In that classic poem, entitled “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Wilfred Owen writes:
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
He’s right: 20-odd years after the death of Ninoy Aquino, we surely wouldn’t tell the young people of this country (in my case, anyone under 22) that they, Filipinos, are worth dying for. Much less that it is sweet and fitting to die for the Fatherland (or the Motherland, whichever the case may be). That evocative phrase, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori,” seems to be more of an exception than the rule. Not “death” per se, but to risk it all because we have a country.
Dying for your country is a cliché: nobody in his or her right mind would face truncheon or water cannon to save the Philippines. I mean, even Jun Lozada wouldn’t die for the country: it’s worth taking a risk for his rather ubiquitous and ambiguous sense of “bayan,” but it’s definitely not worth the risk to die. What more for ordinary people? Heck, I wouldn’t die for this country, either. I would allow myself to be mortally wounded for the Philippines’ sake, at least. But die? I don’t think so.
I guess I can’t blame people for having second thoughts about joining a rally or having “no opinion” on matters that concern the nation. It’s not that people are not concerned about the nation, or that the nation is not concerned about the nation. Wilfred Owen wrote “Dulce et Decorum Est” because he wanted to show the people a message, that seeing is different from believing. As long as we have this false pretense that EDSA or rallies are the solution to the worsening political crisis, we only serve to glorify the situation, making “great martyrs” out of EDSA veterans and making “reluctant heroes” out of Jun Lozada
When pressed for solutions, even an activist like myself is lost. To begin with, I don’t know of a single solution to this impasse than we can all agree with. I make distinctions between “armed struggle” and “parliamentary struggle” that I don’t know what struggle should be invoked now. Make no mistake about it: I won’t be the first – heck, I won’t be found anywhere – in that line of magnanimous folk who would shake hands with the President (no innuendo intended) and say, “All is forgiven, let’s move on.” ButI wouldn’t be the first – heck, I won’t be found anywhere – in that line of seasonably and fashionably magnanimous politicians who demand the President’s resignation, then support it afterwards.
What is the solution to the problem? I honestly do not know. Besides, this is not a math equation that is accomplished by factoring out elements, or invoking ambiguous, vague clauses like “distributive property of multiplication over addition.” Our nation is not crippled: it is ardent for some desperate glory.
And it sure needs that reassurance that the old Lie is true: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
* – written as a response to Ranne Posadas’ entry, “I Watched a Movie While Patriots Sing and Dance to the Tune of Truth in the Nation’s Central Business District,” cross-posted at Sayote Republic