For Lyotard, the narrative is simply an attempt at
explanation, to account for and justify the presence of something. He names two
kinds: the metarécits or grand
narrative and the petit récits. Taking
the Foucauldian perspective, the grand historical narrative that is Philippine
History enables “discipline” – defined as a mechanism of power which regulates
the behavior of individuals in the social body1.
At the same time, it is a manifestation of gouverneméntalité
(governmentality)2 or as an organized
practice (mentalities, rationalities, and techniques) through which subjects
are governed. The utilizing of a grand historical narrative is actually
advantageous for it capitalizes on the concept of a “shared past”3
and is “a culmination of a long past of endeavors, sacrifice, and devotion”4.
And the interesting element that a grand historical narrative employs in order
to fabricate a “shared past” is nostalgia. Svetlana Boym defines nostalgia as
“longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed…a sentiment of
loss and displacement…also a romance with one’s own fantasy…image of
nostalgia is a double exposure, or a superimposition of two images—of home and
abroad, of past and present, of dream and everyday life5.”
According to her, it is the institutionalization of nostalgia and development
of the concept of nationalism that allowed for the incorporation of it into the
arts, thereby creating for it a function deemed fitting by the state. Through
this institutionalization, the state would propagate and capitalize on a
collective kind of “nostos” or
longing – a longing not only for an Eden lost but also a place of sacrifice and
glory, and most especially for Renan, past suffering. This shared longing soon
transforms into a viable component to achieve the fostering of collective
belonging or communion.
everything into account, let us provide an example as to how powerful the
presence of a grand historical metanarrative is: the appeal and ingeniousness
of the Duterte campaign slogan, “Change is coming.” In What is A Nation¸ Ernest Renan speaks of how collective grief
inspired from shared suffering amongst the people is more potent a bonding
agent than triumph would ever be6.
Activists’ indignation against the United States as the imperial colonizer,
Comfort women still demanding compensation as victims of war during the
Japanese Occupation, the lingering resentment felt regarding the Spanish
government’s decision to kill Rizal – it is in pain, suffering, and grief that
we are reminded of who we are: a people who have been wronged and made to be
victims. And so we characteristically yearn for and place all our hopes on a
better future or “magandang bukas”,
if you will. This is a stark difference from that of the West, if one were to
understand the popularity of Trump’s “Make America Great Again”, which exploits
the idea of a mythic past restored as the only hope for a future vis-à-vis
Duterte’s “Change is Coming” that dwells more on a better future wholly
different from a mistake-ridden, oppressive past. The Duterte campaign slogan
promises the beginning of a grand metanarrative that would launch a Third-World
nation like ours to progress, which ironically enough hinges on the existence
of another grand metanarrative positing itself as historical – the circulating
slanderous metanarrative of how the Aquinos and the “dilawan” Liberal Party are
accountable for plunging the country in a state of non-progress. Banking on
this desire for a better future, the state which is headed by Duterte therefore
frames itself as the country’s salvation (exercise of pastoral power) and
validates the unscrupulous methods it uses to rid the country of its ills
through this. Bound by earlier, aforementioned desire, the state finds itself
with a large number of staunch supporters ready to defend and legitimize its
existence as an institution of power. For this group, the metanarrative
promised by “Change is coming” enforces itself as absolute and those who would
dare question it are thereby automatically labelled as an enemy of both the
state and the people (what Foucault would say an exercise of discipline and
administering of punishment). And although as helpful as historical
metanarratives are in the unification of a people and establishment of a
nation, one must consider that there are still problematic facets to them, in
terms of their tendency to totalize themselves as the truth, their
predisposition to favor themselves and delegitimize the existence of other
local narratives, as well as their ironic bent for irrationality in order to
avow their own rationalities7.
the end, the source of power for the entirety of a nation and the system that
keeps everything alive does hinge itself upon the power of the people. The
state is an entity which is not in itself a primary source of power. It takes
power from and legitimizes itself through its citizens who willingly submit to
its will, in exchange for the fulfillment of what they desire. Seeing as
citizenship is grounded on the concept of the nation, the state must therefore
aim to propagate an atmosphere of communality amongst its people to safeguard
the existence of the nation. And in order to go about that, it uses a grand
historical narrative that capitalizes on the element of nostalgia, in order to
bring to mind the conception of a collective past for the social body. Provided
the problematic aspects of it is reconciled, a grand historical narrative
proves that it can be a solution in undertaking a feat earlier thought
impossible all along – the unification of a country fraught with its fair share
of odds like ours.
1 Michel Foucault. Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the
2 Michel Foucault. Birth of
Biopolitics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, p. 7.
3 Jean-Ernest Renan. “What Is A
Nation?”. Becoming National: A Reader, 1966, p. 19.
4 Ibid. p. 19.
5 Svetlana Boym. The Future of Nostalgia, 2001, p. 8.
6 Jean-Ernest Renan. “What Is A
Nation?”. Becoming National: A Reader, 1966, p. 19.
7 Lyra Lee Bolivar. “Incredulity Towards Metanarratives”: Lyotard
and Metanarratives in the Present-Day, 2017, p. 5.