The complete review's Review:
El Filibusterismo is the sequel (of sorts) to Rizal's Filipino classic, Noli me tangere. It is set some thirteen years after the events of the earlier book, and many of the figures from Noli figure in it. Noli is, of course, dominated by Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra and his ideals for a better future for the Philippines -- including fostering education as a means of improving the lot of the Filipinos. In both novels the corruption of those in power, and especially the friars -- representatives of the powerful Catholic Church -- is repeatedly shown and attacked. At the beginning of El Filibusterismo Ibarra is supposed to be long dead, and in his stead Simoun is introduced, a jewelry merchant whom little is known about. The wily merchant clearly has big ambitions -- and quite possibly the means to accomplish them -- though he plays his cards close to his vest. For good reason, too. One man learns his biggest secret early on (and the reader surely will have guessed it, too ...) -- but Simoun trusts that his secret is safe with him: "Like me, you have accounts to settle with the rest of society". Simoun reveals that:
I've traveled the world over and worked day and night to amass a fortune to carry out my plan. Now I've come back to destroy that system, to shatter the corruption, to push it to the abyss to which it rushes without even its own knowledge, even if it means a tidal wave of tears and blood. It has doomed itself, but I don't want to die without seeing it in tatters at the bottom of the cliff. What Simoun rages against is a sclerotic system in which a few wield great power and use it to hold the masses back. Education -- which few have access to, and which in practice turns out to be a beating (or numbing) into submission -- and claims of moral authority, in particular, are among the ways the friars and the nation's elite maintain complete control. They even take pride in the fact that: We're not like the English and the Dutch who, in order to maintain the people's submission, make use of the whip ... We employ softer, more secure measures. The healthy influence of the friars is superior to the English whip. It makes for a largely docile if frustrated population, with almost no one daring to voice even the slightest criticism, or admit to any thought that is not in lock-step with those in power, as: Here any independent thought, any word that does not echo the will of the powerful, is called filibusterismo and you know well what that means. It's madness for anyone to have the pleasure of saying what he thinks aloud, because he's courting persecution. Simoun is convinced now that open filibusterismo does not suffice; stronger measures are called for -- and he has the plan(s) to overthrow the existing order and mindset. Yes, he has the grandest revolutionary visions: When the poor neighborhoods erupt in chaos, when my avengers sow discord in the streets, you longtime victims of greed and errancy, I will tear down the walls of your prison and release you from the claws of fanaticism, and then, white dove, you will become a phoenix to rise from its still-glowing ashes. A revolution, woven in the dim light of mystery, has kept me from you. Another revolution will return me to your arms, bring me back to life, and that moon before it reaches the height of its splendor, will light up the Philippines, cleansed of its repugnant trash -- And later:
Tonight those most dangerous of tyrants will rocket off as dust, those irresponsible tyrants who have hidden behind God and the state, whose abuses remain unpunished because no one can take them to task. Tonight the Philippines will hear an explosion that will convert into rubble the infamous monument whose rotteness I helped bring about. Twice the novel builds to a climax, to the promise of incredibly violent upheaval -- an explosion into revolution -- only for the grand plans to implode....
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