Rizal’s Position in the 19th Century Ideological Spectrum

Rizal is positioned in the center of the ideological spectrum of the 19th century which makes him a Liberal.

First, believed in the thrust of Liberalism that instead of a revolution, the society needs reform, and it should come from above because they are the learned people who have the knowledge in politics and governance, as well as liberation coming from being educated. In Rizal’s letter to his countrymen dated December 15, 1896, he insisted that revolution should not be tolerated because it is absurd and it dishonors Filipinos, and instead, reforms should be made and it must come from above to become beneficial to everyone. Also, like the Liberals, Rizal believed that everyone has the capability to become rational, and it can be achieved through education. Like the Liberals who believe that a person is who he or she thinks, Rizal believed in the primacy of thought.

Next, like the Liberals, Rizal believed that organized religion, particularly Catholicism preached by the friars, suppresses rationality as it lies on dogmas and faith, which, in the context of Spanish colonization, were all twisted by the friars to produce false consciousness among the Filipinos for them to hug the colonizers and their ideologies. Rizal wanted to strip of this false consciousness propagated by the church, as well as the oppression and suppression of rationality created by the church, which the Liberals also wanted. Rizal’s contentions against the church are obvious in his novel El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere, as well as in his letters and other writings such as The Letters to the Women of Malolos and The Indolence of the Filipinos. He contested that the church only wanted the people to pray rosaries and do hypocritical holy behavior instead of loving their country folks and wanting freedom and honor. Also, Rizal contested that the people are poor because they are being tested by God, that they are not lucky, that they are in a wheel of fate, or that they just need to wait for a miracle to happen, by writing that the people are poor because the church is robbing their resources and is exploiting them.

Third, like the Liberals, Rizal wanted to lessen the authority of the state by giving the people negative liberty in a way that the people will be able to do what they believe is right because the constraints on the people are unleashed because in the Spanish colonization, the church controls the government in which the church wanted the government to robotize the people and give them so many barriers and constraints in doing the things they believe is right. Rizal called for the creation of a national community.

Lastly, