“THE nutribun is a lie,” said one placard.
And with this the credibility of the anti-Marcos rallies may just have taken a hit.
After all, how can one deny the existence of the nutribun?
Nutribun is a type of bread whose formula was developed by nutritionists at the University of Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and was later used as part of the campaign during the term of President Ferdinand Marcos to combat child malnutrition. Using ingredients donated by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the PL 480 Title II food aid program, this healthy bread was mass-produced, and delivered daily to public elementary schools all over the country. Because of this program of the Marcos administration that started in 1972, severe malnutrition in children was reported to have declined drasticallyfrom five percent to lower than one percent. As the incidence of malnutrition declined, the program was phased out in the mid-1980s.
The existence of nutribun coincided with the martial law period, which lasted from 1972 until 1981. And for many, it is a ubiquitous reminder of something that was positive about what otherwise is presented as a reign of terror. No one whose early education was in the public school system can ever deny, more so forget, its existence.
It would have been plausible to imagine that to many who lived through that period, whose relatives or parents were not involved in the anti-Marcos struggle, and whose lives were unaffected by the abuses, the nutribun may have been the most vivid image of what martial law may have meant.
The statement “the nutribun is a lie” is actually a recasting of the meme “the cake is a lie” which is associated with a video game called “Portal” played mostly by millennial gamers. The game uses the image of a cake as a motivation, a reward after solving a puzzle, which in the end turns out to be a lie.
Thus, this meme is something that only video gamers would understand. Being a meme about deception, one can only surmise that the appropriation of it in an anti-Marcos rally, using the nutribun to replace the cake, was an attempt to taunt the Marcos regime, with the hope that the message of deception and lying would be read by the crowd.
But the opposite occurred. Instead of indicting the lies and deceptions of Marcos and martial law, the placard bearing “the nutribun is a lie” has become the indictable lie.
This faux pas is symptomatic of the predicament of the anti-Marcos forces. Older generations of activists have no choice but to transfer their political activism to the millennial generation. However, many in this generation rely only on the narratives of horror that they have been told about martial law, by parents, teachers and authority figures who lived through the horrors or are sympathetic to the causes of those times, who tend to impose rather than allow them to make their own independent conclusions. These millennials mostly come from elite schools.
Unfortunately, the martial law narratives are not organically rooted in the worldview of theseelitist millennials,where the culture of Starbucks, happy Thursdaysand the video game “Portal”have all taken residence. Martial law remains as a tale of horror that they are asked to understand, but can never authentically relate to.
This is the worldview of a generation that when forced to become the torchbearers to continue the anti-Marcos struggle, and embed themselves in mass mobilization which older generations of activists know very well, will be lost in translation.
This is a generation whose image of a crowd is defined in concerts and rave parties.
Their anger will be expressed not in political slogans, but in personal slurs. Theirs is a culture of appearances and simulations. They think that insulting the physical appearance of Sandro and Imee Marcos is equivalent to condemning the structural oppressions which the surname Marcos implies. Their coño language is one that does not embody an ideology for social change, but one that appropriates memes that only they would understand, like “the cake is a lie,” to be the signifier of their resistance, which in the end reveals them to be detached and clueless.
This generation of elitist millennials may be adept with the shift in engaging in political warfareaway from the streets and into social media.One just has to read the placards they carried at the Luneta and EDSA to see that these are extensions of social media bashing, where they have practically “memed” politics. Yet they do not have the stamina and the savvy to wage street warfare.
Meanwhile, the masa that the elitists demean, the one subsisting on free internet, are still very good in street battles, even as they have now also invaded social media, and are as good in waging a political war there. This is the masa many of whom would probably still vividly remember the nutribun.
In this scenario, the elitist millennials would lose.