The passing of Harry Lee and what Singapore has to prove

The passing of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew or Harry Lee, today marks an end to an era in ASEAN when nations were built on the remains of white colonialism. In 2015 these nations with the exception of Timor Leste have been built. What is needed is to strengthen these nations, preferably in a democratic orientation. Timor Leste still needs a lot of assistance economically and in its political institutions but is on the right way.

It is inaccurate to say that Singapore was a creation of Mr Lee. It was a creation of the imperialist British, just like its neighbour Malaysia. Mr Harry Lee, Cambridge educated barrister with a law double honours, eventually became the island’s first Prime Minister when it achieved self government in Britain’s Commonwealth in 1959. But Singapore was too small to be a viable nation state, and so had to join a Federated Malaysia. The new Malaysian state had been born with racial questions and tensions. How will Singapore’s predominantly Straits Chinese live with a Malaysia whose survival will be guaranteed by granting the Malays ascendancy?

The answer would tearfully come in 1965 when the Tunku and his Parliament in Kuala Lumpur voted to expel Singapore from the Federation. As a tearful Lee would say later on, this is the only case where independence was forced on a people who were unwilling to have it.

Singapore had to go on as an independent state without a hinterland. This whole process had to be skillfully and diplomatically navigated by Lee’s government since Malaysian troops were still in Singapore and Singapore had no army. Lee could not afford to warmonger and a modus vivendi had to be sought with Malaysia through a series of agreements. This modus was also for Malaysia’s benefit since both nations needed to ensure racial harmony or risk fragmentation. Singapore was one big British military base and while for a time the British provided the security umbrella, they eventually withdrew in 1969. Singapore had to build an armed forces from scratch and for this sought Israeli expertise. Singapore faced threats from Indonesia and Malaysia. Israeli involvement did not amuse Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore therefore was born in a siege mentality. It had to prove it was viable to be a nation which meant that it had to ensure racial harmony. And there would be no better man for this than Harry Lee. Furthermore Mr Lee also had to ensure class harmony and being pragmatic enough, he used socialist approaches to do so. Lee’s Peoples Action Party at the start allied with the Marxists but after gaining power in parliament, jailed them. Since the new independent state had to be viable, there had to be curbs on free speech and association.

PAP has ruled Singapore since 1959. It was pragmatically socialist with a meritocratic ideology. This socialism we can say was built on meritocracy. But rather ironically, while it assumes everyone is equal, this creates a new system of classes and creates a new inequality. Lee’s remarks about the Filipino elite should be contextualized in Lee’s meritocratic pragmatism in a Confucian context.  The Filipino elite is there only on pretended privilege and should be kicked out but for Lee this is via meritocratic processes.

Nonetheless, Lee’s ideology is what built Singapore and what made Singapore viable as an OECD economy. It is a nation that adheres to rule of law, transparent and corruption free.  But the question of Singapore’s viability as a nation state once again comes up to fore, with a recent race riot that shocked me (a frequent visitor to the city state) and many Singaporeans.  Other factors that are very worrisome is decreasing competitiveness and a growing anti immigrant sentiment. Younger Singaporeans, many of whom have studied or worked in liberal democracies, are demanding more latitude for freedoms the liberal West takes for granted. There are signs that BG Lee’s (Harry Lee’s son) government has loosened up with some of the restrictions but more freedom of the press remains to be seen.

With Lee’s passing, Singapore will be on the way to be a mature nation. The siege mentality will be of historical interest and PAP which has benefited from the workings of a responsible Westminister form of government will have to choose which from the Liberal democratic tradition is compatible with Singaporean society.

Filipinos who admire Lee have reasons to do so. Many of them are from the affluent middle and upper classes but if they want a Philippines run by someone like Harry Lee, a few inconvenient freedoms have to be dispensed with for the moment. Some redistribution is needed and remember this has socialist flavour. The State has to decide if they can buy cars or if they merit a condominium unit. Everyone has to study in a state school and all have a chance in doing so.  However not everyone can merit to attend university. Higher education should be merited. Academic freedom is presumed to be limited by the state’s priorities. I do know this for a fact from my Singaporean colleagues.  Private schools are complementary and are strictly regulated by the State in order to maintain standards and professionalism. No CHED style deregulation here!   But the trade off is attractive, a National University that is world class with fast Internet connection everywhere, a working and dependable MRT, the most modern military in ASEAN and litter free streets. And best of all, there is practically no petty crime. Big crimes are dealt with harshly always in accordance with Singapore law.  Singapore despite a  reputation with the liberal West as a  “repressive” state is no police state. Nobody gets extrajudicially punished or killed in Singapore.  Singapore will never be able to accept disciplinarian local executives idolized by the PH urban middle classes unless they act according to the law!

