Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Diagnosis of Dr. Rizal

Writing from Europe 120 years ago, Jose Rizal traced the causes of why Filipinos were so unproductive (which is a more refined term compared to the word that Rizal used: indolence). He began with a medical explanation that made it more natural and even healthier to refrain from heavy labor in hot conditions. Besides, he reasoned, tropical soil was more fertile to compensate for the reduction in manual input. He then proceeds to make clear that our ancestors were more motivated before we got colonized by citing ancient texts that celebrated the “activity and honesty” of the earlier inhabitants when they dealt with Chinese traders.

In what he described as a “fatal combination of circumstances” Rizal provided two major classifications: Spain’s fault and our very own fault. He rips the existing corrupt bureaucracy in his age and unsparingly describes the multitude of obstacles that totally wiped out any incentive for hard work. Upon reading this 120 year old essay, you can no doubt easily replace the governing colonial power with our various administrations. The substitution is seamless.

But if Rizal was brutal with the Spaniards, he was also able to call the shots as they appeared to him and he issued a ruthless indictment: we were as much to blame despite our ignorance and lack of education. “In order that he may make progress it is necessary that a revolutionary spirit, so to speak, should boil in his veins since progress necessarily requires change; it implies the overthrow of the sanctified past by the present, the victory of new ideas over the old accepted ones…. The lack of a national consciousness gives rise to another evil, which is the absence of all opposition to measures prejudicial to the people and the absence of any initiative in whatever may rebound to their good. A man in the Philippines is only an individual; he is not a member of a nation.”

In Rizal’s time, it was the Friars who constituted the constant ruling class. In our time, they have become our traditional politicians who have made politics into a thoroughly dishonorable manner of making a living. It was way obvious then, it remains crystal clear today. If we want change, we will have to get together and implement it ourselves. We need to rise above our differences no matter how strongly we might feel about certain convictions because what can be worse than witnessing our youth receive substandard education, practically no healthcare and wallow in subhuman living conditions?

We must all become extraordinarily conscious that we belong to one nation and it is our obligation to assume an active role in the development of our future.

4 comments:

rizalist said...

"Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan" Matuto tayo kay Rizal.

JayM said...

Thank you for putting me on to the writings of Rizal. Having left the Philippines when I was 14, I really only read of him. Now with the 'net, it's all accessible.

I am not sure that "unproductive" is a better descriptor of the Fiipino than "indolent". My respectful view is that "indolent" with all its connotations is far more accurate.

I am also unsure that the transition from 120 years to today is all that seamless. The significant difference being that firstly, the general populace is far more educated, and secondly, the corruption is perpetrated by Filipinos who have learnt to subvert institutions and office-bearers to their own ends. What I am saying is that perhaps it is not such an "us and them" situation now as it was then. Tragically, that puts the Philippines in "no-mans land".

Finally, I am not sure that Rizal intended those words you quote as a "ruthless indictment". My (again) respectful view is that he said those words in the context of how the Spanish had so oppressed and repressed the "Indios", as we were then, that we now find ourselves in this lamentable state of "indolence". The indictment is directed towards the oppressors, and not the victim.

However, 120 years on, perhaps that is all academic because the odium of that indictment, whoever it was directed to initially, is for us who live in these days, to bear.

thestoryofhealing said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is another tale of how history seem to keep reminding us. It reminds me of this book I learned a lot from in understanding some of life that I saw. It is called Inside The Third World by Paul Harrison, an environment writer and photographer. It had many thoughts on how climate affects society, health. etc. Similar to Rizal's words you posted about.

thestoryofhealing said...

Thank you for sharing this. It is another tale of how history seem to keep reminding us. It reminds me of this book I learned a lot from in understanding some of life that I saw. It is called Inside The Third World by Paul Harrison, an environment writer and photographer. It had many thoughts on how climate affects society, health. etc. Similar to Rizal's words you posted about.