Gemma Cruz Araneta
I came across this declaration: “We have created our myth. This myth is a faith, a passion. It is not necessary for it to be a reality…Our myth is the nation, our myth is the greatness of the nation! And to this myth, this greatness, which we want to translate into a total reality, we subordinate everything.” No, it was not Jose Rizal who wrote that because to him the nation was not a myth, in fact, he was persecuted and executed because his ultimate objective was to harness all these islands and its people into one Filipino nation. Andres Bonifacio’s also had a sense of nation, so did Apolinario Mabini, and I am certain, many of their generation. During the Spanish colonial period, it was subversive to think of nationhood.
Those were Benito Mussolini’s words, uttered during the Fascist Congress in Naples, Italy in 1922. That paragraph appears in “How Fascism Works, the Politics of Us and Them” authored by Jason Stanley, a Jacob Urovsky Professor at Yale University. He explains that for fascist politics, the mythic past is a tool for arousing emotions and nostalgia which are then linked to the fascist ideology of authoritarianism, hierarchy, purity and struggle. The strategic use of a mythological past, said Prof. Stanley, was explicit in German fascism. He quoted Alfred Rosenberg, editor of a Nazi newspaper, who in 1924 said, “the understanding of and respect for our own mythological past and our own history will form the condition for more firmly anchoring the coming generations in the soil of Europe’s original homeland.” Stanley concludes that the fascist mythic past exists to aid in changing present reality.
What are these elements of a mythical past? A patriarchal society led by a strong father, the provider, whose very strength is the source of legal and moral authority. However, that has been diminished by the advent of liberalism which has radically transformed the position of women. No longer are they content with motherhood, they can now join the military which was the exclusive preserve of men. So, there is nostalgia for the time when there was inequality between the sexes and when only two genders were recognized.
We may very well be on the road to fascism without even being aware of it, so how can we tell that we have taken the wrong fork of the road? Prof. Stanley gives us the warning signs: The goal of fascist ideology is to turn schools and universities into incubators of generations that will uphold the mythic past and its related hierarchical norms and traditions. For the fascists, schools and universities are there to indoctrinate national or racial pride conveying the glorious achievements of the dominant race or class. That is probably what is happening in the United States of America with the reinforcement of white supremacy, the “us and them” as a weapon against immigrants, especially the successful ones.
When myths are consistently and systematically presented as facts, then these become facts; when studied as truths, are mistaken for reality. Through the educational system, the mythic past is glorified as a “golden age” of progress, peace and prosperity. The myth makers (the ‘Us’) are elevated as achievers of the nation thus obscuring the history of those who do not belong (the “them.”)
For decades now, historians have taken up the task of decolonizing our history. Prof. Teodoro Agoncillo began the 1950’s and shocked even the Department of History of the University of the Philippines. Way before him, Jose Rizal was decolonizing our history when he meticulously annotated “Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas,” Antonio de Morga’s 17th century opus. In the battle against fascism, Prof. Stanley says that we will have to do a lot of “decolonizing” of tendentious perspectives, myths and fallacies that are purposefully incorporated in our education system. We have to ensure that present and future generation of students “have a full view of history’s actors. It is not just a matter of political correctness,” says the good professor, but of “representing the voices of all those whose existence has shaped and formed the world in which we live. Decolonizing provides an essential means of protection against fascist myths.”
Fascists have made inroads in government, academia, science and tri-media with the intention of corrupting these institutions and converting them into purveyors of deceit. Fascist politicians also abhor scientific language, healthy debates and a public language that is rich and varied in its vocabulary. “They degrade and debase the language of politics for the purpose of masking reality… Adolf Hitler was very explicit about impoverishing public discourse,” says Prof. Stanley.
“The receptive ability of the masses is very limited and their understanding small; they have a great power of forgetting…” said the Fuhrer himself.