The question is are they willing to trade their pretended privileges for what Mr Lee’s meritocracy requires?

I agree with Mr Lee, discipline is necessary especially for a small town. When that town becomes a nation, it is still the same fact!

Pope Francis speaks in Malacanang

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Pope Francis’ visit to Malacanang is historic in the same sense as Paul VI’s and John Paul II’s visit in 1970 and 1981 respectively. As I have written before, while you and I may not agree with the Pope but it is daft to ignore what he says.

Pope John Paul II’s visit and homilies in Poland in 1979 more or less started the collapse of Soviet Communism in Europe culminating in the dissolution of the USSR on Christmas Day 1991.

John Paul II in his first visit to the Philippines addressed the Marcos regime in Malacanang on Feb 17, 1981, John Paul II indicted the Marcos regime by saying

“Even in exceptional situations that may at times arise, one can never justify any violation of the fundamental dignity of the human person or of the basic rights that safeguard this dignity. Legitimate concern for the security of a nation, as demanded by the common good, could lead to the temptation of subjugating to the State the human being and his or her dignity and rights.”

Marcos lifted Martial Law before the Papal visit but kept all his dictatorial powers. In 1981, Marcos was at the height of his presidency. The Pope’s statement is believed to have been instrumental to the downfall of the Marcos regime five years later.

Pope Francis visits a vastly different Philippines with the same and much magnified contradictions. The Philippines underwent a transition to democracy, although an elite one.  Paul VI visited Manila’s slums in Tondo and John Paul II did too in 1981. In 2014, some sectors wanted to bring Francis to Tondo, but hardly much has changed in that Manila district. The slums are still there and are more teeming than before.

Francis being from a country like Argentina which had experienced a similar democratic transition knows what inequality and poverty is all about. In Manila today, the poor need not be brought to Francis since the poor are everywhere and the government unlike in Marcos’ time, these souls cannot be hidden or painted over. They are found even in the antiseptic gated communities of the rich.

And so Francis words in his address

“I hope that this prophetic summons will challenge everyone, at all levels of society, to reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor, and to make concerted efforts to ensure the inclusion of every man and woman and child in the life of the community.”

was expected given his earlier celebrated words in the exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

What Francis said was a total indictment of the Aquino regime and the constitutional system the people installed in 1986 and was eventually betrayed.

Francis essentially pulled out the rug of moral ascendancy from Aquino’s Daang Matuwid!

To make things worse, Aquino’s earlier address to the Pope was a lecture on church history, colonialism, theology and a swipe against the previous political dispensation and the Philippine Church

Aquino has no clue that his guest was not just a Head of State but the presiding bishop of the worldwide Catholic Church. While his visit is to the whole Filipino people, much of his attention will be for his flock.  Thus to take a political swipe at the Philippine Catholic Church is not just an insult to the bishops who head that church, but to the vast majority of Filipinos who are members of that church. This is not to say that the Philippine bishops should be above reproach, they aren’t and even Roman Catholics are morally obliged to criticize them for their excesses. But there is a proper time to criticize the bishops and not in front of the Pope.

And another thing Aquino called the Pope as a “security nightmare”. That was gratuitous. After all it was his government who invited the Pope.

Let me put it this way. You get invited to a friend’s birthday party overseas. You take a leave from work, pay for the airfare, you arrive and your friend complains of the inconvenience of picking you at the airport!?!?!

Let me rephrase Aquino’s words

“Judgment is rendered without an appreciation of his office.”

That is what makes the Aquino presidency wanting.

What is satire?

 Note: This was blogged in 2012

Satire as genre in visual art, performing arts and in literature is used to ridicule society’s shortcomings, vices, mores and conventions. While it HAS to be FUNNY, it’s main goal is constructive, to give chance to the satirized to REFORM themselves.

