the featured image)