Growing up, I was surrounded by Jesuits - the hard drinkers, the quiet philosphers, the social activists, the lost-in-classical-music aesthetes. Whichever way they chose to seek the greater glory of God, they were always open to debate.
Well, there's a debate raging on now about how Ateneans are reacting to the situation in which the country finds itself in the aftermath of the stand-off at the Pen. Open letters have been flying about. There's one, from the Ateneo de Manila Sanggunian president, condemning Trillanes et al, including ex-Ateneans Tito Guingona and Fr Roberto Reyes. Uniffors has it in full, plus annotations. Another letter, from the Ateneo Political Science Organization commends the same group for their actions. Both letters exhort the citizenry to be vigilant and to respect the rule of law.
Of the two statements, the one from the Ateneo PoliSci students seems to be the more grounded in reality, understanding that the rule of law must apply to all. The Sanggunian letter and subsequent comments in its defense in various fora seem to miss the point. I love the way these people wear their presence at the 2001 anti-Erap rallies like a badge of honor, as if their presence there justifies their political activist credentials and exempts them from future protest actions.
In the scheme of things, whatever Erap may have done may be morally repugnant, but what his illegitimate successor has done in the seven years hence is beyond immoral; it is amoral. So where are these same protesters? Apparently, they're busy being men for others. Ateneo is setting up leadership schools, to produce men for others. Medical Schools to produce doctors for others. Business schools to produce professionals for others. All for the future.
What future? The future begins now.
Learning, as any Atenean should realize by now, doesn't just happen in the classroom. What happens when principles collide with contradictory political realities? What happens when the values of your institution come face-to-face with institutionalized corruption and greed? Do you issue a statement? Open a new school? Will the product of your school really and truly embody the values you claim to impart? Just take a look at some members of the cabinet who proudly wave the blue flag and extol their supposedly Atenean values while simultaneously aiding and abetting the Midget in flouting the very rule of law we're all supposed to adhere to.
I bet Trillanes and his group got fed up with open letters that to them do nothing more than pay lip service to protest, without the action.
As for the calls for vigilance, well, the Midget has thrived on vigilance - she uses it to gauge what she and her accomplices can get away with. When mass action looms, she suddenly backs down.
The thing about the Midget is that she's so far been careful not to disturb our comfort levels too much. The fertilizer fund, the Garci tapes, the NBN scandal - in many ways they're too abstract to be felt. But commandeer the Pen, as Trillanes did - boy did that rankle. Boy did that disturb our comfort levels. Why a five-star hotel (my favorite at that)? Why just before Christmas? Why now when the economy is going well and the peso is almost P40 to the dollar?
As the Ateneo PoliSci students wrote:
Radical and illegal as they may or are alleged to have been, we see that what the senator has done was an important shattering of the glass. It was a loud clang of the gong of social consciousness, which might have irritated many, but has certainly showed us how silent the greater Filipino majority has become in addressing the varied political issues that abound.
To top it all, the irritated ones cry, Trillanes can't even speak English properly! It's Erap all over again. At least the Midget, they reason, is articulate - though if she says ce-RE-mo-ny instead of CE-re-mo-ny that's like a MAJOR minus. At least the Midget, they reason, knows which fork to use at a state banquet and won't mistake the finger bowl for soup.
Mastery of the social graces is no substitute for integrity. Just as apology does not amount to accountability. And accountability is the very least a country can demand from its leaders.
In a recent column, Fr Joaquin Bernas, a Jesuit, quoted Fr Pedro Arrupe, SJ, who is credited with modernizing the Jesuit vision:
"Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ—for the God-human who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.”
The Poli Sci students have got it right.