Satire in the Western Canon is from the Romans like Horace and Juvenal whose styles set the standard for satire throughout history. My favourite satirical work is Petronius Arbiters’ The Satyricon which I first read while attending the University of the Philippines. It is a major work of literature for the single reason that it satirizes Roman society of the first century AD as well as giving linguists a clue on how colloquial Latin was spoken. The chapters on Trimalchio’s Dinner Party are hilarious to the extent that F Scott Fitzgerald once considered “Trimalchio” as a possible title to his novel which eventually became “The Great Gatsby”

Satire ridicules the pompous and the holier than thous and is most devastating to social climbers. In fact social climbers and careerists are shredded by satire most effectively, a fact not lost on the Philippine’s premiere satirist, Dr Jose Rizal who in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, shreds the friars, social climbers and the gamut of Philippine colonial society and of course the Royal and Pontifical University!

And so when we read that a comic strip artist in a point of satirical effort, makes a joke in the characters of fictional fat characters, about lesbians in a  Catholic all girls school, the paper publishing the strip suspended the artist.

On threat of a lawsuit. But then again, lawsuits and lawyers are fair game for satirists as well as nuns and priests! The Pope not excepted by satire but recent satire on the Pope is more of the Horatian kind (gentle and constructive) rather than the Juvenalian kind. Remember the “Pope must Diet”? Robble Coltrane satirizes not the goodness of the Pope but the badness of people managing the Pope!

Rizal had no choice but to be Juvenalian. And for that he was shot! At least the comic strip artist was just suspended.

Of course there will be the offended. The politically correct, the pompous, the holier than thou, and the wealthy. But that is what satire is all about.

Only idiots need the warning that what they will read is a satire. Perhaps this is to avoid a lawsuit. But satire is no drug and does not require a BFAD warning. It is a work of art and has to be protected by rights to free expression.

Perhaps the Filipino people did Rizal wrong. They turned his satires into Holy Gospels and the satirist into a hero!

A Tale of two Charlies

I have always argued that the Filipino national identity was built on satire. It was Rizal’s two novels, both satirical that lit the lamp of revolution, the metaphorical lamp of El Filibusterismo’s Simoun that exploded in 1896. The first novel the Noli Me Tangere, is more satirical than the second, the political novel of the El Filibusterismo.

Building a national identity is serious business and neighbouring states like Malaysia and Singapore are still in the process of doing so. And there is nothing remotely satirical in the effort although the foibles of the nation builders are a legitimate target of satire. Thus it is no wonder that Filipinos have considered the two novels as “Gospels of Nationalism” as Leon Maria Guerrero will have it in his British like translation of the two novels. In a sense by making the novels as Gospels, the satire had been turned on its head, unless Satire means the Divine Word in Filipino society.

There is this observation that Filipinos fall for satire in the way that it is considered as Gospel truth. Perhaps that is the unintended consequence of canonizing Jose Rizal. Whatever comes from the mouth (or pen) of a saint becomes sacred. Now didn’t the Poor Man of Assisi’s acts were initially satirical of medieval pretension but when Francis’ brothers wrote them up, what was funny became hagiography. Chesterton tried to redeem what Francis is all about without offence in his masterpiece, trying to rescue the joke that would lead to salvation. Perhaps that is why satire can redeem.

Rizal’s Maria Clara was once considered an object of satire. But if that was so, then why was Rizal obviously enamored by her? She is too much of a tragic character to be satirized. However her father, the Father Damaso (we will come to him later) is obviously a satirical character.

Damaso is a fictional sinecured padre and father. Like all dads he would look after the welfare of his children. The satirical Damaso has been the stereotype of clerical abuse in Filipino literature, but to be fair, he wasn’t the dark side of the Spanish Filipino Church. It was the think, spectacles wearing and lecherous Padre Salvi who is the evil incarnate in Rizal’s novel. He wasn’t as visible as Damaso and being thin, not rotund, he didn’t make the stereotype. He was always in the shadows of the novel.

