"According to you, then," feebly responded the sick man, "His will is that these islands--"
"Should continue in the condition in which they suffer?" finished the priest, seeing that the other hesitated. "I don't know, sir, I can't read the thought of the Inscrutable. I know that He has not abandoned those peoples who in their supreme moments have trusted in Him and made Him the Judge of their cause, I know that His arm has never failed when, justice long trampled upon and every recourse gone, the oppressed have taken up the sword to fight for home and wife and children, for their inalienable rights, which, as the German poet says, shine ever there above, unextinguished and inextinguishable, like the eternal stars themselves. No, God is justice, He cannot abandon His cause, the cause of liberty, without which no justice is possible."
"Why then has He denied me His aid?" asked the sick man in a voice charged with bitter complaint.
"Because you chose means that He could not sanction," was the severe reply. "The glory of saving a country is not for him who has contributed to its ruin. You have believed that what crime and iniquity have defiled and deformed, another crime and another iniquity can purify and redeem. Wrong! Hate never produces anything but monsters and crime criminals! Love alone realizes wonderful works, virtue alone can save! No, if our country has ever to be free, it will not be through vice and crime, it will not be so by corrupting its sons, deceiving some and bribing others, no! Redemption presupposes virtue, virtue sacrifice, and sacrifice love!"
"Well, I accept your explanation, " rejoined the sick man, after a pause. "I have been mistaken, but, because I have been mistaken, will that God deny liberty to a people and yet save many who are much worse criminals than I am? What is my mistake compared to the crimes of our rulers? Why has that God to give more heed to my iniquity than to the cries of so many innocents? Why has He not stricken me down and then made the people triumph? Why does He let so many worthy and just ones suffer and look complacently upon their tortures?"
"The just and the worthy must suffer in order that their ideas may be known and extended! You must shake or shatter the vase to spread its perfume, you must smite the rock to get the spark! There is something providential in the persecutions of tyrants, Señor Simoun!"
"I knew it," murmured the sick man, "and therefore I encouraged the tyranny."
"Yes, my friend, but more corrupt influences than anything else were spread. You fostered the social rottenness without sowing an idea. From this fermentation of vices loathing alone could spring, and if anything were born overnight it would be at best a mushroom, for mushrooms only can spring spontaneously from filth. True it is that the vices of the government are fatal to it, they cause its death, but they kill also the society in whose bosom they are developed. An immoral government presupposes a demoralized people, a conscienceless administration, greedy and servile citizens in the settled parts, outlaws and brigands in the mountains. Like master, like slave! Like government, like country!"
A brief pause ensued, broken at length by the sick man's voice. "Then, what can be done?"
"Suffer and work!"
"Suffer--work!" echoed the sick man bitterly. "Ah, it's easy to say that, when you are not suffering, when the work is rewarded. If your God demands such great sacrifices from man, man who can scarcely count upon the present and doubts the future, if you had seen what I have, the miserable, the wretched, suffering unspeakable tortures for crimes they have not committed, murdered to cover up the faults and incapacity of others, poor fathers of families torn from their homes to work to no purpose upon highways that are destroyed each day and seem only to serve for sinking families into want. Ah, to suffer, to work, is the will of God! Convince them that their murder is their salvation, that their work is the prosperity of the home! To suffer, to work! What God is that?"
"A very just God, Señor Simoun," replied the priest. "A God who chastises our lack of faith, our vices, the little esteem in which we hold dignity and the civic virtues. We tolerate vice, we make ourselves its accomplices, at times we applaud it, and it is just, very just that we suffer the consequences, that our children suffer them. It is the God of liberty, Señor Simoun, who obliges us to love it, by making the yoke heavy for us--a God of mercy, of equity, who while He chastises us, betters us and only grants prosperity to him who has merited it through his efforts. The school of suffering tempers, the arena of combat strengthens the soul.
"I do not mean to say that our liberty will be secured at the sword's point, for the sword plays but little part in modern affairs, but that we must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it, by exalting the intelligence and the dignity of the individual, by loving justice, right, and greatness, even to the extent of dying for them,--and when a people reaches that height God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, the tyranny will crumble like a house of cards and liberty will shine out like the first dawn.
"Our ills we owe to ourselves alone, so let us blame no one. If Spain should see that we were less complaisant with tyranny and more disposed to struggle and suffer for our rights, Spain would be the first to grant us liberty, because when the fruit of the womb reaches maturity woe unto the mother who would stifle it! So, while the Filipino people has not sufficient energy to proclaim, with head erect and bosom bared, its rights to social life, and to guarantee it with its sacrifices, with its own blood; while we see our countrymen in private life ashamed within themselves, hear the voice of conscience roar in rebellion and protest, yet in public life keep silence or even echo the words of him who abuses them in order to mock the abused; while we see them wrap themselves up in their egotism and with a forced smile praise the most iniquitous actions, begging with their eyes a portion of the booty--why grant them liberty? With Spain or without Spain they would always be the same, and perhaps worse! Why independence, if the slaves of today will be the tyrants of tomorrow? And that they will be such is not to be doubted, for he who submits to tyranny loves it.
"Señor Simoun, when our people is unprepared, when it enters the fight through fraud and force, without a clear understanding of what it is doing, the wisest attempts will fail, and better that they do fail, since why commit the wife to the husband if he does not sufficiently love her, if he is not ready to die for her?"
Excerpts from El Filibusterismo, by Dr. Jose Rizal