IN honor of our Independence Day, we give this reminder about the discussion on the fate of our country and people that Jose Rizal wrote in El Filibusterismo, using the words of Fr. Florentino and the dying anarchist hero-martyr Simoun.
This excerpt is from the final chapter of the novel (whose most popular English translation is The Reign of Greed by Charles Derbyshire).
“According to you, then,” feebly responded the sick man, “His will is that these islands—”
“Should continue in the condition in which they suffer?” finished the priest, seeing that the other hesitated. “I don’t know, sir, I can’t read the thought of the Inscrutable. I know that He has not abandoned those peoples who in their supreme moments have trusted in Him and made Him the Judge of their cause, I know that His arm has never failed when, justice long trampled upon and every recourse gone, the oppressed have taken up the sword to fight for home and wife and children, for their inalienable rights, which, as the German poet says, shine ever there above, unextinguished and inextinguishable, like the eternal stars themselves. No, God is justice, He cannot abandon His cause, the cause of liberty, without which no justice is possible.”
“Why then has He denied me His aid?” asked the sick man in a voice charged with bitter complaint.
“Because you chose means that He could not sanction,” was the severe reply. “The glory of saving a country is not for him who has contributed to its ruin. You have believed that what crime and iniquity have defiled and deformed, another crime and another iniquity can purify and redeem. Wrong! Hate never produces anything but monsters and crime criminals! Love alone realizes wonderful works, virtue alone can save! No, if our country has ever to be free, it will not be through vice and crime, it will not be so by corrupting its sons, deceiving some and bribing others, no! Redemption presupposes virtue, virtue sacrifice, and sacrifice love!”
“Well, I accept your explanation,” rejoined the sick man, after a pause. “I have been mistaken, but, because I have been mistaken, will that God deny liberty to a people and yet save many who are much worse criminals than I am? What is my mistake compared to the crimes of our rulers? Why has that God to give more heed to my iniquity than to the cries of so many innocents? Why has He not stricken me down and then made the people triumph? Why does He let so many worthy and just ones suffer and look complacently upon their tortures?”
“The just and the worthy must suffer in order that their ideas may be known and extended! You must shake or shatter the vase to spread its perfume, you must smite the rock to get the spark! There is something providential in the persecutions of tyrants, Señor Simoun!”
“I knew it,” murmured the sick man, “and therefore I encouraged the tyranny.”
“Yes, my friend, but more corrupt influences than anything else were spread. You fostered the social rottenness without sowing an idea. From this fermentation of vices loathing alone could spring, and if anything were born overnight it would be at best a mushroom, for mushrooms only can spring spontaneously from filth. True it is that the vices of the government are fatal to it, they cause its death, but they kill also the society in whose bosom they are developed. An immoral government presupposes a demoralized people, a conscienceless administration, greedy and servile citizens in the settled parts, outlaws and brigands in the mountains. Like master, like slave! Like government, like country!”
A brief pause ensued, broken at length by the sick man’s voice. “Then, what can be done?”
“Suffer and work!”
True. We, in The Times, agree. We must suffer and work if we want to make our country truly free—and great.