And so when Carlos Celdran, the celebrated Intramuros tour guide went into the Cathedral during an inseparable ecumenical liturgical service of vespers, Mass and bible testimony , and raised his Damaso placard and shouted about the bishops interfering in politics, he attracted attention and he got it. Unfortunately he attracted a criminal complaint too, from a Catholic layperson. At first the bishops and the Catholic clergy were nonplussed since as they were celebrating the Bible, there was a Saint called Damaso who helped Saint Jerome come up with the Vulgate. They thought is was part of the Bible sharing testimony.  It was only when the Protestants and a few Catholic laypeople in attendance got irked when Celdran began shouting.

Two of the Catholics who gave statements were not offended by “Damaso” (which was satirical) but by the shouting. In fact one of the Catholics agreed with Celdran but it should not have been at the cost of disrupting the service.

Now let’s go to Paris where the tragic murder of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists have caused outrage in France and elsewhere. Charlie Hebdo has been publishing  cartoons satirizing religious personalities sometimes depicting them in sexual contexts. Obviously this was offensive to Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious sensibilities but in no way did Charlie Hebdo disrupt any service in Notre Dame with any of its cartoons. This satirical tradition dates back to the French Revolution. Rizal also found inspiration in this tradition but he didn’t satirize the raison d’être of the Catholic religion but the characters running the religion in the Philippines.

But how can you separate the character and the raison d’être? The problem is that the characters make a living from the raison d’être. In other words it is next to impossible!

Freedom of expression enjoys a wide latitude in France as well as in the Philippines. However, it is plain to see that they have limits. The debate in France and in the Philippines is “What are the limits?” or to put it bluntly “When is satire no longer funny?”

For satire, the limits are drawn when it is no longer funny. There is a view among literary critics that while Rizal continued to use satire in the El Filibusterismo, he no longer found it hilarious unlike  readers do. The Fili remains funny to me as a reader who reads it to prepare for my Science, Technology and Society lectures, but it is plain to see why Guererro would call it an “ominous novel” as the novel forbodes of violence while the reader eagerly expects it. It is indeed to warn as by this time Rizal had known the futility of his mission using the pen. The vocation would be taken by Andres Bonifacio to a different conclusion.

Satire is most funny when political and Charlie Hebdo has proven it to unfortunately, a most devastating effect. But this fortunately wasn’t the effect heaped upon Charlie Celdran.  And yes of course, we have to defend the freedom of speech. This liberty isn’t in Magna Carta but is a product of the Reformation’s wars of religion. And since the dominant European religion then was  Catholicism, this liberty had always took into assumption the right to offend Catholicism until Europeans realized that a multi religious Europe needs religious freedom. This was one of the ideas for having a United States of America.

Fortunately, European civilization after so much blood had been spilled, realized that in order for freedom of speech to take hold, freedom of religion must be guaranteed. And here is where we are, a Filipino society committed to secularism but has little clue what that really means. We ask the question whether it is a legitimate exercise of freedom of expression to offend the idea of a religion, perhaps so. But to offend the practice of a religion?

It is Charlie Celdran’s fortune that in the Philippines, freedom of expression is more protected than in other places and that in donning a Rizal costume, the clerics initially thought it was a joke, essentially what satire is. But as George Orwell would write “Every joke is a little revolution”. But a revolution always has its costs.

Satire will never die and will remain funny until the readers say it is no longer so. We have to recognize that this isn’t a purely Western genre and that the Islamic world has had a longer tradition in it. Remember the 1001 nights? What we have to do is to stand in solidarity too with people in the Islamic world in their quest for the freedom of expression and with it the freedom of religion. I am sure the murdered cartoonists in Paris would agree.

And when you identify yourself Je suis Charlie Hebdo or Charlie Celdran, please remember that if you do that for trendy reasons, you may be an object of satire!

On why the Pope matters even today

Psalterium_Feriatum_Cod_Don_309_042The Pope is probably the only leader in the world today that when he says something, everyone will listen to what he would say. People may or may not agree not with what he says, but people have varying opinions on any matter.

