You may have noticed that our young people are being corrupted in so many despicable ways. They are deliberately being taught to lie which will surely lead them astray. That is why the anguished words of Padre Florentino often comes to mind. Here they are, from the last chapter of El Filibusterismo: “Where are the youths who will dedicate their innocence, their idealism, their enthusiasm to the good of the country? Where are they who will give generously of their blood to wash away so much shame, crime and abomination? Pure and immaculate must the victim be for the sacrifice to be acceptable. Where are you, young men and young women, who are to embody in yourselves the life-force that has been drained from our veins, the pure ideals that have grown stained in our minds, the fiery enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts? We await you, come for we await you! “(LMGuerrero translation, 1961).
Padre Florentino whispered those words as Simoun, the protagonist of the novel, lay dying after his planned uprising failed. The priest heard a discreet knock, his servant wanted to know if lights were wanted. When he returned to the bedside, Simoun had already passed away. As you may well remember, Simoun was Crisostomo Ibarra in Noli Me Tangere, the young idealist who advocated educational reforms but was persecuted by the Spanish colonial authorities. He narrowly escaped death and could not marry his fiancée, Maria Clara, who sought refuge in a convent. He was led astray by the injustices he and his people suffered at the hands of tyrants. When he came back as Simoun, he was a ruthless, wealthy corruptor of the colonial order he vowed to destroy. He stoked insatiable greed among the powerful, discontent and violence among the youth. “God have pity on those who led him astray!” Padre Florentino prayed over the dead Simoun/Ibarra.
Should we have pity on those who are leading our youth astray? Never. I am asking God to give them a very special place in hell. The damage they are doing might be so irreparable our youth might not be able to wash away their own “shame, crime and abomination.” If we do not raise the political discourse in this country to a higher standard, we might never again find young people who love what is just and good, respect their individual dignity and that of others, who practice civic virtues instead of applauding vices, lies, vulgarity and lawlessness. We need younger generations who love this country and place national interests above their own.
As we prepare for next year’s presidential elections, we see videos and pictures of young Filipinos in kilometric single files, smiling sheepishly as they accept a few paper bills, payment for providing “warm bodies” at raucous rallies and motorcades of dynastic politicians. Money is the instrument of corruptors, especially during these economically precarious times. More than ever young Filipinos are tempted to sell their political rights; far too many have fallen into the fault line between politics and ethics.
Because Generations X and Z and the millennials have mastered the intricacies of information technology (unlike their elders), they are easily conscripted into troll farms where they are instructed to create fake news, conjure libelous spiels and relish the noxious impact of their prevarications. While browsing recently, I was jolted by the androgenous countenance of a boy, barely in his teens, spewing insults and lies with gusto at VP Leni Robredo and her allies. As he contorted his lips into a malicious smile, he displayed two sets of teeth in his lower jaw, like a shark. (That’s what you get for telling lies! — my grandma would have said.) What future is in store for young Filipinos like him? Trolls must be earning more than their parents, so one wonders If they are happy living off those vicious lies. Someday soon, “professional prevaricator” might appear in CVs and bio-data. Will serious mainstream media or reputable corporation hire a professional gas- lighter and liar? Let us not forget that no less than a presidentiable has blithely declared that honesty should not be an electoral issue because everyone lies anyway. That is where it all begins: if you want to destroy a country, teach its children to tell lies and enjoy doing so.
Thrice the apostle Peter lied, but he repented and became a saint, unlike Judas Iscariot who riddled with guilt, killed himself. According to Proverbs 6, 16-19, there are seven things the Lord hates, among them are lying and bearing false witness which is exactly what our young people are being taught to do and to enjoy in those troll plantations. “Youth of the land we await you” was Padre Florentino’s plaintive cry. I hope we are not waiting in vain.