Rizal, the Father of Filipino Nationalism

Manila Bulletin, December 30, 2008 | Go to article overview

Rizal, the Father of Filipino Nationalism


THE 19th century in religion and philosophy was characterized by a growing interest in the attempt to link social theory to biological evolutionism that gave rise to more subtle sociological and anthropological studies in the English speaking world. Drawing on the experience of colonial administration, such men as Edward Tylor, Herbert Spencer, and James Frazer developed the notion of a natural progression between "primitive'' and "advanced'' societies. Meanwhile, in Vienna, Sigmund Freud began to formulate influential ideas on the subconscious and human nature. In philosophy, the absolute idealism of Georg Hegel found its first supporters in England with Francis Bradley, while in the United States, pragmatic thinkers such as William James argued that truth of an idea depends on its social function. The ideology of anti-Semitism grew up in the wake of heightened nationalist sentiment, while an evolutionary type of socialism grew more popular than its revolutionary counterpart.

In literature, the 19th century carried the pessimistic application of theories of evolution as found in Emile Zola's naturalistic novels which stressed the limitations on man's actions stemming from his inherited characteristics and the environment; and portrayed the most sordid aspects of French lower-class life. In the same period English literature entered a more reflective, contemplative stage, losing the exuberance and effervescence of Charles Dickens. Nationalism still acted as a vital cultural stimulus, creating a social regeneration in Spain in reaction to the political weakness highlighted by the war with Cuba; and in Italy, celebrating unification. In both, writers turned to their national classics for models. The first self-conscious Latin-American school grew up asserting independence from European traditions.

As the realist novel produced the powerful and candid tragedy of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, new literary styles were also emerging in French poetry. Baudelaire's attempt to explore his inner self would lead to symbolist movement to which, reality beyond the poet's own imagination was irrelevant. In Russia, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy were writing, and the moral, psychological and political issues they explored recurred in the literature of the English Victorian novels from Charles Dickens to George Eliot. American literature reached maturity with the poetry of Walt Whitman - a distinct contrast with contemporary European styles - and the strong prose of Herman Melville's epic novel Moby Dick.

In music, the 19th century saw romanticism begin to decline as nationalism and impressionism became more important ideals in music and melody. Meanwhile the future of American and European music was formed in the United States with the increasing appreciation of the rhythmic genius of black folk musicians and awareness of the potential of the newly developed phonograph.

In science and technology, the 19th century witnessed Germany take the lead in the science-based industries as a result of the emphasis on science and technology in education and political system that gave power to industry. Germany possessed a flourishing heavy industry, became the center of early automobile development, and led the field in medicine, now a preventive as well as a curative science, with the discovery of antibodies and of new drugs. Robert Koch's work on tuberculosis was the most important advance. As a result of these technical discoveries combined with the widespread building of new hospitals, mortality rates dropped throughout western Europe. Other technological achievements that would alter society were the inventions of the telephone and phonograph. Classical physics failed to explain discoveries made in radioactivity, and entered a time of uncertainty that would only be resolved by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. I may say that the nineteenth century - the century of Dr. Jose Rizal - was a period of ferment and turmoil and violent confusion. …

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