To Frankie: Yes, Nations Die, But Not for The Reasons You Think
This is in response to National Artist F. Sionil Jose’s column titled “How nations die” published in PhilStar Global. In his column dated July 13, 2020, F. Sionil Jose spoke of “objective reality” and went on to ‘explain’ how nations rise and fall, citing the earliest migrations to North America. He also cited many other political figures, including Mao and Mussolini, in a single breath. He then reiterates that we are a ‘young nation’ before stating that he supports some old politicos like Loren Legarda and Gilbert Teodoro, Jr. He then vaguely described Manny Pacquiao as someone who can land an avalanche win if he does run. Does F. Sionil Jose mean that he wants to support Pacquiao because he has the same populist advantage? Or was he mansplaining his questionable politics for the umpteenth time? We may never know. The man rarely qualifies points made in his columns. And when he does try to clarify, more questions arise. This is perhaps the main difficulty dealing with someone with F. Sionil Jose in the so-called arena of the realpolitik.
Fortunately, his words do not confuse everyone. Nothing could be clearer than relying on elections to rectify societal ills. This chilling passage from his column needs no additional explanation: “I will now use the Chinese riposte; look at those Baltic nations that survived the devolution of the Soviet Union. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia — each has a population of only a few million. Even if 50 million Filipinos succumb to this pandemic, there will still be 50 million of us who will continue building this nation.”
For a National Artist to consider 50 million dead Filipino as a mere statistic, citing the reproductive capacity perhaps of people to repopulate the country, speaks volumes of how he considers the value of a life of ordinary Filipinos. Are we that disposable to you, manong Frankie? What if I were to die today, that I am not a loss because someone is being born around the same time I am already expiring? This type of logic defies any humane reasoning. That instead of holding accountable those in power, you choose to ignore the warning signs and continue to be obsequious and ever-tolerant of the state for the obvious abuses of its powers and the law. This is in light of the Anti-Terror Law of 2020, which you should be countering with your name and your influence.
The Philippines celebrates the likes of you, but why do you fail to see that the state does not even respect human rights?
Aren’t writers like you and me tasked with defending life, human liberty, and human rights up to an inch of our lives? This is the entire point of committed writing. There are no ifs and buts. No excuses. No political association should stand in the way of committed writing if you value the discipline. Otherwise, we become mere mercenaries. Our complicity with those in power widens the field of power and legitimizes the starvation, the neglect, and the killings. Manong Frankie, we no longer have the luxury of waiting around and ignoring things. You are either a part of the struggle or become complicit of all these neglect and abuses.
Nations die not because they have to die. Nations die not because the fall of peoples is an organic part of the natural cycle of history. We are ruled by biology individually, but our sentience and capacity to enact political struggles separate us from invertebrates and bacteria. Our material conditions, including the reality of being exploited by capitalism, these things cause the rise and fall of modern nations. Fascism is capitalism in decay, hanging on bitterly to cultural nationalism and meaningless symbols of the state. This is not a game of who dies first. This is a struggle to remain alive for as long as possible and grant people peace and hope for a more just future. If you can no longer see that, if you can no longer see the value of human life because we are mere statistics, then there is no point in people listening to you any further.
Goodbye, manong Frankie.
This piece was also published by Rappler.
Marius Carlos, Jr. is a storyteller, essayist, and journalist. He is the current editor-in-chief of Revolt Magazine and Creative Director at Vox Populi PH. He is also the English editor of Rebo Press Book Publishing. He is an independent researcher focused on transnational capitalism, neocolonialism, empire, and pop culture. Contact him for writing projects.