Social climbers

Recently, the issue of Hacienda Luisita has grabbed news headlines and the attention of the public once again.

This time, it is over a supposed ‘settlement’ reached between farm workers of the hacienda and management. In the agreement, the former will get only a third of the estate’s lands, equivalent to the fact that they also own a third of Hacienda Luisita Inc.’s stocks. The spokesperson (official, and non-official) of the new administration, as well as the new emperor’s sycophants, were quick to applaud it as “the end of a two-decade dispute”. Progressives, on the other hand, have criticized it on two fronts: on the fact that is unfair (because the farm workers deserve the entire estate, and a host of other unfair loopholes), and the fact that those who signed the deal are not really representatives of the farm workers.

Thankfully, some netizens and Facebookers have actually done their research before shooting their mouths off: They know that when Luisita was bought from the original Spanish owners with a Central Bank loan, the agreement was that the estate would be redistributed to the peasants before the 70s. They also know that only farm workers, through their labor, make the land productive. Some have even seen first-hand the fact that the farm workers are better off now that they have occupied a part of the land and have collectively farmed it with rice and vegetables.

Unfortunately, most outspoken netizens have bought the ruling classes’ propaganda hook, line, and sinker.

From people whose ancestors have been chained to the land in semi-slavery conditions, they have been portrayed as lazy people (or in the words of an Aquino sister laki sa layaw). From people who have endured the terroristic presence of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in their homes since the 2004 massacre, they have been portrayed as greedy people. And the progressives who remained the only allies the farm workers had left, they are portrayed as interfering outsiders. Even the farm workers’ pro bono legal counsel who has endured countless threats to his life, he has been portrayed as someone who is in it for the money.

One would be pre-disposed to believe that this is proof of Hitler’s theory on propaganda: The masses will fall more easily to the big lie. Even if it is totally divorced from reality, the fact that the same propaganda line is constantly repeated by the ABS-CBN (Aquino, Benigno Simeon-CojuangcoBroadcasting Network), PDI (Presidential Daily Informer), and others, makes it more believable.

But modern psychology has already relegated the “bullet theory of propaganda” to the waste bin of pseudo-science. Why then do a lot of people side with the thieves, instead of the victims?

A lot of people sympathize with the Cojuangcos because they want to be like them too. In their desire to progress from their middle-class origins, they have (either consciously or subconsciously) acquired the ideas, values, and traits (also known as ‘ideology’) of the class that they want to belong to. That’s why they sympathize with the thieves, instead of the victims. They are offended because the Cojuangco-Aquinos would be offended. But even more so, they are offended because they cannot accept the fact that ‘these freeloading peasants’ could get ‘something for nothing’ (at least in their perspective).

The Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong got it right when he said that in any given situation or society, the population can be divided into three sections: the ‘advanced’, the ‘middle’, and the ‘backward’. The backward section is always for the status quo. And even in sectors/classes which Marxists term as ‘revolutionary’, there are all ‘backward sections’ because of the influence of the ruling classes’ culture.

But some friends have better, more apt terms for these kinds of people: social climbers.

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