EDSA as a Non/Pseudo-Event: a Disavowal

From 1986 to 2015, the EDSA revolution has been hailed by the foreign and local intelligentsia as the peaceful resistance par excellence, an achievement of religious and supposedly post-ideological praxis. As a mass movement, it was not started by the left but the church and bolstered the political power of the hero’s widow by the sound of cheering crowds with rosaries instead of banner, novenas instead of Maoist quotations. It seems at that point, credibility belongs to the post-ideological claim of ordinary people combating tyranny instead of joining the wide leftist movements. Today at its 29th year, EDSA stands as the concentration of power by the Aquino family, a dynasty that has not bought change despite the clarion calls that put it into power. This essay attempts precisely to go down to the very source of the dominance of the Aquino ideology in its most sickening manifestation in Kenneth Masong’s essay “The Evental Subject: the Concept of the Human Person in Alain Badiou’s Event Metaphysics.” His essay argues that the placement of Cory Aquino as president follows the same process as the Badiouan evental subject and for that matter she is an exemplary figure ensuing radical social change (on par with St. Paul) (Masong, 18). Clearly what occurred in 1986 is not an event but a pseudo-event and already constitutes fidelity for the false event. What is at work is not a revolutionary praxis but simply a strong reactionary force that ended up with a dehumanization of the Marcos era and ends with the legitimization of the Aquino hegemony in the 1986 Mendiola Massacre and the 1989 coup attempt.

The aim here is to disavow the truth which in the first place was never true at all but a mirage of the truth processes involved in the historical process.

Disavowal: the Ontology of Pseudo-event

            In Paul Ricoeur’s Lectures on Ideology and Utopia, ideology’s role is both legitimizing and distortive, following the two-fold definitions from Karl Marx and Jurgen Habermas. But what Ricoeur adds is the necessary gap between two elements in ideology i.e. between the giver of the ideology and the given (the object) of ideology (Ricoeur 1986, 183). In order to legitimize the present order, ideology attempts to fill the gap by presenting its own utopian vision towards the recipient of the ideological discourse. In this description, the truth of ideology and its constitutive elements start in the beginning and solidify itself onwards. The effect is that ideology becomes deeply entrenched in the social sphere that it loses its ideological character. Only then does utopia become a crucial instrument that questions the present political order.

Along this process, ideology presents its narrative, possessing the narrative symbols that construct its own coordinative horizon and all further discourses written during and after the legitimizing process occurs within the horizon of the present ideology discourse ad even the attempt at the criticism of the present state of affairs is a legitimization of the present ideological order. In this way, we can understand Slavoj Zizek’s statement that even the attempt to escape ideology, we are still within ideology (cf. Pervert’s Guide to Ideology). Ricoeur’s optimism lies precisely on his conception of utopia that aims to provoke thinking, leading to a critical turn against the distortion of ideology. Such works as Gulliver’s Travels, 1984 and Clockwork Orange are points that present itself to thinking and aims to disrupt the present ideology order. However, the problem in this description lies at the point in which Ricoeur viewed ideology. By being a legitimating tool, ideology is directly imposed on the social sphere at the same time the process is maintained that legitimization is the sole instrument by which any political figure legitimizes itself and maintains power. What he missed is the factor of enjoyment in being within the gaze of ideological discourse.

The Ricoeurian definition is the notion of ideology that presents itself as itself with no simulations since to contain simulations directly violates its purpose as a tool for legitimacy. What is interesting at this stage is that ideology in presenting itself directly makes it possible to criticize its processes. In this case, albeit rejecting Ricoeur’s conception of ideological legitimization, we can go beyond it by saying that in order for the whole process of ideology to occur there must be a pseudo-event or the single most elements within ideology that presents itself, returns to itself even in the midst of scrutiny. Narrative symbols offer us that kind of returning point but entails that any critique of ideology is a turning back through Ariadne’s thread. Now these narrative symbols[1] are genuine ideological instruments but they are a product of a primary process that comes from a previous determination. Both this previous determination prior to the narrative symbol and the genuine evental process take the same rules but the fundamental difference is that the event is saturated, resisting determination from being while the determination prior to narrative symbols are over determined but paradoxically they appear as events in the artificial sense or as “seemings of events.” This determination can thus be named as a “pseudo-event.”

Already in the Ticklish Subject, Zizek describes the falsity of the Nazi/Fascist revolution. Both the October Revolution and the rise of the Nazi party contain revolutions and the replacement of one social order to another. In Nazism however, the event is a false one since in changing the Weimar Republic nothing really changed and the same social antagonism still occurred and the same enslavement to capital was maintained (Zizek 2000, 194). At this point, the pseudo-event takes all the form of an event, goes through the same Badiouan truth-proceeses; but it missed the fundamental point because it subverts the very logic of the event as a “crack on being,” as nothing but gets over determined, creating an artificial saturation. By saturating the pseudo-event, the process of drawing forth its narrative gets perverted and entails that criticism that claims gains the ruling ideology still returns to the saturated zero point that is the pseudo-event.

