Dissecting the Corrupt and Corrupting Consequences of the Conflicts of Nations and Locating the Rizal Alternative to Resolve these Conflicts

Dissecting the Corrupt and Corrupting Consequences of the Conflicts of Nations and Locating the Rizal Alternative to Resolve these Continuing Conflicts

By A. S. Agcaoili

There is a need to dissect the anatomy of conflicts that have become a corrupt and corrupting raison d’etre for many countries, cultures, and civilizations. These conflicts have taken on various forms. There is a long list—-a kind of a callous catalogue of the ways humanity has elaborated its death knell. The list is relentless in its capacity to offer violence and death, famine and deprivation, poverty and injustice: wars, acts of terror, secessionist and revolutionary movements, overt and covert occupations, civilian revolts, genocide, religious conflicts, and nationalist struggles. To locate Jose Rizal in these questions of fatally flawed conflicts of nations is to go back to the sources of his humanitarian and internationalist ideals.

This is a Rizal that saw so much of the collective sufferings and sorrows of peoples and societies even as he witnessed these and personally experienced them in his own country.

This is a Rizal that documented the evils of domination and conquest that was couched in a seemingly naïve, neutral, and non-political terms as this was vended in promotional marketing terms such as "civilizing the natives," "evangelizing the heathens," "manifest destiny of bigger brother nations to care for the small and underdeveloped ones," and "moral obligation to promote democracies." In the earlier days, this was packaged--ribbons and wrappings and the obligatory small card for the greetings--as "God and glory and gold," with God, capital G, as the stress and the point of attack. It was a gospel, alright, and it was "God." But it was a gospel according to the dictates of an imperial program and the "God" was a "God" according to the uses of the conquerors: white and western, powerful and puritanistic, chic and calculating--in effect, a god of the commerce of war, a god of the warlords, and a god of the merchants of wretchedness.

This is a Rizal that saw what it took to fight for a people’s basic freedoms--a fight that took flight and soared in the minds and imagination of the suffering masses. In seeing this, he reinvented the discourse of the fight into a sensible grammar of struggle for and in the name of the people’s liberation from the bondage of injustice and un-freedom.

This is a Rizal that recognized the fire in the passion for a meaningful method to move on with the struggle that promises redemption, a Rizal that realized how the very idea of a struggle moved people and touched their hearts, stirred their spirits, and made them resolve to hold on to their just causes: food and freedom, jobs and justice, land and liberty--dreams that defined their days and desires.

This is a Rizal that saw the infinite possibilities and promise of the idea of a Philippine Revolution that was to be conducted and staged in the name of a long-suffering people, the same idea of a revolt and revolution we see everywhere in all the continents where injustice and inequity are the rules rather than the exception. A philosopher once meditated on "the revolt of the masses"--a revolt that is necessary to renew social relations and put an end to socially built-in, inherited privileges that were reserved for the few. Another one talked of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" that was meant to eradicate the ugly reality of classes that divided peoples and sundered societies.

From here we see what is wrong--we witness the workings of a wrong that, when not righted and when it becomes "the way things are," when it becomes such that it is a commonplace--it becomes a disconnect that breeds social illness, a "dis-ease," "a social cancer," one in which even the suave touching brings about pain and discomfort. This is the context of "noli me tangere" that morphs into a mantra: "touch me not," the mantra demanding in the end a filibuster.

But we cannot allow the cancer--the conflict of peoples, the conflict of societies, the conflict of nations--to spread. Within the lens of interconnectedness of all beings and of all life, within the frame of a world that is not "an island unto itself," and within the perspective that forces us to sit down together in that bargaining table so that the fundamental issues on what makes sense to all of mankind could be addressed, there is no such thing as the force and power of conflict as the premise for making human and international understanding to be possible. We are thus called into a restatement of our parameters for the conflicts to be resolved. The process to doing that is truthfulness--and truthfulness demands of us a sensitivity to the dictates of a clear and committed conscience, one that is not self-serving but gracious, tolerant, humane.

It takes a critical consciousness to arrive at this kind of a conscience, a mindset that is essentially grounded on a broad understanding of the dynamic of cultures and societies, an understanding of the complex and complicated nature of power and politics, and the borderless reach of capital and its effects--not to mention the subtle projects of empires to control the world and its institutions.

