The Monkeys Who Were Never Angry

To wrong, the virtuous response is anger. Yesterday, repeating this truth in my blog reaped much praise. But also much misunderstanding. So let me try to explain.

The rape of a child is a wrong. If a child is raped and one’s response is a shrug of a shoulder, that response is not appropriate. Stealing the life savings of an old lady is wrong. If a defenseless woman is robbed and one’s response is a smile, that response is not apt. If twenty-nine persons are killed in a bus accident because its driver was drunk and had fallen asleep, the appropriate response is not a yawn. There are some people who are angry at everything and everyone all the time; they are irascible; irascibility is not a virtue. But there are other people who, no matter the wrong, never get angry; quietude is not a virtue, it is a vice. To wrong, the proper response is anger. As a response to wrong, anger is not a vice. It is a virtue.

To those who draw their moral guidance from the life and example of Jesus, as some have pointed out, the story of his cleansing of the temple is a case in point (Jn 2:13-17). Jesus was passionate about his mission in life; he was passionate about the proclamation of the Kingdom of his Father. When he saw that his Father’s house, the Temple, had been desecrated and reduced to a marketplace, he did not smile humbly. He responded in anger. He overturned the tables of the money changers, and used a whip to drive them from the temple. “Take these things away from here,” he shouted, “and do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!’ (Jn 2:16).

In our society, there are many wrongs. The news yesterday spoke of a father who had raped his own daughter. We saw pictures of quarrying in the Matina Pangi area that caused the heavy river siltation that in turn contributed to the recent killer flash floods in Davao. We have images in our minds of people who are next to naked on the streets, while we recall others who have no more place in their overstuffed closets for their tailored suits, designers gowns, and winter overcoats. We have also images in our minds of plush subdivisions housing the rich and the powerful, even as we have images of shanty villages housing the poor and the unwashed. We have memories of the over satiated as well as of the emaciated. To wrongs in our society, man made, often we no longer feel anger. We have quieted the anger which discomforts us. We have numbed ourselves to wrong. We see so much of it, we no longer see it. That is something we should reflect on.

Recall the humorous image of the three monkeys. One has its hands over its eyes, the second its hands over its ears, the third its hands over its mouth. These see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. These monkeys are never angry. But, never angry, they are not the biblical ideal of virtue. In a human world filled with faults and foibles, we strain day by day to build a better world, using our intelligence and love to overcome animal instincts, patience to transcend discouragement, and anger to confront and overcome wrong.

My comments on the Sheriff and Inday Sarah are in this context. The Sheriff had to carry out a court-ordered demolition. But he was not a robot. He was asked by the Mayor to stay the demolition for two hours. Only two hours! He was not being asked to cancel the demolition. He refused the Mayor. In my view, he was wrong here. He was wrong not to have coordinated with local government as RA 7279, Sec. 28 mandates.

In my view, to this wrong, anger was an appropriate response, even as there is a difference between anger and the manner in which anger is expressed. It is unfortunate that this anger found expression in punches. As I have quipped in some of my Tweets, it would have been far better if the lady had expressed her anger in four pinches, rather than four punches. It would have been even better if she had expressed her anger in cracking whips on overturned tables, rather than bringing violence on another human being. In the context of the flashfloods in the Mayor’s mind, the 32 dead, the 20 missing, the hundreds of people whose lives had been ruined by days of freak flooding, the people in that hour still urgently needing relief, the Sheriff’s refusal to stay the court-ordered demolition of 200 houses of the poor for just two hours was wrong. To this wrong, she responded in anger. The anger was righteous. The punches regrettable.

The virtuous response to wrong is anger. Beyond the Sheriff and the Mayor, beyond the unfortunate particulars of this confrontation between the representative of the Courts and the representative of Local Government, there are still the lingering images of squatter squalor, environmentally-destructive quarrying, illegal mining, corruption in government and in the Church, sexually abusive priests, philandering husbands, trafficked children, and the like. To these, the appropriate response must be different from that of the monkeys.

