Skip to content

EDSA ’86: From People Power to People Blunder

February 22, 2011

The EDSA ’86 celebrations are coming soon – and it will be the usual homage to “people power and revolution”, about freedom from the Marcos dictatorship, freedom of expression, freedom to assemble for peaceful redress of grievances, the right to a fair trial under due process of law.

Indeed nominally, we regained our “the freedom of speech, freedom to protest, freedom to travel, freedom to elect our representatives in the government, freedom to run for office, freedom from fear of being “salvaged,” freedom from dictatorial rule, freedom from exercising our human rights, ad infinitum.” – we kicked out the tyranny of one.

Freedom, from an existential perspective, cannot be separated from responsibility. With freedom comes responsibility. Yet, it is common for many people to seek freedom while trying to avoid responsibility. While, at times, it appears that people may be able to succeed at this, there remains a psychological consequence. This consequence is often not very noticeable, but may find expression through guilt, anxiety, depression, or even anger.

Existential freedom is not the same things as freedom in the political sense we often think of it in America. In fact, political freedom could be view to be a rather shallow, though not unimportant, type of freedom. A person can be existentially free despite not being politically free, and a person can avoid embracing their existential freedom despite being offered great political freedoms.

Freedom means many things to many people. There is even an assertion that freedom comes in three types – civic freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom. Martial law denied people civic freedoms, political freedom. It can’t be said that the modern Filipinos were denied economic freedom because they have never been free economically. How can there be economic freedom when not one of the Philippine constitutions opened the door to foreign investments since the Philippines became independent?

EDSA therefore merely restored the civic and political freedoms. EDSA ’86 however kept the Filipinos within the same protectionist economic policy framework that sustain monopolies and monopsonies. In economics, a monopsony (from Ancient Greek ????? (monos) “single” + ?????? (opso-nia) “purchase”) is a market form in which only one buyer faces many sellers. It is an example of imperfect competition, similar to a monopoly, in which only one seller faces many buyers. As the only purchaser of a good or service, the “monopsonist” may dictate terms to its suppliers in the same manner that a monopolist controls the market for its buyers.

For some, freedom means going beyond civic, political, and economic freedom – existential freedom. In fact, the former freedoms could be viewed as a rather shallow, though not unimportant, type of freedom. A person can be existentially free despite not being politically free, and a person can avoid embracing their existential freedom despite being offered great political freedoms. Given then that the Filipinos regained their civic and political freedoms after EDSA, the Filipinos have yet to embrace existential freedom. In connection with this concept – allow me to quote directly from the Center for Existential Depth Psychology Information website

Freedom, from an existential perspective, cannot be separated from responsibility. With freedom comes responsibility. Yet, it is common for many people to seek freedom while trying to avoid responsibility. While, at times, it appears that people may be able to succeed at this, there remains a psychological consequence. This consequence is often not very noticeable, but may find expression through guilt, anxiety, depression, or even anger.
***

Ways of Avoiding Responsibility

There are several common examples of how people avoid responsibility in American culture.

1 – Conformity is one good example. Americans pride themselves on being autonomous individuals to the point of idealizing individualism. However, upon closer analysis, Americans find extremely creative ways of giving up their freedom. Americans conform through blind allegiance to various organizations and institutions including political parties and religious institutions. This is not to say that being dedicated to either of these are bad. In fact, often they can lead to very positive outcomes. The problem comes with blind allegiance where a person gives up their responsibility to critically think through the beliefs, perspectives, and values of the organization. When this happens, the individual’s values are no longer authentic. When a person gives their allegiance to an external belief structure, they may go in one of several directions. First, they often will become very rigid in their allegiance to the organization or structure to which they have committed. This type of conformity can be seen through various forms of fundamentalism — religious, political, psychological systems, etc.

2 – Second, they may present as being very committed to a belief systems or organization, but they feel very comfortable bending the rules where it does fit their desires. It becomes easy to bend the rules because they are not really committed to the underlying values system. However, when a person is deeply committed to authentic moral or value principles, they are less willing to act in ways which contradict these principles. The principles are authentic.

3 – Another way avoid responsibility can occur through the belief that one is powerless. There can be many factors which are seen to render a person powerless. A person can perceive themselves as a victim of their environment, of various supernatural or spiritual forces, their unconscious, or a victim of their biology/genes. While an existential approach will recognize that all of these factors may influence a person, none of them render a person powerless or completely control them.

