My son got married last Friday at a garden gazebo in the home of his bride’s parents along a stream on the U.S. East Coast. His best friend from England, whom he has known since middle school in Wells, southwest of London, came over to officiate the civil wedding.
My mother and I attended after a few days on the West Coast, visiting relatives and hosting a prenuptial dinner for the betrothed couple and our clan in America. Also at the wedding were the bride’s two elder sisters and their families, as well as my daughter, her husband and their baby girl, and my children’s mother.
As we forged and savored the new ties of love and family, my journalist’s constant news-monitoring sense did not allow me to shut out the disturbing, if not appalling news back home and around the world.
The intensifying political tensions in Manila over President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s push to rule beyond 2016 and curb the Judiciary’s power to review and restrain Malacañang and Congress. There is Monday’s giant rally to hold him accountable for the pork barrel scandal, reprising the largest demonstration under him a year ago.
Overseas, the confrontation between Moscow, Kiev and the latter’s Western backers neared another feared flashpoint with Russian artillery firing into Ukraine, even as its purported aid convoy looked set to cross the border despite Ukrainian objections.
US news was also full of anguish, anger and animosity over the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the brutal Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), as well as the fatal shooting of an African-American youth by a Caucasian policeman in Missouri.
Island of joy in ocean of misery?
With these ugly realities intruding in the mind and on surrounding media, I could not escape the disturbing thought that our week of wedding love and bliss and family affection, prosperity and peace were an unreal island of joy amid a worldwide ocean of trouble, violence and hate.
Perhaps echoing the childhood admonitions to finish one’s dinner because so many people were starving, the question inevitably intruded in my mind amid the vows, kisses and embraces, the congratulations, best wishes, and family feasting: With so much woe and cruelty in the world, how can one truly celebrate?
That’s a bit much, many will likely remark. Surely, they will add, a family wedding is reason enough to shut out the world’s tribulations for a few days and enjoy life the way our Creator meant it to be for His beloved children. Indeed, the ecstacies of human life are precisely the raison d’etre of being alive and struggling for good and against evil.
Moreover, in truth, the ugliness in the world is arguably not even the dominant reality. Yes, some 20 million people died in World War II, and many millions more in other conflicts. But during those eruptions of inhuman violence, billions more lived in peace, away from the battlefields, even in the regions of warfare.
Half the world’s population live on $2.50 a day, and about four out of every five human beings survive on just $10, by the World Bank’s estimate in 2008. That is appalling. But the potential of human knowledge, technology, systems and resources to uplift the destitute is greater than ever. It remains woefully untapped, but that’s better than not having the wherewithal at all.
And there is immense injustice, oppression and violence committed every second, no question about it. But the world is still far more just, egalitarian and peaceful than, say, half a millennium or so ago, when imperial conquest, religious and sectarian wars, slavery, pandemic disease, ignorance, oppression, and other global scourges thrived.
In sum, perhaps the joys of family affection, marital love, peace and prosperity are not so far from the overarching reality of our world. Of course, that’s not what one would gather from media, which usually focuses on the dismal, depressing, disturbing, and otherwise distressing events and conditions. After all, bad news sells.
Key to addressing human woe
Even more crucial, the simple joys of family, which most human beings from time immemorial have sought and cherished, may hold a key to addressing the woes of violence, injustice, animosity, and oppression. For if the paramount dream and delight of humankind is the peace, joy and love of kith and kin, then anything that would stand in the way of that joy must be shunned or reversed.
If religion drives men to part, oppress and decimate families, then the leaders of temple, church and mosque must review and revise their exhortations. Or those who claim to be advancing God’s will by such enormities, must desist yesterday. For it cannot be that a loving Creator would wish that humanity be denied the joys given to other creatures.
If the state and its rulers expend their clout not in providing for the needs of families, but in constant jousts to gain more and more power and prestige, then they should not rule. And too often, that is what happens: those who govern lose sight of the governed’s simple needs as families, and instead, foist grand ideologies and visions for purported national greatness, for which subjugation, injustice and violence are committed against countless families.
If global powers claim that they seek peace, freedom and progress for humanity, often pointing to rival potentates as obstacles to those motherhood tenets, then the hegemons proceed to brandish instruments of war and whip up multitudes to strike others for their cause, let the world return to what the great majority of human beings want—love, peace, joy and contentment for our families —and ask if what those self-proclaimed saviors of the world wish to do would advance that fervent and eternal wish of every human soul and his or her God.
In sum, let us recall and cherish the families that brought us into and up in the world, and let the propagation, sustenance and advancement of such filial love, joy and peace be a paramount standard by which kings of every realm must rule and be judged. And that could well be the first step toward ending the insanities of war, injustice, and strife.
So help us God.