They are never angry.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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31 Responses to The Monkeys Who Were Never Angry

  1. justiceleague68 says:

    You are right to point this out Fr. Joel.

    When a tribal leader was killed because allegedly he refused to sell their ancestral lands to someone who was very powerful and influential, they were never angry.

  2. allina says:

    you are right father . its just that there are people who doesn’t understand your point and judge or comment immediately without knowing the issue .

  3. Remmon Barbaza says:

    Well said and clearly argued, Fr. Joel! Ethics indeed demands the finest of distinctions.

  4. Angry says:

    Father, i’m sorry, but I don’t buy into this thesis of yours: “there is a difference between anger and the manner in which anger is expressed.” There is absolutely no difference Father. You cannot separate the two. Anger is an emotional response to a provocation and the emotional response can be either of two types– passive or aggressive . The bully mayor’s anger falls under the latter type.

  5. I totally agree! 🙂 When anger prevails over me, I always remember my first 8-day retreat, especially my contemplation on Jesus’ Cleansing of the Temple. You were my retreat director, my first retreat director. 🙂 I recall that you told me, it is totally fine to feel angry.

    • Ching says:

      Hi Bong. I feel bad under attack si Fr. Tabora ngayon. Now haters begin to as “so what’s so great about Ateneo?”.

      • Angry says:

        Fr. Tabora is in a position of influence — President of the Ateneo de Davao University. At the very start of his term he decided to suck up with the Dutertes. He should have condemned her acts in the strongest terms possible. Being the ADDU President, his words carry so much weight. Instead he talked about anger as virtue. That her anger was justified. Nowhere did he condemn the acts of the Mayor. He called it “regrettable.” Are you kidding me?

        Fr. Tabora, is this the sign of things to come from you — cozying up with bully politicians so you can rub elbows with them (rememeber you can’t wait to see her). Call a spade a spade father. Don’t coat them with diplomatic terms .

        Ching, I will rephrase your question: “What’s NOT great about Ateneo?” My answer: “This new ADDU President. And how long is his term? Oh my! Good luck my Alma Mater. I will certainly not contribute to the alumni funds with him as President.

  6. tamawo88 says:

    vintage joel tabora!

  7. Dear Father Tabora,

    What is the proper response to 800 unsolved murders, most of them of poor people? What is the proper response to this: ‘Between 1999 and 2008, the number of annual crime incidents rose by 248 percent, while the size of the population grew only by 29 percent’? (Both questions in connection with http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2009/07/15/davao-citizens-should-reject-death-squad-killings .) What is the proper response to a mayor who mocks his 800 murdered citizens by calling their deaths suicide? (http://www.visayandailystar.com/2011/July/04/feedback.htm)

    What is the proper response to Nanay Clarita: ‘“I tried my best to keep my children here, in this house,” says Clarita Alia, the 48-year-old mother of three teenage gang members who were casualties in Davao City’s war against crime. Nanay Clarita Alia lives in a tiny, cramped shack in the middle of Bankerohan, the largest public market here’. (http://www.pcij.org/stories/2002/davao2.html )

    You rightly say that the rape of a child is wrong. Today is the feast of St Maria Goretti, murdered by Alessandro Serenelli when he tried to rape her. Unlike the killers of the 800 in Davao City he spent many years in jail, where he also found salvation. Justice was done. Where is the justice in a city that promotes utter lawlessness in the name of ‘law and order’?

    What is the proper response to a man who continues his hold on power by using his daughter as his proxy? What is the proper response to a daughter who implicitly consents to the utter evil her father condones?

    Fraternally

    Fr Sean Coyle
    Bacolod City

    • Angry says:

      Fr. Coyle,

      I completely agree with you, Fr. Coyle! I hope Fr. Tabora will not delete your response. Apparently if he couldn’t stand the heat, he will delete your reponse. Here’s what I wrote that he recently deleted (because I don’t see it anymore). It is in response to Ching’s question above. I hope you get to read this before he deletes this again.

      “Fr. Tabora is in a position of influence — President of the Ateneo de Davao University. At the very start of his term he decided to suck up with the Dutertes. He should have condemned her acts in the strongest terms possible. Being the ADDU President, his words carry so much weight. Instead he talked about anger as virtue. That her anger was justified. Nowhere did he condemn the acts of the Mayor. He called it “regrettable.” Are you kidding me?”

      “Fr. Tabora, is this the sign of things to come from you — cozying up with bully politicians so you can rub elbows with them (rememeber you can’t wait to see her). Call a spade a spade father. Don’t coat them with diplomatic terms .”

      “Ching, I will rephrase your question: “What’s NOT great about Ateneo?” My answer: “This new ADDU President. And how long is his term? Oh my! Good luck my Alma Mater. I will certainly not contribute to the alumni funds with him as President.”

      • Angry says:

        I reinserted my comments back to Ching’s post.

      • Helen says:

        Yes, the anger in this circumstance is a virtue. The anger that was wrongly expressed but a justified anger nevertheless. I don’t know who you are ‘Angry’, maybe you are one of those privileged ateneo students that hung out at the mall and parade around town with your shiny darkly tinted cars, but you obviously know very little about Fr. Tabora. Fr. Tabora doesn’t need to suck up to politicians, he does not need to. That is not where his heart is. He has a long standing record of working for and with the poor. Anybody who is close to Fr. Tabora knows that he is a man of virtue. Do not take this comment out of context. The act was not condoned. Let’s look at the facts: The Philippines scored 2.4 in the ‘Corruption Perception Index’ – meaning one of those countries that are highly corrupt. The Philippine gov’t both local and national have a long history of putting up laws it has no intention of abiding by. Fr. Joel Tabora pointed out there was no coordination of the Republic Act 7279, hello, last I heard, that is a law in the Philippines.. Was there a plan for an alternative shelter? These are human beings! The country has gotten so used of throwing out it citizens whenever it feels like.. especially when there is a wealthy proprietor able to hire lawyers and bribe judges to advance his/her interest. The Mayor requested a stay for two hours while she sorts things out.. and as she has said, assist the Sheriff in carrying out the demolition. What a gross neglect of authority to ignore a reasonable request?? Doesn’t she have the authority as the head of the local government? By the way, let me tell you, Ateneo is looking at a very collaborative, cooperative, for the people, and humanitarian institution with Fr. Tabora around. He lives what he preaches. He means what he says… you should take the time to know him.. Your alumni funds will go a long way to helping those truly in need with Fr. Tabora as your president.

      • Angry says:

        @Helen:

        You are right about me not knowing Fr. Tabora, which is good, because I became very objective with the statements he made in his two previous blogs. I criticized his statements and formed an opinion of him based on those statements. I believe strongly he was threading the wrong path when he did not denounce unequivocally the actions of the Mayor and was looking forward to meet with her. That’s not my fault I formed that initial impression of him. He wasn’t clear. I’m glad he clarified his position in his latest blog.

    • Helen says:

      Father Sean, I am an Atenean and i believed in the values that I learned from this University. Like you and many other devout catholics, I believe in the inviolability of human life and it’s sanctity.. but I would like to play devil’s advocate for just a moment… I am not a fan of the Dutertes and I have mixed feelings about the Vigilante group… here is why:

      In the United States, it costs an average of $47,000/year to house an inmate in prison. If that inmate is sentenced to a 30 year to life term, the government would end up spending approximately $1.4M over the course of 30 years or more for that inmate. The Public Defender’s office would have spent $200,000 defending that inmate and the Prosecutor’s office would have spent $82,000 in prosecuting the case. That is one individual, one murder conviction and confinement to prison. That vile individual who the government spent all that tax dollars had just murdered and raped a 15 year old high school student walking home from school. Who paid for his trial and his continued confinement to prison? Me!!! and many others like me who bust their asses day in and day out to clothe their children, maintain a roof over their heads and put food on the table. Multiply the amount above to over 2.5 million incarcerated and you have a very expensive prison system that is not sustainable…

      How about Davao or the Philippines as a whole? Does it have the resources to try every single individual who commits a crime? Does it have the resources to house 800 inmates?

