This Sunday’s parable of The Vineyard of the Lord is fair warning. The landowner prepared the vineyard and leased it to tenants who, as the story goes, violated or forgot the agreement.
When the landowner sent his servants to collect, the tenants roughed them up and killed some. On the third attempt to “collect,” the landowner, hoping the tenants would be reasonable and decent persons, finally sent his son, thinking that “they will respect my son.”
But, as is the case of all who have tasted power, attention and money, extreme greed sets in: “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.”
The Greeks call it hubris—a person’s excessive pride or self-confidence that leads to defiance of the gods. Such defiance ends in tragic results. But there is a built-in justice in this framework.
The “original sin” of hubris is to believe that one is above all, better than all, and to think that one is equal to God. On the extreme level, it makes the person believe he or she can put one over God.
Hubris has been portrayed in literature. In Sophocles’ “Oedipus Rex,” the title character rebels against his fate revealed by the Oracle of Delphi
—he would kill his father and marry his mother—and runs away from Corinth. It was this arrogance that led him to fulfill the prophecy.
Fast-forward 2,000 years later, we see Milton’s classic work, “Paradise Lost,” where Satan, after falling from heaven, plots to get back at God by tempting and destroying humanity. In Milton’s universe, heaven and creation belong to one sphere, and outside of this, what we call “hell,” is chaos.
Our dark side
Christ, Sophocles and Milton remind us that everyone has a dark side that leads to hubris. But we are also given a chance at redemption.
But when ignored or missed, it leads a step closer to hubris, until the “fatal blow” ends in tragedy.
The tenants beat and killed the servants, each incident emboldening them to think they are invincible. When the son was sent, they were completely consumed by pride and defiance to take over the vineyard and the rights of the son.
This parable is most relevant to Filipinos, now that we are at the crossroads of our journey as a people and a nation.
I come from a clear perspective, i.e., our two struggles for freedom that culminated in the 1898 Declaration of Independence and in Edsa 1986.
The two events are rare blessings that make our nation a vineyard where a rich harvest could have been made. We became the first republic in Asia. We became the first nonviolent people power movement in the world. But we botched it both times.
After our 1898 Declaration of Independence, we were colonized by the Americans and its worst effect was the patronage politics our own leaders became party to in their attempt to remain in power.
This led to the hubris of martial law, patronage politics coupled with tyranny and consolidated by corruption.
The dictator’s hubris came to a tragic end when he was ousted from power and exiled. A new lease on life, a new lease on the vineyard came our way, but we botched it again.
The coalitions that won our freedom slowly fell apart as group or individual personal interests got in the way.
Then, in 2010, we were again brought together by the hope and aspiration to overcome poverty.
In the first half of the decade, we moved from being the sick man of Asia to becoming one of its shining stars. We were the only democracy among the top three economies, ranking third after China and Vietnam.
I have one question: Will those who sit and watch hubris unfold and not do anything be given a chance in the vineyard when the landowner puts a wretched end to the “hubritic” people? —CONTRIBUTED