Monday, January 14, 2008

A moral community

In his Rizal lecture last 30 Dec, Dr. Floro
Quibuyen ( Asian Studies Center, UP) affirmed that it
is important for us to understand Rizal’s concept of
a nation so we will appreciate why he was only too
happy to live and die for the Filipino. Rizal wrote a
memorandum on 12 December, for his trial, where he
explained his concepts of liberty ( libertadad) and
independence ( independencia), affirming that a
people can be free without being independent, and can
be independent without being free.

Interestingly, Dr . Quibuyen directs our
attention to the way “kalayaan” (independence) was
used by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto to show a
close ideological link between them and Jose Rizal.
The difference between freedom and independence
becomes even clearer when the December 12 memo is
related to El Filibusterismo, where Fr.
Florentino’s tells the dying Simoun: “Why
independence if the slaves of today will be the
tyrants of tomorrow?”

Dr, Quibuyen explained that to Rizal,
:”Independence is meaningful only if the new rulers
have also been transformed into new men (and women)
who can govern wisely and justly, for the benefit of
a people who have, in turn, become united and
enlightened towards promoting the common good. Only
then, in Rizal’s perspective, can a people become
truly free. “ To Rizal, continued Dr. Quibuyen, the
nation is a moral concept (a post-Enlightenment idea)
and is not equivalent to the nation-state which refers
to the political structure that encompasses a people
living in a given territory and subject to the laws
imposed on them by the State.

Dr. Quibuyen argued that a State has a monopoly
of coercive power and can compel people to abide by
its imposition, like taxes, and military service,
in exchange for safeguarding the people’s rights and
interests. Contrary to that was Rizal´s belief that
a nation is a moral community bound by a sacred
covenant to resist evil and injustice; and to promote
the common good. In Rizal’s view, according to the
lecturer, the nation-as-community is the moral
foundation upon which the nation-state should be built
and . without this moral community, the nation-state
could not possibly have a moral direction. Justice
and the common good ( very Catholic notions, Quibuyen
emphasized) are the fundamental principles of a moral
community. Rizal must have studied St. Augustine who
wrote: “Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but
bands of criminals on a large scale?”

Dr. Quibuyen concluded that Rizal wanted to
obliterate the ubiquitous presence of greed in the
social and political life of this nation. Greed
creates scarcity; and scarcity foments greed. Thus,
greed and scarcity go together—a point underscored in
chapter ten of Noli Me Tangere. Today, in the
prevailing neo-liberal discourse, greed and scarcity
are considered normal. But to Rizal’s moral vision
greed and scarcity are the roots of injustice,
violence and human suffering. The alternative to greed
and scarcity is Rizal´s moral community.

Pinning his hopes on the youth, Rizal often
counseled his nephews; on 20 December 1893 he sent
young Alfredo this letter: "To live is to be among
men and to be among men is to struggle. But this
struggle is not a brutal and material struggle with
men alone; it is a struggle with them, with one’s
self, with their passions and one’s own, with errors
and preoccupations. It is an eternal struggle with a
smile on the lips and tears in the heart. On this
battlefield man has no better weapon than his
intelligence, no other force but his heart."

Rizal did not only write, he practiced what he
preached. During his exile in Dapitan, he showed
that it was possible to build a moral community for
the common good.#