Today is the Ides of March, as in exactly, as the Ides of March during the old Roman times was what they called the 15th day of March. At that time and in their language, the calendar was slightly different, and each date was called differently from our present numerical terminology. There was no special meaning to the Ides of March – it was a day like any other. Until things happened, of course, that forever put a foreboding nuance to the date.
According to Plutarch, a Greek biographer and philosopher known primarily for his writing, Parallel Lives, a collection of biographies of prominent Greeks and Romans, a soothsayer told Julius Caesar to beware the Ides of March. To beware meant an unfortunate incident would happen to him. And on that day itself, the Ides of March, Caesar was on the way to the Senate when he passed the soothsayer in the streets. The story goes that Caesar remarked, “The Ides of March have come,” to mean that the soothsayer had predicted wrongly because Caesar was well. The response of the soothsayer, however, was simple but meaningful, “Aye, Caesar, but not gone.”
It is now a remembered date and incident in history. That Ides of March, 44 BC, had Caesar meeting in the Senate and was assassinated in a treacherous manner – stabbed by those he had thought were friends and allies. Our present meaning of the Ides of March is rooted in that day of betrayal, a great ruler assassinated be those both jealous and fearful of his autocratic ways.
What a coincidence that today, March 15, is in the thick of political season gearing up for the May 13, 2019 elections. Political contests in the last 30 years have been grotesque exercises, not of changes in power, but of betrayal driven by ambition beyond ethics and morals. When the multi-party format was established to replace the pre-martial law two-party system, little did the framers of the new Constitution understand how disastrous it would be. A very divided people, miraculously brought together to remove a dictatorship, were fed a law that catered to a specific vulnerability of a people colonized by several foreign masters. The wise men and women of the 1987 Constitution needed social scientists and less political, legal and economic experts.
The lesson of the Ides of March is simple enough for those who are willing to learn, or at least very discontented with the way things are politically. The most obvious vice is betrayal. At the same time, betrayal is only a consequence of deeper afflictions like jealousy, unbridled ambition, and greed. But the deepest disorder of all is disunity, the sacrifice of the collective good for selfish interests. With disunity, the fate of any people is dependent on the weakest foundation. It is truly a great pity when the Filipino people cannot conceive of a collective state that can accommodate diverse interests without breaking up.
The political noise of a campaign season is toxic. More wounds are inflicted by the day and seeds for revenge in the future are being planted. Divisiveness is not being dismantled, it is given spirit by a political exercise that has long most of its nobler purposes. In democratic theory. Elections are a mechanism for new ideas and new personalities tasked with authority and the leadership to implement them. In short, elections at their best are driven by the human need for creativity and integrity, the great combination of ideas and personalities. But toxic, virulent and pernicious noise drown out noble aspirations. It will be more of the same.
Beware the Ides of March, 2019 AD. Beware of jealousy, ambition and greed. Do not underestimate their power to corrupt us, their power to destroy our struggling nation. Beware of our disunity and do not add yourself to that cesspool. Most of all, dream of that tomorrow that is brighter than today. Do not ever let it go.