The intellectual mess we are in

January 27, 2006

The intellectual mess we are in. Nicky, Right now, 1337 hours 26 January, my wife and I are watching Straight Talk Cito Beltran interviewing Panjie Lopez and Susan Calalay at ANC. And right now I’m reading your editorial ‘Have we betrayed Rizal?’ I’m happy with them, I’m unhappy with you.

Yes, as Susan says, ‘Change must come from within.’ Yes, as Panjie says, ‘We want to show the other side, the positive side. We want to shift focus, we are creating a whole new world for our children.’

Sorry, but I find I must disagree with you. No, we have not betrayed Rizal. What we have done is betray ourselves. When we denounce the government, we are denouncing ourselves – we are the government.

Apathy is something we learned from (a defense mechanism against the abuses of) the Spaniards (read again his ‘Indolence of the Filipinos’), and even Jose Rizal failed to awaken us from our ‘profound lethargy’ (his exact words). The Filipinos awakened long enough to drive the Spaniards out, but not long enough to drive the Americans out. Our apathy is historical, ancient. And no, we did not do anything about the corruption in government except to intensify it from the first Republic to this one. Who was it who said, ‘I prefer a government run by hell by Filipinos then run by heaven by Americans!’ That’s what we got – be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. And no, corruption is not to be blamed on the corrupt – it must be blamed on the corruptor, who is us.

About the current political mess we are in, we brought it to ourselves and nobody else. Why, don’t we know how to get out of it? We do, but the noisy among us who can catch the attention of the media do nothing except complain. We are willing tools of those who are out who want in.

About the translation of Rizal’s valedictory poem, I have just published a book based on my own English translation; I titled my translation ‘Adios, Beloved Patria’ – if you’re interested, you can go to The one you are quoting from is that of Alzona and Abeto (1961) – in my blogsite, you can see if it belongs to my Top 10 English translations or not. In my book, Rizal’s ultimate poem has a surprising one-word message: Love. Love your friends. Love your enemies! What greater love has a man than to die for his friends – and enemies? And I like that commandment because it’s impossible to love your enemies. God must be a sadist. That is, if in the first place you think it’s impossible. That is, if all you do is hate your enemies because it’s easier – no sweat.

No, Nicky, Rizal did not die to liberate his country from Spanish colonization. He was not after independence, or political liberation. Rather, he was after spiritual liberation. He died hoping to set his countrymen free from the tyranny of the friars as masters as well as set the Filipinos free from their own tyranny, the tyranny of their own inferiority complex which they acquired from and was nurtured by the Spaniards themselves for so many centuries. His fight can be summarized in three words, and these are his own words: Education, education, education.

You can call it imperialism, but globalization is here, and it is an irresistible force and we are not an immovable object. So, what do we do? We compete. We compete with our best. We rise to the occasion. You can derail the meeting of the WTO, but that is all we do. And not again. Nothing positive.

Bad Philippine politics is not practiced by the politicians – it is practiced by the small men, the men in the street, and the men with money. The ones who cater for special favors, the ones who beg for jobs, the ones who buy public works contracts, the ones who will pay anything so that they can get what they want. These are the real politicians, the real corruptors. We have seen the enemy, and it is us.

It is time to stop complaining about corruption, about the Philippines being #2 among the corrupt countries in the world – why, the amount stolen by our politicians is nothing compared to the amount stolen by only one head honcho in the United States! And yet you don’t call the United States #1 in corruption. What about corrupt morals? The United States exports war – war can never be justified. Abortion too.

I no longer look at the Noli as if it were the best novel any Filipino in any language can write. It is not. It is very funny, yes; it is excellent satire, yes. In that sense, it is probably the best novel the Filipino has ever written. But it is also history, as Rizal said it is, but it is bad history like his annotation of Morga’s Sucesos de las Islas Pilipinas is good history. I don’t know about you, but I am a Roman Catholic (again), and I am sorry to tell you that the Noli is not a fair presentation of things Catholic. Rizal mistakes the practices of the Catholics with Catholicism. The excesses of the friars (and their flocks) are not the excesses of Catholicism; they are wrong practices arising from correct theory (dogma). Yes, there were Popes who were dupes, as someone said, but they were following their own dictates, not the dictates of Catholicism. If you blame Catholicism for the bad practices of Catholics, then you must blame government (policies) for the corrupt practices of government (persons).

You are wrong when you say that what we have today is ‘a government that is totally rejected by most Filipinos.’ In fact, most Filipinos don’t care! (I care – I’m pro-GMA, no matter what: ‘He who has no sin, let him cast the first stone!’) That’s precisely why we need such movements as your Karangalan. That’s precisely what Rizal was complaining and did something about – he wrote the Noli. On my part, I have written a book invoking the spirit of Rizal: indios bravos! Jose Rizal as Messiah of the Redemption. If you didn’t realize it, Karangalan is part of the continuing Rizal revolution. My book says I am an active part of that revolution. What Rizal wanted to do was redeem the Filipinos from the sins of the Spaniards and from the sins unto themselves. And I have only one message in my book: Redemption is a do-it-yourself thing. You cannot shout at a corrupt government to redeem you, not even a good government. If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself. In that sense, I agree with the raison d’etre for Karangalan.

Why are not the youth coming forth to prove Rizal right in saying they are the hope of the fatherland? Because we adults have not shown them good examples except to march in the streets and carry placards and denounce people. That is not positive. The youth are discouraged by their elders saying one thing and doing the opposite. Who wants to listen to denunciations everyday? We have not given our youth the alternative of thinking better than we do. Our schools do not teach them creative thinking, only critical thinking. So I’m not surprised that after they criticize, they go their way and you will find them in Internet cafes playing games. (By the way, better than doing drugs!)

We do not have to die like Rizal to sacrifice for our country. It is enough that we do the best we can whatever we are supposed to be doing. That is heroism enough. But we are not teaching this to our children, to the youth. We are not teaching this to our teachers. Our teachers don’t have time to learn to think creatively because they are out in the streets demonstrating. We have to will ourselves to do something positive.

We have betrayed ourselves. And only we can right the wrong we have done. If only we will. Panjie is right; she is doing what she can, like buying organic. Like not lying. And Susan is right: she is doing what she can, like not cheating in business. All we have to do is do things right, whatever we are doing, and we will be all right. Social transformation cannot happen overnight. Even the greatest teacher in the world couldn’t do it. Otherwise, it’s ningas cogon, a fast burn. That’s why I too believe in what Karangalan is doing: a slow burn.

Frank A Hilario

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