Tuesday, August 23, 2005

De Quiros' Column

There's The Rub : Seasons

Conrado de Quiros dequiros@info.com.ph
Inquirer News Service

I CAN'T help it, second of all, because I am a writer.

Who wants to write about Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when there is no lack of loftier subjects to talk about even in this country? Who wants to write about Fidel Ramos, Jose de Venecia, Raul Gonzalez and Mike Defensor when you can write about literature and music, the exhalations of the mind and the titillations of the heart?

People have asked me, "Don't you get tired of writing about politics when you can write about other things?"

I've always been tempted to answer, "Don't you get tired of being tired about politics when you can do better trying to understand it?" But being polite, I just say, "No, I don't. I can't just comment on the wonderful exchanges in 'Sideways' about the differences between Pinot and Merlot while the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, an elected president and an unelected one stares me in the face. I can't just reflect on the burst of literary and artistic creativity taking place in Asia right now when right at home I find only the stifling of freedom and basic decency. Law is too important to be left to lawyers. Politics is too important to be left to politicians."

I said something about this in the preface to my book, "Dunce of the Dunces" many years ago:

"One writes about things because one must. Because, as Edmund Hilary said when asked why he climbed Mt. Everest, it is there. In the end we do not really choose what to write, they choose us. They are there. We cannot choose to write only about what is bright and cheerful in the thought that the spirit is set free by them. The spirit cannot soar to the heavens on leaden wings. The spirit soars to the heavens by looking at all that is there, by reviling the vile and reveling at the marvelous, by facing the truth of its world and itself, as Hector faced Achilles amid the certainty of being killed, finding hope in despair, wrenching victory from defeat."

I remember that not long after I wrote those things, I saw an editor of a newspaper who wondered if I wasn't being a little OA [overacting] then. Particularly the part where I said writing was a matter of life and death, the only way to write was as if your life depended upon it. Didn't you think you were exaggerating? he asked.

Well, what I did think was that it explained in part why he never got to be a good writer, or editor for that matter. But still being polite, I just said, "No, it might be OA to put it that way, but it's true. The day we stop giving weight to our words, or worse sell them cheaply for profit, is the day we reverse the order of Creation. Instead of saying 'Let there be light,' we say, 'Let there be darkness.'"

I do not raise my voice to tell the truth as I see it, I let others tell their lies as they want to.

And finally I can't help it because I am a human being.

When I speak of the people currently in power stealing not just our body but our soul, I mean it in every possible way. What separates human beings from animals is the capacity to sacrifice one's self if necessary to save others. Animals have no capacity for selflessness, only human beings do. Well, this is an order that isn't just stealing our patrimony, this is an order that is stealing our humanity. This is an order that is reducing us to the level of animals, capable only of thinking of ourselves: In times of want, hoard; in times of injustice, oppress; in times of tyranny, fly to America.

Indeed, it is more than that we are being taught to act this way, it is that we are being taught to accept it as the natural order of things. We are being taught to find justification, if not virtue, in self-interest, in self-protection, no, in selfishness itself. How else explain how cops and soldiers can raid with impunity Segundo Tabayoyong's house without warrant and without legal justification and seize election returns (ERs)? Those ERs were the opposition's copies, provided them by election laws, which they entrusted to Tabayoyong for analysis. But there is no outrage over that brazen act of iniquity. It's almost as if we have come to believe that Ms Arroyo is right to do everything in her power to protect herself, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, right or wrong. It is to be expected. It is to be accepted.

I don't know that you have to be a writer to be aghast at the scourge afflicting our country today, caused by a current squatter in MalacaƱang, who got there in the first place because of our toil and tears, even while she was busy waiting for a signal from God or the Pope, whichever came first, to do what needed to be done. I do not know that you have to be a writer to be furious at the way our capacity for goodwill, our basic decency, no, our humanity itself is being stripped from us, layer by layer, skin by skin, like a butcher peels off the hide from a dead animal, by a poacher in our political life. I don't know that you have to be a writer to feel compelled by a force more elemental than citizenship, which is the instinct to save your soul, to rise to stop this madness.

Being a human being will do.

I myself am not very religious but I find much wisdom in these words by Ecclesiastes:

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, a time to die; a time to sow, a time to reap; a time to kill, a time to heal; a time to break down, a time to build up; a time to weep, a time to laugh; a time to mourn, a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, a time to be alone; a time to seek, a time to lose; a time to keep, a time to cast away; a time to tear, a time to sew; a time to keep silent, a time to speak; a time to love, a time to hate; a time for war, a time for peace."

Now is the time to speak. Now is the time to act.

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