      It still does not make it right… but then again.. how do you balance the right and the wrong?

      • Dear Helen, thank you for your response to my comment. There are other models of justice besides the system of the USA. In Ireland, where I’m from, cases and trials don’t drag on for ever. It is the state that files charges, not the victim. If crimes were properly and quickly dealt with in the courts I believe that the crime rate would be less.

        And if wealthy people found guilty of crime were jailed instead of, for example, being allowed to run for president, despite having disgraced the presidency, using a false name, justice would be seen to apply to all.

        If you think through what you have written – and I know you are playing devil’s advocate – I think you would see that what you are saying is that since we can’t deal with all of these cases, what harm some persons branded as criminals are bumped off, especially since they are poor and voiceless. Many of the 800 unsolved murders in Davao City were of persons who had already served time for various crimes.

        God bless you.

      • Angry says:

        Helen, you do not balance right or wrong by doing something wrong. To the 800 + families whose family members were summarily executed, they do not have mixed feelings about whether summary executions are right or wrong.

        I’d be very interested to see your reply to this question. If it were your brother or father who was summarily executed would you laud the vigilante group?

  8. aztec says:

    Be angry but do not sin. Do not let your anger last until the end of the day, lest you give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27

  9. pie says:

    Thank you for clarifying your position through this article, Father Joel.

    I think the negative comments your articles have been getting stem from the fact that the manner by which anger was delivered was simply glossed over. You focused on justified anger (yes, I am with you on this point) but you did not articulate that the manner was absolutely wrong and should not be condoned or even praised by the citizens of Davao.

    The youth look up to you and will believe much of what you will write or say. As “Angry” posted: your words carry much weight. I now humbly ask that they be given clear – not mixed – signals. Praise the good intent. Denounce the vicious, foul ways.

    Welcome to Davao, Father Joel. I wish you well.

  10. To hurt the feeling of someday much more through physical mean is not acceptable, morally, ethically and legally. For some Catholic leaders to say her action is justified is beyond my comprehension. Since student days at Xavier U in Cagayan de Oro we were taught that anger is already a sin. How much more if this is accompanied by physical hurt. Fr. Joel, what Sara did was wrong in its entirety.

  11. Thank you, Father, for publishing my comment and for putting yourself in the firing line by setting up your blog, which I came across through a report yesterday in CathNews Philippines [http://www.cathnewsphil.com/2011/07/06/jesuit-bishop-defend-mayor-who-beat-up-sheriff/ ]. May God bless you in your new position.

    • I appreciate your fraternal concern. In my blog just published, I try yet again to clarify my position – also in the context of your justified concerns. Please continue to pray for me.

  12. sunshine says:

    it’s sad that a lot of people agree with inday sara’s act of violence. it’s as if to say that they agree as well that violence is the solution to every problem. if she can’t manage her own behavior i can’t see how she can manage a whole city.

    • Angry says:

      agree. clearly she doesn’t know how to handle stress, multi-task, and delegate work. What was the vice-mayor doing at the time of the incident? I think no one asked that question. Given that she couldn’t handle stressful situations, she should have delegated the relief effort or the demolition issue to her dad. Either way, the Dutertes are bullies, but sadly it looks like majority of the people of Davao love to be bullied as they keep on voting for the Dutertes.

  13. Pax_Davao says:

    well, i do agree that the intention of inday sara to protect the people of Davao, who is the only mayor in the Philippines together with her father showed real compassion to the poor outside the boundaries of politics as supported by the great feedback of support by different groups of people in the city, is highly commendable and exemplary as it showed her innermost desire to defend the weak as Jesus Christ did for poor, the sick, the blind and us, the sinners. Although, i also condemn her act of punching the sheriff out of her anger. But anger itself, referring to the feeling of disgust against something that is evil, is not a sin because if it is such then Jesus already committed a sin when the Bible described his act of disgust to the act of desecrating the temple of God by His own people in Jerusalem! And the Old Testament also described God being angry to the sin of His chosen people. Inday Sara and her father Rody are not perfect leaders, and as a Christian, I do not agree with some of their Machiavellian measures in implementing the law in the city. But I do not fully condemn them because, I repeat, they are the only leaders that have gone out of the circle of corrupt Philippine politics and it can be seen by the intense support… and much more compassion of the Davaoneos to their leaders which is incomparable throughout the country. To those who do not live in Davao, I understand your position regarding this matter because it takes a Davaoeno or a man of understanding or a man truly led by the Holy Spirit, who helps us see the goodness in every man, to understand the goodness we find in our leaders. Yes, we are proud of them, not because of the unusual way of exercising their power against law offenders but because we see their love for the people especially the weak and the poor.We are all shades of gray but the “person” himself/herself is not a “color” but just a mere “sheet of paper” to where his or her words and actions reflect. We do not condemn “persons” but “sins”, and therefore we condemn the sin of comission of Inday Sara and the sin of omission of the sheriff. May God bless us all and may the life of Christ be an example to this event. God has blessed Davao, is blessing Davao and will bless Davao.

  14. malou tiangco says:

    i feel sad for the physical injury and possible indignation the sheriff must have felt, but i feel more compassion for the 200 families who were being demolished at the time the punching happened. I just want to tell Angry that she/he has no right to make statement that majority of the people of Davao love to be bullied! I have been voting the Dutertes because they delivered the services to the majority of the Davao people. I think Inday Sarah has made a sensible and humble act of correcting what she thought needed to be corrected when she said that she will do the correcting off the camera and do it directly with the sheriff! I think also that the decision of the sheriff not to file case against Inday Sarah is his way of admitting of his regrets on not yielding to the two hours request of Inday Sarah to hold the demolition, I respect the sheriff for that and I respect more Inday Sarah for positioning for the urban poor.
    I respect the views of Fr. Tabora, and I find your estimation of him as unfounded…I don’t know him likewise, but I understand his thoughts on the incident, and although I haven’t met him, I admire his taking of stand on the punching incident…a rare trait done be religious these days, where most just keep quiet and give impression of being indifferent-Fr, Tabora proved to be not just like the other religious. malunggay

    • Angry says:

      @malou tiangco:

      I want you to know where I’m coming from. I’m coming from the perspective similar to Fr. Coyle’s. Read his comments so you’ll see the forest that contextualizes my comments. Here’s the problem with the majority of my FELLOW Davaoenos — they don’t see that they are being bullied by the Dutertes. You said they deliver services. That to me is not an argument because as public servants that is EXPECTED of them. However, what about the 800+ unsolved summary executions? (Read the links Fr. Coyle provided in his comments). You seemed to gloss over that because they deliver services, as they should. That is 800 + people MURDERED. You don’t gloss over that.

      The Sheriff didn’t file charges against the mayor, not because he admits his regret for not yielding to the Mayor’s request, but because he is afraid of the Dutertes. You do not want to cross these bullies. If it was a janitor who punched the sheriff, where do you think that janitor is now — obviously jail. Sued by the Sheriff. And probably will become a candidate for summary execution after he gets out of jail. (Read Fr. Coyle’s response to Helen because he mentioned a characteristic of those executed).

      As to Fr. Tabora, my opinion of him was based on his statements, since I don’t know him. Not my fault. He was nebulous. It took him THREE blogs and constant pounding from people like me before he finally denounced (strongly) the acts of the Mayor. I don’t know why it took him that long. What was he waiting for? Was he also afraid of these bullies? I doubt that, of course. He should have strongly condemned the mayor’s action in his very first post. I’m glad he did in his most recent one.

  15. Pax_Davao says:

    We must never accuse the Dutertes of the crimes done in Davao unless we have solid proofs because if we do, then we are denying them their right to due process… But regarding their being permissive to the killings in Davao is a condemnable act and should be looked upon if they truly are part of the schemes… But this is not a ground to accuse them of bullying the Davaoeneos as a whole because at the first place, most of the Davaoeneos dont feel such because they DELIVER and above all they are CONNECTED with the people. Yes, it is a leader’s job to deliver but it is an extra mile for him or her to connect and be in one with them in sacrifice of his or her personal priorities especially for the weak and the poor. No other Philippine politician has ever manifested this kind of dedication for their people and 18 years of being elected by the people proves that most of the people in Davao share with the goals and aspirations of the Dutertes even though not all totally agree with some of the ways and means they do it. We abhor the summary killings as a whole including the inhumane works of the DDS, NPA’s, extremists, murderers and others. We understand the anger of the Dutertes against the criminals because we also feel the same against these offenders of peace, justice and human rights but again not all of us share with the way they want to eradicate the problem. Because of our inability to get these cancers in the society, many resort to the complete eradication of the offenders’ lives. This system must not prevail not only in Davao but the Philippines as a whole. The problems are not rooted with our local officials but to the system itself, both the COUNTRY and the CHURCH. This must serve as a challenge! Yes, there is the separation of the Church and State but the two must work together for the well being of every INDIVIDUAL, not just Filipinos in a collective sense. The leaders of the country and the church must serve as an example, because most of the criminals, the rapists, the murderers, the thieves are the ones we also find inside the church, believing that attending the rituals is the only needed supplication for faith. Faith without actions is not faith at all!!!

    REMEMBER THAT WE DESERVE WHATEVER LEADERS WE DO HAVE. NO LEADER ON EARTH HAS EVER BEEN PUT TO A POSITION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF GOD. Let us not destroy further our leaders but we must, in our own way, do our part to nurture them and also lead them, remind them of what is right and godly. We cannot eradicate the influence of Dutertes in Davao because they, in truth and justification to their efforts, have built what is Davao now, the place that many people would like to live in…. the most livable city in Philippines and one of the top in Asia. This is a grace from God that flowed through the leadership of the Dutertes.

    But above all, we must not rely alone on the efforts of our leaders for it is as a collective effort of every people to build a city or a country…. If we all live righteously and pray for a good leader, will GOD give a “Tyrant” instead? If yes, how weak then is your faith…

    To Fr. Tabora, we hope that you lead Ateneo de Davao not only for the rise of Davao, but Mindanao and Philippines as well. May Pax Filipina be attained by us all! GOD BLESS!!!

    • Angry says:

      @Pax_Davao,

      Let me reiterate what I said earlier — the Dutertes should deliver services because that is expected of them as public servants.

      I have a very big problem with them being permissive to summary executions. A Mayor calling the deaths of those summarily executed, his constituents, suicide? So callous.

      All my friends in Davao strictly abide by the ordinances in Davao City, not because it is the law, but because they are afraid of the Dutertes. Why should people be afraid of their leaders? Because they are perceived as bullies, talk like bullies, and act like bullies. You should watch Duterte (the father) in the morning shows. And now, it looks like “Like Father, like Daughter.”

      The Dutertes should start providing the resources needed to solve all 800+ murders in the city. Yes, those are MURDERS. And what are the Dutertes doing about that? Nada.

      If they are truly good leaders I want to see both of them at the multi-sectoral indignation rally organized by the Davao Commission on Human Rights and other groups. In the rally, I want them to denounce all forms of violence (including the summary executions) and announce that they will provide ALL the resources to bring to justice all members of the DDS and other vigilante groups. And not just do lip service, but act on them. Better yet, promise a time table that by the end of such period all members of the DDS and other vigilante groups will be behind bars. it can be done if there is political will.

      I know the bible says so, but I don’t think God approves of leaders who are so callous about the murder of his 800 + children.

  16. lance says:

    @Anger: Are you a Davaoeno and do you live in Davao? So you’re probably one of those who are afraid of the Dutertes as you seem to be venting your “anger” against them through this blog? Perhaps you could also volunteer to go up the stage and denounce the summary executions as a concerned Davaoeno? Or do you believe that only those in a position of power like Fr Joel should do it and that an ordinary person does not have the duty to denounce malpractices too. Just asking. God bless

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