Resurrection in this wasteland
The faithful arrive at this day with gratitude. The sun appears to breach the horizon more swiftly than it usually does, banishing the tendrils of the dark with an explosion of light. Hope spurts and surges.
From the past days made oppressive by the commemoration of the brutal punishment of the revolutionary named Jesus, pain and suffering have ceased and sorrow has been transformed into rejoicing.
Not for nothing is it called “Pasko ng Pagkabuhay” in these parts: It’s Christmas in Eliot’s “cruelest month” of April, announcing to the faithful the ineffable joy of the resurrection — truly something both wonderful and urgent in this wasteland where blood continues to be spilled with numbing regularity. (Why is this guy still alive? the main man publicly demands of his uniformed forces, speaking about an ex-cop who claimed questionable ties between a Malacañang adviser and the trade in illegal drugs.)
In this wasteland at this time and place, in a season marked by startling shortages of elements necessary for civilized existence — water, for one, and electricity, stuff without which human beings become like savages scrabbling in the dirt and sweltering in the heat — the days dawn as though tentatively, as though poised for definition. Here, at this time and place, in the proverbial lull before the storm of the midterm elections, reflection and introspection are required to prepare for the utterly significant exercise that lies ahead.
Not everyone may recognize it for what it is, but Filipinos seem to be living in Gramsci’s interregnum: “The old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms.”
It was a condition claimed by the South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer when apartheid was yet in full flower in her native land, and where, she once said, “you become accustomed to whatever violence there is in your own society.”
To the violence that daily confronts Filipinos — the violence of impoverishment, of the tyranny of power, of the natural and manmade degradation of the environment, among others — has been added the violence of dishonesty and fraudulence galvanizing the campaign trail.
Nowhere in recent memory have deception, duplicity and outright falsehood been so brandished, so upheld as desirable, than now, with looters, charlatans, dictators’ heirs, the ignorant and empty-headed presented unblinking as exemplars of leadership.
It is crucial to view them as what they are and what they represent, crucial still to be aware that there are others of untainted records and illustrious forebears, who have the wisdom to name the “morbid symptoms” bedeviling the country and offer what is needed to address them, and who hold the moral ground to push and protect the people’s interests and not merely their own.
Take this moment to apprehend the truth. Dynasts are jockeying for a sweep of national and local positions, with family members taking turns at public office as though it were their birthright.
The surnames show them up for what they are; the bearers queue barefaced for seats in Congress as well as in local leadership posts as though government service were a veritable trough. (It’s not only legal but also moral, a Cayetano couple declare of their shameless pursuit to represent adjacent districts in the House.)
“While the economy collapsed during the Marcos period, [it was also when] the monopolization of political dynasties started,” Ronald Mendoza of the Ateneo School of Government said in 2016. “If you add monopoly of political power and the discretion to distribute power minus accountability, the result is a lot of corruption.”
This time of joy, of hope, and the possibility of renewal is necessarily a time to reflect, to look both backward and forward, in considering the future that we hold in our hands.
For the moment, we will exult in the risen Jesus, luminous in His strength. We will think of and wish for our loved ones the only things that truly matter: peace and justice, love and good health. And then, having been fortified, we must turn an ardent gaze on the looming struggle. As the poet said, “There will be time/ there will be time/ to murder and create.”
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