This kind of a critical consciousness makes us see the world as it is: with its truths and falsities, with its global drama of power and powerlessness, with its higher yearning for that which renews in order to transcend the banal and the unimportant. In many references to education and that capacity of the mind to grasp the essentials, Rizal, in his works as well as in his actions, moved towards embracing warmly this critical consciousness as an antidote to conflict, as the panacea to the question of a bloody resolution of misunderstandings, as an alternative to a fierce adherence to the barrel of a gun and the bullet. In saying this, we are not discounting other alternatives to resolving war and injustice. We are not making a franchise of the word that salves and saves. When the Philippine Revolution was in its birth throes--when the Kataas-taasang Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan under Andres Bonifacio was rallying for that final solution to the Spanish colonization problem and was calling out to Jose Rizal for his imprimatur, Rizal sent out a precaution and prescription to what could be done at that time. Rizal was bogged down by a number of issues: (a) how prepared were the filibusters in terms of understanding fully what sacrifices the struggle demanded and (b) how prepared were they in terms of the logic and logistics of war--materiel and money and foreign assistance from nations that understood the meaning of giving the gift of freedom to other nations. We see here a scenario of thought that builds on both reason and passion, seeing things objectively and yet, with the ember of emotion pulsing fire and pulsating with life, these things that are not right are subjected to scrutiny and then, the enlightened actors and agents commit themselves to their correction in order to allow truth and beauty and justice to reign once again. Rizal saw no other way to propose social justice as the only real remedy to the conflicts of nation—and to the conflicts within nations. Rizal saw that the naming of the problem has to be done with that rite of courage of spelling out the inequities and the institutions that support these inequities. Rizal saw of the urgency of calling the violence from these inequities as violence and not love.

Seen thus in these lights, the solution to conflicts is not in the running away from the moral obligation to unearth their root causes and in adopting a certain double entendre language of courtesy and politeness--a kind of a diplomatic dialect designed and calculated to not to hurt the feelings of the powerful perpetrators of these conflicts.

Wars, the United Nations Constitution holds, begin in the minds of men. Before wars become a full scale show of force--before they become the language of might, before they become a social drama of the tragic that they are and that present as exhibits, act by act, the vanquished and the victors--they are first and foremost some forms of consciousness. They are some forms of an idealization of some fiercely guarded positions in reference to a conflicted issue. They are concepts with their own display of blood and gore, of hatred and annihilation, of pulverizing the enemy, of reducing them to smithereens. They are mindsets that call for actions whose moral worth may be questionable, their legitimacy one of empty rhetoric and shallow rationalizations by those who call the shots, who hold the purse to the financing of profitable wastage of lives and limbs, of the irreversible destruction of the citadels of civilizations and cathedrals of faith, and the profiteering that comes from investing on people’s fears and anguish. The moral here is that the pretentious claim to that which good is immoral. The moral here is that the conflicts of nations--the conflicts that bring about unnecessary wars--is a pointless exercise. The point--if there is a point at all--in the conflicts of nations is that it is the ultimately pointless act, the ultimate vacuity that must be unmasked at once.

The road to the resolution of conflicts is one in which reason and its possibilities are played out to the full--a reason that is tempered by passion for that which is just, fair, and true. The only road, thus to end all these corrupt and corrupting conflicts is the road to peace: the road to speech, the road to dialogue, the road to language, the road to discourse--in short, that road that we draw up with sincerity and honesty and transparency, the road that takes in all the cost of war, the accounting of our dreams, the covenant to making it possible for man and his world to become a slice of the eternal.

This road is not easy. We are forced to take the high road with its gusty winds and dust storms that make us uneasy in the journey. It makes us take stock of what we have got--the will to do it; the belief that this can be done; the courage to innovate, invent, and reinvent our methodologies and procedures; and the boldness to define and redefine our terms of engagement and negotiation. But there is no wavering here--only that will to succeed--because we cannot afford to fail. This idea of pursuing what critical consciousness dictates and demands is what stirred Rizal into rethinking the means and methods of resolving the issues that attend to the social conflicts of his time. This reasoned rethinking demands daring--but daring we must give in order to allow peace to come about, flower, flourish, and bloom. For here, life is at stake--and there is no substitute to life. And there are no willing proxies in death.

The Rizal alternative--one of reasoned discourse, one of a dialogical understanding of the healing promises of peaceful remedies, one that takes into account the potency and potential of naming the conflicts and draw from there the humane and life-affirming remedies--is one of the many alternatives that we can explore for its promise of infinite possibilities, one that can inform us profoundly, and one that can shape the solutions for what they are supposed to be: long-lasting solutions because they strike at the core of conflicts and not at their camouflages.


December 19, 2004

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