Tuesday, April 27, 2004

.:Confucius Say...:.

“The Duke of She told Confucius: 'In my country, there is an upright man named Kung. When his father stole a sheep, he bore witness against him.' Confucius said, 'The upright men in my community are different from this. The father conceals the misconduct of his son, and the son conceals the misconduct of his father. Uprightness is to be found in this.'”

- The Analects, 13:18

One of the most controversial statements found in the Analects would simply have to be this one. If only for the fact that this short passage is open to so many varied interpretations and treatments, this segment from the Analects would already be reason enough to spur discussion for hours on end. The question one must ask himself at reading this statement is, “What is Confucius trying to say?”

This question is not as simple as it seems. For a moment, it might seem as a support for hypocrisy. After all, this is saving face: concealing the faults of one's family. For another, it may seem as condoning the wrongdoing of one, without rectifying such an error. But you see, Confucius means neither of this. He did not mean to say that a family must act like hypocrites in concealing the mistakes of one member of the family. This is merely to keep things that can be kept in check within the bounds of the family. Nor did he mean to imply that the family must condone such a misconduct. Just because one conceals another's actions does not mean that they do not subsequently attempt to rectify it.

The dilemma that comes out from Confucius’ words is quite clear, then: are we therefore justifying actions such as those of Imelda Marcos, who would sooner be buried with her husband than to ever admit that atrocities were committed during the time of Martial Law? To some extent, perhaps we could justify it. Would admitting that Ferdinand Marcos committed crimes as president rectify anything? Perhaps, perhaps not. In denying the crimes of the Marcos family, undue shame and dishonor is avoided, as we cannot merely pass on judgment on the entire Marcos family. If we were to look at such a sweeping judgment, that in itself is likewise not righteous. The consideration has to come with the rectification of the transgressions within the family when it could be done, as is what most Barangay officials would tell to a husband and a wife involved in a marital squabble. This, to them, is merely a “domestic” affair, which means it should not be taken further than that.

However, we cannot justify Imelda’s actions completely, as the results of her actions is no longer a small affair but one that has affected the entirety of the Philippine nation. At the same time, her denial is not just for her late husband, in the first place. It’s also to keep herself from getting into trouble herself, knowing her heavy involvement in the whole matter to begin with.

Does this mean that Rudy Fernandez was wrong in turning over his son, Mark Anthony Fernandez? Not quite. Confucius’ main teaching is about righteousness. If rectification within the family was simply not working for Rudy Fernandez, then he would not be righteous in hiding the transgressions of his son, and would soon enough be guilty of condoning such misconduct. With that being said, if it got to a point where it was beyond his control, Rudy Fernandez would be doing what is righteous by bearing witness against his own son.

However, what I see to be the case here is that there is some relativity involved. Confucius never rebuked the Duke of She for calling Kung a righteous man. He merely stated that the righteous men in his community are different. Would this indicate that either path has their respective measures of righteousness? I would like to think so. For me to be able to determine this, it would be best for us to turn to the factors at hand. At what point can we say that rectification within the family is no longer enough? Is only one course of action always the righteous course of action? The fact that Confucius did not repudiate the Duke but merely showed a different kind of righteousness shows that depending upon the situation, either course of action can be righteous.

Personally, I find this to be a very sticky matter that requires an immense amount of consideration, either way. Not all kinds of misconduct can simply be fixed within the family, nor should all kinds of misconduct be made public by one’s own family. With that in mind, we are left to believe that Confucius was very much open to either course of action, given the right measure of guidance. It is, of course, more righteous to be able to rectify something within the family and not without, which may very well be the reason why Confucius attributed such a practice to the people of his community, in contrast to that of the Duke’s whose people are indeed righteous in rectifying from without that which they no longer can from within, which indicates a lack of prudence and temperance of the people in the family itself.

And so the next time I see my brother shoplift, maybe I wouldn’t be so quick to tell the security guards about it…

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