Hero After Hero

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

I feel so sad watching many of my fellow Filipinos remain in fantasy land waiting for the white knight to rescue the damsel in distress. Yes, the damsel, our beloved motherland, is in grave distress. But there will be no white knight, no Alexander the Great, no King Arthur. There will only be politicians, the better ones we call traditional, the worse, “trapos”.

That is the fate of democracy and free elections. Heroes are not voted in, they rise to the occasion. Elections will not bring the heroes who will rescue our motherland. Only emergency situations, only revolutions, raise heroes and saviors. Elections bring politicians. Even reformers, if they agree to seek office by running, campaigning and hoping to be voted in, they, too, will become politicians by the day and fade as reformers along the way.
Heroes make a people strong. By their extraordinary courage and sacrifices, heroes stir the nobility in others and provoke the heroism in them. Heroes come from war, from battle, from confronting dragons and great evil. They are not politicians, but even heroes will become politicians if they submit to the rules of politics.

Are Filipinos in an emergency? Is the country in grave danger? Is our future facing serious challenges? Is our collective soul being dragged to hell?

Filipinos must look at their lives, as individuals and as a people. Filipinos must decide whether our present state is precarious, miserable as it is and threatened by even more disastrous probabilities. Is the poverty of tens of millions a horrible condition? Is the dishonesty among those in the highest positions scandalous and the equivalent of looting public treasure? Is the arrogance of the powerful disdainful of the people and the public good? Are killings, for cause or for revenge, in uniform or against the uniform, drenching the soil of our ancestral domain, the land of our forefathers?

If the comfort and the luxury of a few outweigh the misery and pain of the many, is this not a social and religious anomaly that cries for divine justice? Is there enough moral degradation that can be deduced from the public acts of our leaders to constitute public sin, and justify righteous anger and protest action from the Catholic Church? Or is the tolerance of evil by moral shepherds the greater evil that fouls the sanctity demanded of positions of power?

It may be that we are not yet in an emergency. It might be that Filipinos like me and others who see evil strut like peacocks and poor people go hungry in a land of plenty simply imagine too much. We may see thievery as wrong when others accept it as the standard of public service. We may see lies as defiance of sacred truth even when many public officials casually do so in front of our faces. We may see ethics take a nose dive as proof of the pollution of our souls when many do not know its meaning anymore.

What, then, are all good men and women supposed to do? What, then, are citizens supposed to do? We have asked for good governance ever since I could remember, ever since I was too young to vote but could hear cries for reform. We have prayed for good leaders, for upright governance; Catholic masses include these prayers daily yet hardly receive any. All these decades of advocacy and prayers have resulted in what we are today, in what we have today. Yet, we do not learn and we still cry good governance and still pray even more.

There is something missing, not something small, not something insignificant. For failure to be so glaring, then what is missing is a large piece of the puzzle. It is not something we should search the heavens and the ends of the earth for. It must something that is just here, maybe

What is missing is us, the people, the victims who stay victims waiting for the messiah who will never come. If we do not do what we want our leaders to do, then our leaders will never feel the pressure to follow our wishes. Only a people who give much can ask for much. And because we do not give, we cannot demand.

Heroes have risen from the ground, from the ranks of the ordinary, even more than from the ranks of the elite. When crisis grips a people and a country, when threats intensify and reach not just our imagination but our very homes, we will resist, we will fight back, and we will produce heroes. We will not be voting them in.

So there will be no heroes come May 2010. Elections will not produce warriors, reformers, saviors; elections will produce winners among politicians, many of whom we may like, and maybe just as many who will be bigger thieves, bigger liars. That is the way of elections. That is the wayMay 2010 will be. That is the way governance will be after the elections – the way it was before.

Unless we say “no more,” unless we say, “tataya ako,” unless we do what we have never done before – take leadership as a people, adopt integrity as our standard, seek nobility and honor as our birthright. If we resist evil, not one by one but together, the white knight will come, the warrior savior will come, the future we want will come. Good leaders and good governance will come when we become a strong people, not before, not in a democracy through elections.

Let us, then, convert the 2010 elections into a revolution. We have one enemy – evil in many forms, stealing, lying, killing. We must be on people, one army. We cannot turn against one another or there will be no revolution, only anarchy and more of bad governance. We must find our strength in our solidarity, in the common vision of the common good, and common action that will demand compliance by public servants. That common action is us, the citizens, giving to country beyond giving to our families, sacrificing for neighbor beyond sacrificing for our families, and ready to offer not just time, talent and treasure but life itself.

And hero after hero will rise from among us.

“Cowardice is seeing what is right, failing to do it, then insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it.”

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