Ghosts of 1896: Or “Tumatanda ng Paurong”

Peoples and governments are correlated and complementary: a fatuous government would be an anomaly among righteous people, just as a corrupt people cannot exist under just rulers and wise laws.

Like people, like government, we will say in paraphrase of a popular adage.

Jose Rizal, The Indolence of Filipinos

Circa 1896

Austin Craig wrote in his preface to the translation of “THE INDOLENCE OF FILIPINOS” that ‘The essay itself originally appeared in the Filipino forthrightly review, La Solidaridad, of Madrid, in five installments, running from July 15 to September 15, 1890. It was a continuation of Rizal’s campaign of education in which he sought by blunt truths to awaken his countrymen to their own faults at the same time that he was arousing the Spaniards to the defects in Spain’s colonial system that caused and continued such shortcomings.”

Austin further commented that:

There seems now a, prospect that insular legislation may make available to the individual the guarantees of personal liberty upon which America at home prides itself, that municipal self-government and provincial autonomy may become realities in the Philippines, and possibly even that both Filipinos and Americans may realize before it is too late how our elastic territorial government could be made to exact from them much less of their independence than the sacrifice of sovereignty necessary in Neutralization or internationalization.

Rizal pointed out

Alas! The whole misfortune of the present Filipinos consists in that they have become only half-way brutes. The Filipino is convinced that to get happiness it is necessary for him to lay aside his dignity as a rational creature, to attend mass, to believe what is told him, to pay what is demanded of him, to pay and forever to pay; to work, suffer and be silent, without aspiring to anything, without aspiring to know or even to understand Spanish, without separating himself from his carabao, as the priests shamelessly say, without protesting against any injustice, against any arbitrary action, against an assault, against an insult; that is, not to have heart, brain or spirit: a creature with arms and a purse full of gold ………… there’s the ideal native!

Unfortunately, or because the brutalization is not yet complete and because the nature of man is inherent in his being in spite of his condition, the native protests; he still has aspirations, he thinks and strives to rise, and there’s the trouble!

After pointing out the government’s shortcomings. Rizal next looked his countrymen square in the eye. He writes further:

We can reduce all these causes to two classes: to defects of training and lack of national sentiment.

The very limited training in the home, the tyrannical and sterile education of the rare centers of learning, that blind subordination of the youth to one of greater age, influence the mind so that a man may not aspire to excel those who preceded him but must merely be content to go along with or march behind them. Stagnation forcibly results from this, and as he who devotes himself merely to copying divests himself of other qualities suited to his own nature, he naturally becomes sterile; hence decadence. Indolence is a corollary derived from the lack of stimulus and of vitality.

The lack of national sentiment brings another evil, moreover, which is the absence of all opposition to measures prejudicial to the people and the absence of any initiative in whatever may redound to its good.

A man in the Philippines is only an individual, he is not a member of a nation. He is forbidden and denied the right of association, and is therefore weak and sluggish. The Philippines are an organism whose cells seem to have no arterial system to irrigate it or nervous system to communicate its impressions; these cells must, nevertheless, yield their product, get it where they can: if they perish, let them perish. In the view of some this is expedient so that a colony may be a colony; perhaps they are right, but not to the effect that a colony may flourish.

The result of this is that if a prejudicial measure is ordered, no one protests; all goes well apparently until later the evils are felt. Another blood-letting, and as the organism has neither nerves nor voice the physician proceeds in the belief that the treatment is not injuring it. It needs a reform, but as it must not speak, it keeps silent and remains with the need. The patient wants to eat, it wants to breathe the fresh air, but as such desires may offend the susceptibility of the physician who thinks that he has already provided everything necessary, it suffers and pines away from fear of receiving scolding, of getting another plaster and a new blood-letting, and so on indefinitely.

We have heard many complaints, and every day we read in the papers about the efforts the government is making to rescue the country from its condition of indolence. Weighing its plans, its illusions and its difficulties, we are reminded of the gardener who tried to raise a tree planted in a small flower-pot. The gardener spent his days tending and watering the handful of earth, he trimmed the plant frequently, he pulled at it to lengthen it and hasten its growth, he grafted on it cedars and oaks, until one day the little tree died, leaving the man convinced that it belonged to a degenerate species, attributing the failure of his experiment to everything except the lack of soil and his own ineffable folly.

Circa 2009

The native is still the ideal native – as Primer our colleague says “behaving almost like a slave” – EXACTAMENTE – as they have been in 1896.

I wonder if Rizal would also be branded as a coconut racist when he writes the Filipino is halfway to becoming a brute.

Today, a Filipino has the right of association but our associations are weak and sluggish. Our choice of leaders tends to border on who is the most senile or who has the most mullah – Rizal was right on the money when said “blind subordination of the youth to one of greater age, influence the mind so that a man may not aspire to excel those who preceded him but must merely be content to go along with or march behind them. Stagnation forcibly results from this”

More Questions

How much has changed since 1896, it seems time remains at a standstill – the collective IQ and EQ of half-brutes is still pretty much around.

Worse, a call for personal responsibility is played off as racist.

But who really is the racist? He who exercises tough love so that his countrymen may address his weakness and thereby become stronger.

Or he who thinks the natives are the ideal native and should remain as they are?

I would assert that Jose Rizal articulated the matter quite clearly.

Have we, as a nation, really grown up since 1896, or have we as a nation remain, in the words of lolo Jose – ideal natives halfway or even all the way to becoming brutes?

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