Let’s dare to be wise
People told me my cousin, Guillo, had died from hazing. He was supposedly the dead boy in a suit and tie, with suffering and regret on his face, inside the coffin. I slowly advanced toward the front of the chapel.
I have trained myself to be wary of accepting something to be true until I see it with my own eyes. But perhaps the truth was that I was certain of it already, and I just deferred the pain of coming to terms with it. So with profound apprehension making my steps heavier and heavier, I made my way to his coffin.
It did not take me long to recognize him. What they said was true. The boy in the coffin was Guillo. Even if his last moments of suffering still lingered on his face, it was unmistakably and most painfully him.
According to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. My denial stage ended with that glance.
The anger stage came when I watched on the news the CCTV clip of his almost lifeless body being dragged along the corridor in a condominium building. Handled without care, like a sack of rice. It was dehumanizing. It was not enough they had to beat him to death, they also had to deprive him of dignity in his last moments. Something inside me raged at the barbarity. How could they do it to someone I grew up with? He was only a boy. Guillo was only a boy.
The singer Morrissey believes that humans do not have the right to kill animals because, like humans, animals have thoughts and feelings. For him, eating meat is murder, because death for no reason is murder.
Death for no reason is murder! I screamed inside again and again until I got deaf from my own anger. How could people deliberately hurt others? A friend answered me that it is because they are afraid of being hurt themselves.
There is a German word for taking pleasure from the suffering of others: schadenfreude, which literally means “harm-joy.” The Swedish have a term equivalent to it: “skadeglädje,” which translates literally to “injury joy,” or the joy of watching someone’s injury, be it figurative or literal.
I imagined the torturers of Guillo towering over him, inebriated with power over another human being, convincing themselves that what they were doing was for the good of Guillo, that they were actually doing him a favor by making a real man out of him. Some people are just good at telling lies to themselves to satisfy and justify their inner monstrosity.
Bargaining is the next stage of grief. We cry for justice, to fulfill the need for reparation, because we believe that justice will hasten the healing process. Justice is not for the dead but for the living. The abusers need to be held accountable for what they did.
The depression stage immediately settled in, painting the world an ugly shade of gray. I felt an extreme sadness not just for the loss of Guillo, but also for the suspects and their families. Twenty young people have to fight for their freedom, who might have to spend their lives running away not just from the authorities but also from the guilt of having killed another person. It is undoubtedly not a good way of spending the next 60 years of one’s life. Twenty mothers and 20 fathers now have to choose between keeping their children from going to jail and depriving the victim’s family members of the justice they cry for, or delivering them to the court in order to let them own up to their crime. It is a dilemma that I do not wish any other family should ever go through.
There have been many hazing incidents, some unreported, since the enactment of Republic Act No. 8049, the Anti-Hazing Law, in 1995. There are several cases to learn from, but why do young people still fall victim to hazing?
Perhaps the reason the youth fall into the same trap over and over again is this: They have not been taught to ask questions. What does it mean to be in a “brotherhood”? What is the logic behind hazing? Is this the only way of forging real and lasting friendships?
We readily accept the norms because people before us have accepted them. Some of the most blatant lies have been packaged as “tradition,” and we have not learned to expose their invalidity premise by premise. If only we know what questions to ask, we might not be easily lured into doing something utterly pointless. No one should do the thinking for us. And being smart is not enough.
Sapere aude. We have to dare to be wise.
The last stage of grief, the process of acceptance, is like listening to a piece by Liszt. It is not an easy process, and certainly not a painless one, but we have to go through it in order to transcend—our tragedies, our pain, and our own fear of death.
I think how we perceive death is important in the process of acceptance. Does “death” have meaning? What happens after we die? These are questions that we need to seek answers for because, I believe, how we perceive death determines how we live.
Guillo wanted to leave a legacy, but circumstances caused him to seek the Great Perhaps at such an early age, and he was not able to do it. It is up to us—the living—to make sure that his death is not meaningless. Let us make sure that Guillo will be the last hazing victim in our country.
Question traditions. Make hazing stop.
Kat Uytiepo, 20, is a student of De La Salle University-Manila.
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