Martyr is a word Filipinos use to define a loving wife who sticks with an unworthy husband. But as gender roles are changing in this country of ours, it would not be surprising too see martyrdom applied equally to “housebands” – a neologism for the working mom’s dutiful domestic spouse.
Martyrdom in the classical sense however is a frightening thing, really. Though it is praised as an act of heroism the results vary with the vicissitudes of history. It is the title victorious revolutionaries posthumously confer their comrades. Which is why we idolize the collaborationist Rizal over the independence-loving Bonifacio because the Americans wanted a hero for “benevolent assimilation”. If you lose though people just call you terrorist.
An ethical question arises then in our age of unapologetic individualism. If self-immolation, for some alleged good no doubt, is a moral aberration unworthy of praise then should not the Gomburzas, the Rizals and Ninoys be condemned for their “immoral” examples?
My emphatic answer is no.
Man does not live by bread alone. Self-interest is not what drives Man but the fulfillment of Spiritual comfort. All other motivators are derived classes of this One driving purpose: public approval, wealth, love and faith.
Only God alone can change this human condition. So the only thing we need to ask ourselves is, “What are the qualities worthy of praise and emulation from dead heroes past?”. That we may benefit most from the sacrifice of martyrs.