Now, his memory will be emblazoned on shirts sold by some popular local brands, on billboards along the capital’s major avenues, on television, in the newspapers and on the Internet.
That’s the iamninoy project in a nutshell: a merchandising campaign that prostitutes Ninoy Aquino’s image (euphemistically called his ‘memory’) in the same way that Che Guevarra’s handsome mug is now seen on everything from t-shirts to toilet seat covers (i kid you not!). Way to go spreading “the man’s spirit and values within pop culture.”
The “iamninoy” collectible merchandise—mostly clothes, eyewear and sports gear—will bear an image of Aquino’s eyeglasses as the campaign icon.
“The idea is to inspire young Filipinos to look at where we are now and what is it that we need to change in ourselves, so in the process we can change the country,” Raphael Lopa, executive director of the foundation, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.
“It’s seeing the country in Ninoy’s eyes,” Lopa said.
I own a heath ledger-as-the-Joker t-shirt. I suppose “the man’s spirit and values” are ingrained in me now. Wait … why so serious, Mr. Lopa? LOL!
This moronic scheme, hatched by the Benigno Aquino Jr. Foundation, “ride(s) the buying trend of the young Filipinos of today.”
“Young people want to buy things [and] we thought that if they buy a Ninoy shirt, they may be inspired to claim ownership of his values and beliefs, his fight for freedom and justice,” Lopa said.
So, it’s not just a crass attempt at cashing in on Ninoy’s death, its also a way of promoting crass commercialism. As if having a Starbucks franchise within the school grounds of a high-school campus weren’t bad enough, we have to wrap consumerism in the flag and tell kids – a vast majority of whom spend money they haven’t earned – it’s ok to buy stuff because it might – MIGHT – inspire you to fight for freedom and justice. What stupidity is that?
ninoy is not bono
The “iamninoy” project was inspired by rock star and activist Bono, who launched “Project Red” in 2006 to fight HIV and AIDS in Africa, and bicycle racer Lance Armstrong for his “Livestrong” campaign to help people with cancer live healthy lives.
The two men partnered with several companies to offer products under their respective campaigns to raise funds for their causes.
Here’s where the Foundation started to screw up, thinking that Ninoy is Bono. Both the Red and Livestrong projects are fund raisers. These are attempts at creative capitalism where the consumerism of the haves is made somehow beneficial for the have-nots.
Believe it or not, people who buy Red products or those yellow baller IDs don’t really bother learning about AIDS or cancer. It is enough for them to know that a bit of their money went to some kid with HIV or to some cancer victim. It’s a frigging psychological comfort; a salve for the guilt that comes with the power to purchase.
But that isn’t the avowed purpose of the iamninoy project, is it?
Said Lopa: “With this campaign, we want the young people to see the country and [its] problems and create a full experience of having to make a very important choice, like what Ninoy did, [that may eventually change] the destiny of our country.”
IS the purchase of an iamninoy product supposed to make Ninoy more significant in your life? Are you going to look at your Ninoy t-shirt and go “what would ninoy do?” Is your Ninoy wristwatch going to make you more punctual? Or prevent you from slipping that hundred peso bill to the traffic cop who pulled you over for running the rd light because you were late for work? HAH! Not fucking likely.
Ninoy isn’t Bono; Ninoy isn’t Lance Armstrong; and even if you got every single fucking Ninoy collectible, you are not fucking going to be Ninoy.
In fact, who is Ninoy, and what makes him a hero?
What does Ninoy actually represent, other than that he was a victim of a dictator (just like hundreds of other public intellectuals, labor leaders, journalists, and so on)?
Kids today don’t know squat about him, or about what he did. His place in our pantheon of heroes was secured for him by the fact that he was assassinated. Prior to that, he was just one of the many who were victimized by the Marcoses. Fine, he was primus inter pares or something, but at the end of the day, I tend to admire more those who stayed and lived their lives in constant danger of death, rather than those who fled.
I mean, Joma is in the Netherlands, isn’t he? And don’t we all laugh at how he runs the communists here by remote control? Well, if you’re being honest about it, that was exactly what Ninoy’s exile was all about.In the meantime that he was gone, people at home were being harassed, hounded into the hills, and getting impoverished by the importunings of the dictator.
The only time he returned was when, according to him, he felt that the time was right to convince Marcos to hand over the reins of government to him in order to prevent the turmoil that would inevitably result when Marcos died and his lieutenants began fighting for their share of empire (kinda like how Alexander’s generals – Ptolemy and all the rest – carved up Alexander’s empire into smaller kingdoms). Sure he braved death, but at least part of that bravery was openly motivated by the will to power. Not very heroic that, eh?
Ah, but here’s the prestige.
When he returned and died everyone rallied around him as a SYMBOL. And that’s what made him the hero he is today. As heroes go, he is being packaged as a kind of messianic figure – a secular Jesus almost – whose greatest contribution was that his death moved US to fight for our freedom.
Get that right.
Ninoy Aquino’s death didn’t free us.
We freed ourselves.
What sets him apart from all his peers – people like Tanada and Salonga – is that his death happened at the right time and under the right circumstances that allowed it to be used by US as the seed of OUR revolution. The idea of him being killed by the dictator gave us the focal point we needed for our simmering discontent to boil over into massive mobilization. Except, of course, if Ninoy hadn’t died, he would have succeeded Marcos (prolly) and his feet would be touching the same base clay as Salonga and Tanada, and the discontent would have escaped into the atmosphere as nothing more than so much vented steam.
In fact, the EDSA revolution wasn’t even about Ninoy, was it? It was about Enrile and Ramos battling their way out of corners they’d found themselves painted into. It was Cardinal Sin who turned it into a Ninoy Aquino lovefest – and to great effect. The soldiers Enrile and Ramos were smart enough to recognize a tactical advantage and were quick to jump on the bandwagon.
But when the smoke had cleared, the two soldiers parted ways: Enrile clandestinely sought to continue his coopted coup – making the Cory Administration the most coup-bedeviled regime; while Ramos embraced the new order and ended up President.
iamninoy positioning Ninoy Aquino as the coffee-club hero
But no one remembers that now. Or at least, no one wants to remember it that way. Which isn’t to say that Ninoy is no longer relevant.
The cool kids and the kids with money to burn on iamninoy merchandise, they’re the same untethered bunch who, in between cups of coffee frap, cast about for an intellectual way of fighting the perceived injustices of a system that is – all things considered – treating them pretty well. And Ninoy is nothing if not a hero on an intellectual level in that his heroism is is rooted in the willingness to sacrifice a comfortable life for a higher goal – something that the coffee-sipping clique all loudly proclaim from the comfort and security of their middle-class lives. And so, it is a perfect fit.
Radical street fighters love Bonifacio the brawler; while the cool, coffee-club kids who rail against injustice at Starbucks adore Ninoy (when they bother to think about it, at least) who won the martyrdom they’ve all convinced themselves they will be capable off – when the time is right to leave the latte behind. And the iamninoy merchandise? Well, it’s a way of proclaiming that capability to all and sundry, without having to say a word.
All that aside …
As an aside – if the idea is to get kids to buy this crap to give them an entry point to some nobler ideas like patriotism, then what entry point will there be for kids who can’t afford to buy the merchandise? Oh, but I forget, this campaign isn’t really high-minded enough to aspire for any kind of egalitarianism, is it? It’s targeted at kids who have money to burn.