***
Freedom & Responsibility in Therapy

The process of change cannot begin until a person accepts responsibility. This is one of the difficult challenges of growth. In order to grow, a person must accept responsibility for what they have done to contribute to where they are at in life. If they have no responsibility, then they have little ability to change.

When applied to therapy, this could be taken to mean that the therapist must break through the walls of defense in order to help the client take responsibility. This is generally not consistent with the existential approach. Bugental (1987) provides some of the best illustrations of this. With his profound respect for the client, Bugental also shows a respect for the client’s defenses. Instead of forcing through defenses, they can be used as a guide to help the therapist know when the client is ready to go deeper into an issue. When the defenses are strong, the therapist respects the need for the defense and does not push on that issue at that time. However, when the defenses are lowered the therapist then can recognize that it is a good time to move deeper.

This is not to suggest there is never a time to confront or challenge a client’s defenses. Rather it recognizes that before this is done the therapist must recognize the value of the defense. It also suggests that defenses can be challenged or confronted in a softer manner. I like to use the metaphor of the invitation here. The job of the therapist is to continuously invite the client to examine the defenses and the issues which the defenses are protecting, yet always respect the client’s desire to not accept the invitation.

***

The Will and Agency

The will and agency are common words used to describe aspects of freedom in existential thought. ‘Will’ is a word that most people recognize, but have difficulty defining. One way of defining the will is to state that it is that aspect of the self which chooses or is free. In stating that people have a free will does not necessitate that they are entirely free. Rather, it is affirming that people are at least partially free. Few, if any, existential thinkers will deny that our biology, culture, and environment influence our actions and our will. However, none of these can take away the reality of some degree of personal freedom.

The idea of the will is a important point of divergence from classical psychodynamic/psychoanalytic perspectives which generally are much more pessimistic about how free a person can be (some approaches to contemporary or relational psychoanalysis are notable exceptions). This, in part, is due to conceptions of the unconscious. While both theories generally agree that we have an unconscious which can never be fully known, existential theories typically believe that the unconscious can be much more known than what psychodynamic theorists believe.

Agency is a complex term that many struggle with. In essence, a person is acting as an agent when they are exercising their will. Human beings sometimes act in a manner that is completely passive. That is, although they have the potential for will, they do not exercise it. In these instances, they are not acting as free agents; instead, they are merely acting as automatons or products of those forces which influence the individual. Therefore, the potential for agency is part of the human condition, but it is a part often not utilized.

http://www.existential-therapy.com/Special_Topics/Freedom_and_Responsibility.htm

These ways of avoiding responsibility are even more widespread in the Philippines given the culture of pakikisama and utang na loob. Most Filipinos have become as automatons or products of ABS-CBN, Inquirer, and mainstream media’s mind fuck.

Instead of Marcos tyranny of one – we replaced it with the tyranny of the many – the idiocracy. And so look at how we use our freedoms today:

  • we use our freedom of speech to spread hearsay and label people as guilty without due process of law;
  • we use our freedom to protest just about anything without even knowing the nitty gritty details what it is we are protesting about;
  • we have the freedom to travel – and dump trash wherever we travel;
  • we have the freedom to elect representatives – and we keep on electing morons, idiots, and thieves;
  • we have freedom from fear of being “salvaged” in lieu we have fear from being “hostaged”, “kidnapped”, “raped”, “massacred”;
  • do we really have freedom from dictatorial rule when the selection of cabinet appointees are based on the preferences of an unaccountable unelected kitchen cabinet?

This continuing failure however does not absolve Ferdinand Marcos from the crimes perpetrated by the AFP on Filipino citizens.Nor do the crimes of Ferdinand Marcos absolve Filipinos from the crimes they commit against each other but also upon themselves.

Lastly, Bongbong Marcos was quoted as saying that Philippines would have been like Singapore if EDSA didn’t take take place. I doubt that very much because the Marcos Constitution also retained the protectionist provisions which hobble the Philippine economy. It would have been more like North Korea, with Bongbong Marcos as Kim Dae Jung.

From People Power to People Blunder.

From → Philippines, Society

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: