The brain is a weaponBy Raymund Fernandez
Cebu Daily News
Twenty years is too short a jail term to fully pay for the hundreds of innocent people killed by Umar Patek’s bombs. It is a travesty that both he and his lawyers expressed “disappointment” over the verdict on the alleged grounds that Patek tried to dissuade the people who finally planted his bombs and detonated it. It is a position which reveals the constructs of Patek’s intellectual dishonesty. Aside from the sin of killing so many innocents he commits an even graver sin of disclaiming responsibility for his work, the product of his intellect. For that additional sin he should at least get another 20 years in jail. And still it would be over 200 innocent lifetimes too short.
Strange that the verdict should have been handed down inside a mostly Islamic country. The laws of Moses prescribed an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That suggests one life for one life, thus; the mathematical dissonance. If 20 years equals one lifetime, then the mathematical sum should have been 20 times 200. It should have been at least 4,000 years.
And still one ought to wonder if that is enough for the innocent person who entered into that Bali nightclub for a small drink to kick off an evening of peaceful fun and excitement. And what about the person who jumped into an EDSA bus to go to work or to school one ordinary day only to see his or her life ended? And all for some stupid “noble” human purpose, which is meant to equalize something in an unequal world. A person of intellect should know nothing is equalized by a bomb exploding among non-combatants.
That way of “equalizing” the world is better left to combatants whose intellectual potentials inversely match the risks they are willing to take in their lifetimes. Let them cloud their minds with thoughts that all these is ultimately for the greater glory of God. Let them think their God will reward them after all these. A person with enough intellect to build a bomb ought to have enough intellect to turn his or her back to this line of reasoning.
Though our hands convict us, finally it is the brain which is the dangerous weapon. A person might contemplate how a bomb is made. Mix “700 kgs of potassium chorate, sulphur and aluminum powder and stuff them in four filing cabinets.” Until the hands actually do it, the bomb exists only in potential. It is a potential all the way until it finally explodes. Other people might actually do the planting and the firing. But even so.
We have come to a time when people of knowledge should be made to take responsibility for the fruits derived by their knowledge. Knowledge is not a morally neutral thing. It has never been. And more so now that we have come into a world where knowledge itself is power.
The same is true with bombs as it is with art and what people write down. If Ang Tigbuhat writes that what his readers must do is to take a gun and shoot a particular person, he must take account for those words the same way if he makes a painting or a sculpture to produce that same effect. If a reader actually goes and does that particular act then he must bear at least an equal if not the greater burden of guilt. Otherwise, we would have to allow that a writer can write anything he or she likes, the same way with the painter and the sculptor. And if we can say this of art, shouldn’t we say the same of the bomb maker?
True, the actual planting of bombs and their detonation may be left to the most stupid among us. But this does not mean they are more responsible. The bomb maker is not a mere instrument even if what he does is only instrumentality. The bomb placer has the better claim to being mere instrumentation. For the fact of obviously being the more stupid, the guilt for his or her act might be mitigated. But not the bomb maker.
The person who actually makes the bomb is the most responsible of all. This responsibility is not mitigated even if he or she does not even know where the bomb will ultimately be placed, how many people it will kill and for what final cause. A person who makes that sort of bomb knows it will be used for no good purpose. He must account both for the act itself as well as its ultimate consequence. Otherwise, this world we now have will continue on in its frightfully merry way where people of intellect, scientists, technicians, doctors, artists, writers, teachers, religious leaders and politicians can say anything they like for others of lesser mettle to eventually do. Such a method of disclaiming moral responsibility for one’s intellectual acts is not and should not ever be acceptable.
And if we look closely all about us now we should see how this can only lead to the planet’s ultimate destruction. The planet’s civilizations can ill afford it especially in these dangerous times. After this verdict we should not be surprised if those among us with the smallest fascistic bent start wearing for a bomber sticker this sign: Bombs do not kill people. People do!