Saturday, March 09, 2013

Charity, Comedy, and Team Patay

Like almost everyone else, I have very strong opinions on the RH law, dating back to the time when it was still a bill. My opinions haven't changed, notwithstanding the many arguments for or against. For a time, I felt guilty that I wasn't lending my voice to the fray, that I was sitting it out on the sidelines, perhaps to the neglect of my duties of conscience. But really, what is there to add by way of rational argument? Neither side has presented anything really new, and I doubt they ever will, the lines having been set and drawn so lo ago. Any further contribution I might set forward would simply add to the cacophony. At the end, t’was nothing more than a shouting match, ultimately decided on the strength of numbers, and not necessarily rationality.

The first casualty of the RH war was charity, and on this point, both sides may have been remiss. No quicker way to lose a friend than to discuss RH if you stood on opposite sides of the fence. And if it so happened that you both agreed? Even worse, I think, because you end up snickering how stupid the other side was.

The second casualty of the RH war was our sense of humor. Each side thought that, well, RH was A Serious Matter, and should be approached with dour faces and stern voices. Oh, the economy! Oh, the women! Oh, the children! Oh, the morals! Oh, the poverty! Harrumph! harrumph! We forgot to laugh.

And that's a tragedy, because there were so many episodes in the RH drama to laugh at. My own favorite happens to be the one with Carlos Celdran, whom at some point I wish to meet and shake hands with. His stunt at the church was a little funny, I admit, but not nearly as funny as the reactions he elicited. The media all described him “dressed as Jose Rizal”, but come on! Have you ever seen our national hero so, well, robust? Celdran in his outfit struck me less as Jose Rizal than Oliver Hardy. That media said this in all seriousness struck me as hilarious. (I would still like to see him in jail because I believe he will do a lot of good for the cause of prisoners.)

The loss of our sense of humor was deadly on two accounts. First, because it is very un-Filipino not to laugh, and so we have approached the RH debate in a manner contrary to our nature. And second, because it bespoke of too much faith in ourselves and the grand importance that our legal decisions have.

Here’s my proposition: the RH law will not have the impact that we think it will (except for another avenue to waste P13-billion pesos, but that’s neither here nor there.) Filipino culture will stay on the track that it is taking now (admittedly not the best of choices, but again, that’s neither here nor there.) And so that means that the general decline in morals will not accelerate any further than it already does, but neither will come the many expected benefits touted by RH proponents. In other words, the common tao will continue going on their merry way, whatever the Church or the State may say is good for them.

I take as my basis the Rizal Law passed so many decades ago. Its purpose, ostensibly, was to promote nationalism through the knowledge of the works of Rizal. The Church argued that it would lead to a general decline in morals, but that was already inevitable owing to cultural trends of the time. Did it instill in us the sense of nationalism? Of course not! Because the knowledge of Rizal and his works remains as superficial as ever. Case in point: people insisting on the striking similarity of our national hero to a certain robust comedian / tour guide.

But to return to the matter: I like to think that, with this new episode of Team Buhay / Team Patay, there is hope of a return of the sense of humor to the Church. Few people see it, of course. Everyone is focused on violation of election laws, freedom of speech, good taste (as if these ever stopped anyone), and what The Church Should Do, they can't see it for the joke that it is.

I hate to have to explain a joke but here goes: Team Patay and Team Buhay, of course, is a riff on the very silly sounding Team PNoy and Team UNA. “Patay”, said in the proper Bisayan way, is a humorous (“Patay, bai! Kalimot man ko!” “Pa-taaay ka guid.”). The tarp is too big? Okay, we’ll slice it in half. Imagine, instead of the Bacolod bishop, the late Dolphy as Father Jejemon on these hi-jinks. Comedy gold, man!

If we object to the Church resorting to these antics, it is perhaps because we think too much of her dignity. But remember that the Church was born in subversion, and in many ways continues to live in that manner because she cannot abide with The World.

Finally: understand the nature of the Church. It is not one monolithic structure, but diverse and dynamic, with independent parts able to move and act with their own freedom for so long as they remain faithful to the creed. The tarpaulin may offend some sensibilities, may in fact be in bad taste, but other than that, what else? As with any action or inaction, there will be consequences, but first and foremost it is the congregation of Bacolod that the diocese will have to answer to; and it is therefore the congregation in Bacolod who must speak up as to what they want.

We might chide the diocese of Bacolod for their lack of charity, but that shouldn't mean that we should act without charity as well. Charity means granting that the congregation of Bacolod the benefit of the doubt, that many of the congregation may in fact feel this way, and if they don't that they can resolve it with their bishop. Charity means that even as we chide, we pray that it is the Holy Spirit moves them, not relying simply on the force of our arguments.

And if nothing else: chuckle with them. Or at them. All this is just the unseriousness of human affairs.

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