Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin (Ibarra) Quotes in Noli Me Tangere
In addition, Don Rafael was an honest man, more just than many men who go to confession. He held himself up to a rigorous moral standard and when the unpleasantness began he often said to me: “Señor Guevara, do you think God pardons a crime, a murder, for example, solely because one tells it to a priest, who is, in the end, a man, and who has the duty to keep it to himself, and who is afraid of burning in hell, which is an act of attrition, who is a coward, and certainly without shame? I have another conception of God,” he would say, “to me one does not correct one wrong by committing another, nor is one pardoned by useless weeping or by giving alms to the church.” He gave this example: “If I kill the head of a family, if I make a woman into a destitute widow and happy children into helpless orphans, will I have satisfied eternal justice if I let them hang me, or confide my secret to someone who has to keep it to himself, or give alms to the priests, who need it the least, or buy myself a papal pardon, or weep night and day? And what about the widow and children? My conscience tells me I should replace as much as possible the person I have murdered and dedicate myself completely and for my whole life to the welfare of the family whose misfortune I have created. And even then, even then, who will replace the love of a husband and father?”
To be a heretic anywhere is a great disgrace, especially at that time, when the mayor made a great show of his religious devotion and prayed in the church with his servants and said the rosary in a great loud voice, perhaps so that everyone could hear him and pray with him. But to be a subversive is worse than being a heretic and killing three tax collectors who know how to read, write, and sign their names. Everyone deserted him. His papers and books were confiscated. They accused him of subscribing to the Overseas Mail, of reading the Madrid newspapers, of having sent you to German Switzerland, of having been in possession of letters and a portrait of a condemned priest, and who knows what else! They found accusations in everything, even of his wearing a peninsular-style shirt. If he had been anyone other than your father, he would have been set free almost immediately, especially since a doctor had attributed the death of the unfortunate tax collector to a blockage. But because of his wealth, his confidence in justice, and his hatred of anything that was not legal or just, they ruined him.
“You write in hieroglyphics? But why?” the young man asked, finding it hard to believe his eyes and ears.
“So that no one will understand what I’m writing.”
Ibarra looked him up and down, wondering if indeed the old man was crazy. He gave the book a quick examination to see if he was lying and saw well-drawn animals, circles, semicircles, flowers, feet, hands, arms, and other things.
“But why are you writing if you don’t want anyone to read it?”
“Because I’m not writing for this generation, I’m writing for the ages. If they could read these, I would burn my books, my life’s work. On the other hand, the generation that can decipher these characters will be an educated generation. It will understand me and say, ‘In the nights of our grandparents, not everyone was asleep.’ Mystery and these curious characters will save my work from the ignorance of men, just as mystery and strange rites have saved many truths from the destructive priest class.”
“Because sane people,” he went on with a bitter irony, “will think you are crazy, too. People believe that madness is when you don’t think as they do, which is why they take me for a madman. And I’m grateful for that, because, well, the day on which they restore my reason is the day they deprive me of the small bit of freedom I’ve purchased at the price of a reputation as a sane person. And who knows if they are right? I neither think nor live according to their laws. My principles, my ideals, are different. Among them the mayor enjoys a reputation as a sane individual, since he has not learned anything more than how to serve chocolate and suffer Father Dámaso’s ill humor.”
“The government, the government,” muttered the philosopher, lifting his eyes to the ceiling, “for all its enthusiastic desire to increase the benefit of this and the mother country, for all the generous spirit of the Catholic Monarchs that some functionary or other remembers and repeats to himself, the government neither sees, nor hears, nor judges any more than the priest or the mayor wants it to see, or to hear or to judge. The government is convinced that it relies on them, that if it maintains itself it is because of them, that if it lives, it is because they allow it to live, and the day it falters, it will fall like a puppet without a stick. The government is terrified of raising its hand against the people and the people of the forces of government. […]
“Believing in chance is the same as believing in miracles. Both situations presuppose that God does not know the future. What is chance? An event no one has foreseen. What is a miracle? A contradiction, an undermining of natural laws. Lack of foresight and contradiction in the intelligence that governs the world machine means two great imperfections.”
“Who are you?” Ibarra asked him with a certain anxiety. “Are you a scholar?”
“I have had to believe a great deal in God because I have lost my belief in men,” the boatman answered, evading the question.
Ibarra thought he understood this fugitive young man. He rejected man’s justice, refused the right of man to judge his peers, protested against the force and superiority of certain classes over others.
“But, gentlemen,” the mayor interrupted. “What can we do? What can the town do? Whatever happens, the friars are always right!”
“They are always right because we always let them be right,” Don Filipo answered with impatience, emphasizing the word “always.” “Let us be in the right for a change and then let’s talk!”
The mayor scratched his head and, looking at the ceiling, replied sourly, “Ay, the heat of blood! It seems like we don’t even know what country we’re in; we don’t even know our own countrymen. The friars are rich and united, and we are divided and poor. Sure, try to defend him and you’ll see how everyone will abandon you to your task.”
“Sure,” Don Filipo exclaimed bitterly, “it will always happen if you think that way, while fear and restraint are synonymous. Everyone pays more attention to something bad rather than to a needed good thing. Suddenly it’s all fear and lack of trust. Everyone thinks about himself, and no one about other people. That’s why we’re so weak!”
It’s a poor doctor, señor, who only seeks to treat the symptoms and choke them off without attempting to root out the cause of that malady, or when he learns what it is, is afraid of attacking it. The Civil Guard has no more objective than the suppression of crime by terror and force, an objective met or accomplished only by chance. And one must bear in mind that society can only be harsh with individuals when it has furnished the means necessary for their moral perfectibility. In our country, since there is no society, since the people and the government do not form a unified structure, the latter must be more lenient, not only because more leniency is needed, but because the individual, neglected and abandoned by the state, has less responsibility when he has been afforded less enlightenment.
Perhaps they need [the Civil Guard] more in Spain, but not in the Philippines. Our customs, our mode of being, which they are always invoking when they want to deny us our rights, they forget completely when there is something they want to impose on us.
You’re right, Elías, but man is a creature of circumstance. I was blind then, disgusted, what did I know! Now misfortune has ripped off my blinders. Solitude and the misery of prison have shown me. Now I see the horrible cancer gnawing at this society, rotting its flesh, almost begging for a violent extirpation. They opened my eyes, they made me see the sores and forced me to become a criminal! And so, just what they wanted, I will be a subversive, but a true subversive. I will call together all the downtrodden people, everyone who feels a heart beating in his breast, those who sent you to me…No, I won’t be a criminal, you aren’t a criminal when you fight for your country, just the opposite!