Sunday, September 03, 2006

Justice Cruz just doesn't know when to quit

Ours is a culture that reveres the old. We used to do this unquestioningly; the young must always give way to the superior knowledge of those who have been around longer. We presume they have experienced more and therefore must have learned more. But cultures change. Now we recognize that wisdom doesn't always come with age.

Based on his most recent column today on the Inquirer, I suppose Justice Isagani Cruz must have been deluged by an outraged "mob" incensed with his "opinions" about what is proper and improper decorum of homosexuals. In the past few weeks the Inquirer has published some of these letters. Many more reactions have certainly been expressed in the Pinoy blogosphere. Many took their cue from Manolo, outing himself unwittingly to the general public. Well, at least to those who do not regularly read his blog (read his "outing" post here).

The heated exchanges between these two Inquirer columnists quieted down a little as more important matters of state had to be critiqued and wrote about. It was quite exciting for a while, people duking it out on the web is always stimulating – readers immediately take sides and participate in the debate. But on a major broadsheet? The stimulating and coolness factor is multiplied.

The Inquirer expressed its own opinion on the issue in an editorial, signaling a cease-fire of sorts between Justice Cruz and Manolo's columns. I thought they let the matter rest. Until today’s column. Oh, Justice Cruz, why don’t you know when to quit???

First, he compares his “daring” to critique to progressives in American history. He mentions the bravery of the press in the Watergate scandal as well as the conviction of a certain Susan B. Anthony who campaigned for the right of women to vote. He then goes on to compare himself to a man who started teaching the theory of evolution in conservative states where the thought of humans evolving from apes was unthinkable. He should have stopped at identifying himself with Joseph McCarthy in his Communist witch-hunt. Because Justice Cruz has no business making comparisons between himself and the progressives he mentioned. These were people who advanced notions of social change and social progress while he advocates a reactionary, regressive view on homosexuality in particular and gender in general. He says he only voices the opinion of the "silent majority" and so he must not be derided for his efforts and should instead be lauded!

In the past weeks, this former justice of our high courts, a singularly erudite man who has (presumably) defended the laws of this land with as much gusto and passion as he has displayed in defending his opinions, has revealed to us that he is a man whose values have remained stuck in the fifties. I feel sorry for older folks who may be perceived in the same light. His own values are not a reflection of older people, but a reflection of who he is.

My immediate superior in a Manila university is a former ambassador in the twilight of his years. Despite the ageing of his body, his mind is as sharp as anyone else’s from our faculty. A few short weeks back, he and I had a heated yet entirely civil argument about whether to include Feminist philosophy in a course syllabus. He did not think there was a need. He thought why should we change what God has made? Why is there a need to teach Feminism? Aren’t Filipinas free to do what they want today? I said women are where they are today because of advances in Feminist political thought in the last century and a half. Women in the past have fought for the rights women enjoy today. There is a need to teach this because not all women in the world enjoy the same privileges we do here. There is a need to include this in our syllabus to show that what it means to be a woman changes. We are no longer “naturally” relegated to hearth and home “naturally” taking care of a gaggle of babies while the men are off to pursue their dreams of greatness. Women are no longer “naturally” perceived inferior.

He understood, he of the old generation. He of the old values where men were manly men and women were of the “fainting” kind. He listened to me, a woman forty years his junior and he understood. And so we have feminist theories in our course syllabus. I credit this to who he is as a human being rather than to his age. He understood that cultures change, that perceptions change, that what it means to be human changes.

Now Justice Cruz? You can e-mail and pester him all you like my friends. That is a lost cause. That is man whose arrogance stems not from his advanced years but from his singular lack of humility that what he knows and believes can’t always possibly be right.

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