The Pope is not the pope if it were not due to the accidents or in Tom Cahill’s words, “hinges of history”. The Catholic Church started out as a persecuted heretical Jewish sect. However the message that Jesus Christ is the Son of God appealed to people since this largely was due to the relativel coherence of the Gospel message. The four canonical Gospels are called synoptic simply because of this coherence. While each Gospel different in their emphases, a reader can immediately see what Jesus was, is and will be. That a faith tradition whose writings came from several writers (who wrote it within 100 years of Jesus’ crucifixion) was able to generate a coherent view of Jesus, is remarkable in history. This is what the heretical Jewish sect preached and continues to do so.

Church’s fortunes weren’t guaranteed since it was under intense persecution. Thus it is even more remarkable that it was able to put its indelible stamp on human civilization which is still so much visible and felt in the 21st century. No leader of this sect now called the Church represents what Christian message is, as most effectively, as the Bishop of Rome.

The message was preached not only to the Jews but to the rest of the known world and all peoples. Thus in the first Pentecost, we read in the New Testament that the Apostles were speaking all sorts of languages and that amazed all who heard. Thus the Church ceased to be a national sect of Jews but the Catholic Church. “Catholic” means universal.

The Pope is Bishop of Rome and is head of the Roman diocese. The Church is remarkable since it is the only organization of antiquity that has persisted to the present day. And this persistence can be documented and indeed supported by documents. The Church exists in history and as such writes and makes history. It is not a myth. Since the Church was quite adaptable of local practices, when the Roman Empire slowly collapsed, it was able to immediately adopt the institutions of the Roman Empire. Its organization reflects what Rome was. Since Rome’s political governance was territorially organized as dioceses, the Church became organized as such and so immediately had the attributes of a state. That’s where the controversy lies. The Church claims to be a State, but a Kingdom of Heaven, and yet it is on earth! The Church is a state since its head Jesus Christ really existed as a human being and claimed he had authority to rule as King.
But the Church is concerned with people on earth. In heaven, people would be God’s concern!  The bishops as head of their dioceses were responsible for the well being of people within their dioceses. Of course today under the principle of separation of Church and State, bishops are responsible only for the spiritual well being of Catholics in their dioceses, but recall that the Church was essentially the state in the early medieval period. Today this is still true for the bishops of the Church of England. Anglican bishops are not just legally responsible for the wellbeing (now mainly just spiritual) of Anglicans but of Roman Catholics, Protestants, non- Christians and even non believers too. This is because in England, the Church and State are legally not separate although as a result of democratic development, in practice they are.

Since the Bishop of Rome is the presiding bishop of all the Catholic dioceses in the world, he essentially is Head of State. This is a title he carries on to this day, although the State he heads is limited to the Vatican in Rome.

So when the Pope visits the Philippines, he is entitled as Head of State of the Vatican. He is no mere diplomat. He is Sovereign as Bishop of Rome and he is not just a representative. He is entitled to all the hospitality, honors and privileges of a Head of State when he visits. His visit in January 2015 is a State Visit and it is customary that the receiving State has to foot all the bills for the visiting Head of State.

Now this Head of State is also the primate of the biggest Christian denomination. But since the Catholic Church has put an indelible stamp on human civilization, the values it bears witness are universal. Its message is not for Catholics alone but as said in one of the most ancient prayers in the Mass, for “peace to people of goodwill”. This realization gradually developed in the Church as it relinquished much (initially with much resistance) of its original political and temporal powers to the Monarchs of Europe and eventually the Monarchs realized that like the Church they have to relinquish sovereign power (with even more resistance) to the people. Eventually the Church and State separated and this by and large was good for human civilization. The Church however defended its right to proclaim the Gospel and later on it understood that in order to do this, freedom of conscience and religion must be defended at all costs.

I do not have the space to list the important contributions of the Catholic Church to human civilization. There are so many but as a scientist, I do know that it made modern Science possible. The Catholic Church in history invented the principle of subsidiarity in governance, that is that people at a certain level of organization, should ably empowered to deal with their problems. This is central to the idea of the sovereign will of the people, so important in a democracy. But the Church is honest to say that it is not a democracy, since it has to be subject to the will of its Lord. But no one in the Church not even the Bishop of Rome is unbound in anything he does. He has to be accountable, like any man or woman under the rule of law. Now how many Heads of State or government can honestly say they never twisted the law for their own benefit?

And so the Pope remains a messenger, a nuntius with a message. It is daft to complain and rant about the reason we are giving him the chance to make that important universal message. It shows an abysmal ignorance of history!