Investment in the pseudo-event also takes on the same guise as the fidelity to an event. The commitment of subjects with the pseudo-event corresponds to an enjoyment in the other’s gaze, conforming to the symbolic atmosphere created by the false event. Any alternative view or criticism always occurs within the confines and coordinates of the false event and the subject submitted to this criticism submits himself to a hesitation since the sway of the pseudo-event is rooted deep beneath the symbolic sphere, it is already ingrained within factuality. No event even a genuine one can sweep up the hole left by the false event since after the false event by virtue of its being, there is nothing. We see this in the historical denial in the Japanese system of education in which World War II and the Sino-Japanese War are small footnotes to Japanese history and the atrocities of the Imperial Army relegated into the shadows. Also the laws banning the publication of Mein Kampf in former German occupied countries testify to the hole left by the perverted investment to the false event.

A genuine act of liberation only occurs when the false event is recognized in itself as a seeming. False events are not cracks of being but ontic happenings void of an ontological flavour. Events open up a world as subjects become subjects through them and do not follow the logic of being. Being follows from the event of its own unfolding and sudden entrance to our ontological field. Such was Badiou’s description of the event in St. Paul’s conversion. However, the false event is a development from the ontotheological constitution of being. Its status as event only occurs after it has been over determined and saturated by the discourse of ideology. After false event, there is nothing to overshadow it and attempts to deny it and criticize it are rejected as utopian visions that either present unreal dreams or a legitimization of a past dictatorial epoch. It is a realism par excellence. It contains two crucial determining points: while the event is a universalizing process, the false event contains a utopia and a dehumanization of someone or something (like the Jews in the case of the Nazis). Liberation from the false event is a recognition of itself as ontotheologically constituted with its own heaven and hell and a conception of itself with the full knowledge that beyond it lies nothing. In that case, disavowal or the withdrawal of investment is in itself an event, since it forges a crack on being and unleashes itself to the false event’s own void, thus gaining full consciousness of its own falsity creating his own destiny within the nothingness left by the false event.

Only from such disavowal can we draw our own destiny after the false event. It does not legitimate nor entertain political nostalgia or a return to some glorious golden age but a path is presented: there is no path in front of us.

EDSA 1986 is a false event and subsequent denialisms are simply engagement in political nostalgia. Much of the resistance to disavow the 1986 revolution is brought by the hesitation of all intellectual theorization to view the falsity of 1986. The move has always been a “failure after 1986” or a “path towards the unfinished business of democracy in the Philippines.” Both moves agree on the same point i.e. the genuine character of the 1986 revolution. Denialism has been demonized as the legitimization of the Marcos dictatorship

So far, historical revisionism has been towards interpreting the 1986 revolution as a start of a failure but nevertheless, the revisionism done by Marcos lackeys are simply legitimizations of a much prior stage: pre-Martial law Marcos administration. The romanticism with the past glorious days of Metropolitan Manila has become the paradigm for change and with calls to preserve the old heirlooms of the old Manila; the old coño nostalgia is soon becoming prevalent revisionism in the dreams of the young. In this case, the historical methodology and hermeneutics operate under the gaze of several “Big Others”, stabilizing the interpretative horizon of the revisionist effort regarding the 1986 revolution.

    The question therefore is “what must be done after the disavowal?” Clearly, it does not not include revisionism and a legitimization; both reciprocate in the ontology of false events, requiring other false events to take its place in a convenient ontotheologically constituted reality. What must be done after the disavowal? The nothingness left by the disavowal of the false event has to be recognized and the destiny afterwards must be submitted to thinking. The incapability to think and the ideology of liberalism, infected by the cult of the Aquino personality has blurred all notions of hope after the disavowal. After the disavowal, there is nothing left to be done but to think and the intellectual responsibility after the disavowal becomes the primary occupation.

What must to be done is a new intellectualization and a new form of thinking. Action is thinking and action without the guidance of a genuine thinking that thinks about the nothing slowly disintegrates to an engagement to finding new false events to fill in the gap left by the void of the disavowal.

[1] In my paper (still in the developmental phase since I haven’t edited it for further plan of publication) “Ideology as Narrative Symbols: Developing Paul Ricoeur’s Solution to the Problem of Authority,” I develop the notion of narrative symbols in more detail.

EDSA as a Non/Pseudo-Event: a Disavowal

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