Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Idealism is for old people too
I almost missed reading Conrado de Quiros's column yesterday, where he defended himself against the charges that he has grown cynical through the years. De Quiros writes:

Growing older is the best way to see that life isn't as easy as you first imagined. It certainly offers a different view from 52 years than it did from 22. None of that means resigning oneself to iniquity, or absurdity, or mediocrity. Which is something I've seen in many of my peers, whether or not they've joined government. The fact that life poses more adversity than you expected is a challenge to do more, it is not an excuse to do less. Certainly, it is not a reason to agree to less.

De Quiros further adds that: The day I stop being angry is the day I become truly cynical about this country.

A few readers I know have grown tired of reading De Quiros's rants and have chosen not to read his column, because they say it only makes them feel bad. They say De Quiros does not see the good things and writes only of the bad depressing things. He has, they say, grown cynical, in his rabid criticisms of the government. All I can say is that they should probably read Manila Bulletin's main editorial if they want to feel upbeat because in it nothing untoward ever happens; life as seen by Manila Bulletin is one long procession of anniversaries, celebrations and job opportunities.

De Quiros's column has legions of fans. Some people read the Inquirer editorial page only because De Quiros writes for it.(MLQ 3's new presence is now another reason). I read his column even if it does make me feel a little despondent sometimes. Why should we not be depressed? We live in a shitty country; De Quiros's column is simply mirroring the gravity of our times.

The late US Senator William Fulbright is, I believe, the authority on this subject of political dissent and criticism. In The Arrogance of Power, Fulbright wrote: "To criticize one's country is to do it a service and pay it a compliment." "It is a service because it may spur the country to do better than it is doing; it is a compliment because it evidences that the country can do better than it is doing....In a democracy. dissent is an act of faith."

De Quiros is neither cynical nor immaturely idealistic. He is simply being faithful to our democracy, which some people have found convenient to ignore on their way to growing up and being adult.

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