Magna Carta’s 800th year

A_Chronicle_of_England_-_Page_226_-_John_Signs_the_Great_CharterIn Runnymede, England on June 15, 1215, the knights and nobility of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta Libertatum or the Great Charter of Liberties of England. Now known universally as Magna Carta, the charter forms part of the United Kingdom’s constitution and all nations whose legal tradition derives from England and these include the Commonwealth nations like Australia, Canada and India, the United States and the Philippines. Filipinos are indebted to Magna Carta since their constitutional traditions were inherited from the United States which got it from England.

The centre for celebrations is in Runnymede itself where the Magna Carta Trust is the chief organiser of the year long activities. The Trust focuses on the relevance of Magna Carta today.  Magna Carta is premised on the rule of law, the idea of liberty and democracy and that these rights are inalienable. Also the charter states that no one is above the law, not even the King or Queen or the President.

While most of Magna Carta’s articles deal with medieval concerns there are three that are very relevant today. These are

38. No bailiff for the future shall, upon his own unsupported complaint, put anyone to his “law”, without credible witnesses brought for this purposes.

39. No freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

40. To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.

These provisions are written into the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines although in a reworded form but the spirit remains the same.  For example Section 1 of the Bill of Rights is essentially Articles 39 and 40 of Magna Carta.  In those countries with a constitution that guarantees civil rights, these articles form part of the law of these countries. Articles 39 and 40 is the spirit behind Article 6 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In 1536, Thomas More used Magna Carta to argue for freedom of conscience and belief, in a case that was prejudged right from the start. More lost his head but conscience triumphed. Today Magna Carta is still used to do so. That is why it remains relevant and even today, laws passed by legislatures that are violative of civil liberties are challenged by citizens by appealing to Magna Carta. In the 21st century, Magna Carta was and is still being used to fight warrantless searches, arrests and detention without charge in countries which are considered democracies but in the intent of defending democracy, considers curtailing the very liberties on which democracy is made possible.

More recently some Filipino netizens have invoked Magna Carta in their arguments against the 2012 Cybercrime Act. The Supreme Court struck down the clause giving the Department of Justice the power to restrict or block access to Internet content without a court order because it is unconstitutional. This is based on the idea of due process of law which was first stated when Article 39 of Magna Carta was written into the law books of England in 1354.

Magna Carta is not just a guarantee of liberties but a reminder that citizens should ever be vigilant and militant in defending these liberties within the very law that make these liberties possible.

I hope we Filipinos celebrate its significance.

Lighting the Lamp

“So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders… If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time…”
Dr Jose Rizal “To the Filipino People and their Government”
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal’s El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal’s second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.
In El Filibusterismo, Rizal advocates nothing but revolution but being the romantic he was, he wanted the revolution instigated by the noble and pure, those “sin mancha” for “sea holocausta acceptable”. Surely the characters Rizal created in Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo could never fit the bill. For Rizal only the Filipino youth could.
I have always been intrigued about the character of Simoun. There is nothing that has been created in all of world literature that personifies corruption in all its shades, depths and motives. Simoun can represent the kind of government we have allowed to take its place. In the end, Simoun the corrupted, reveals the reason why he became corrupt and that is to avenge the loss of his love. But this love is not the Philippines. Simoun by partaking of the corruption, became corrupt himself and fostered further tyranny. And so he, mortally wounded,  received absolution after confessing from the noble Indio priest, Florentino.
Simoun’s lamp is a metaphor for all the last resort of the defenseless against corruption. The nitro-glycerin in the lamp “is all the hatred, wrongs, injustice and outrage” all distilled as a clear liquid. Rizal was not against the lighting of the lamp, but he was against lighting the lamp for the wrong reasons and motives. The weapon that will kill corruption is no more than a noble idea and Rizal was clear on that.
And the lamp will explode when the people have reached that height, God’s weapon definitely. The oligarchic idols will be crushed and the corrupt edifice will fall like a house of cards.. that is if the Filipino government fails to punish the criminals, excise its putrefaction, burn the vices of its thieves.
The sufferings of the people will be distilled. We have a choice. The distilled spirit may foment enlightenment or violence.
 What then is your choice?