“There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves.” — Jose Rizal
I had myself a treat recently: My family and I saw Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Rizal, which top billed Cesar Montano as the national hero. It was an old VCD of three discs from VideoCity, quite the insane chore if you find changing VCD discs on a DVD machine part of the entertainment.
It’s fascinating to have a writer—a novelist, poet and journalist, to be particular—as a national hero. Of course, Pepe was every other thing, too: An eye doctor, scientist, orator, graphic artist, sculptor, philosopher, organizer, and propagandist, to name a few. But being a writer was something to definitely marvel at.
Tyrants do not care for men and women of letters. Civilization’s history had much to do with writers’ crack at explaining the inexplicable as well as their untimely deaths by execution. Books were burned at the onset of tyrannical governments, and for what it’s worth, this was the very thing that had elevated writing from a mere stab at self-expression to a brave attempt at the heroic.
More than a hundred journalists have been killed in the Philippines. Martial Law saw poet Eman Lacaba and journalist Ninoy Aquino killed for their writings, among other charges. The Ampatuan massacre, where more than 30 journalists were waylaid by heavily armed men, was a gruesome example of what tyrannical regimes will do to stop the spread of ideas contrary to theirs. In Istanbul, writers have been indiscriminately hauled to jail.
Much has been said about our beloved Pepe, and I am not one to add to that sterling line-up of literary and historical works. But his words ring true today as it did more than a century ago: “There can be no tyrants where there are no slaves.” Notice that it’s not the other way around. Tyranny, according to Pepe, rises only to the call of those who think themselves as slaves.
Here are a few other quotes worth remembering (Quotes from http://hubpages.com/hub/jose-rizal-quotes):
“While a people preserve its language, it also preserves the marks of liberty.”
“It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice.”
“The tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice of others.”
“Without education and liberty, which are the soil and sun of man, no reform is possible…”
While it may be true that we struggle incessantly in our experience of liberty and the democratic ideal, we owe it to Pepe that we can write the way we do today. Rizal will always be a kin in the writing life, in all our quests for a future and an identity.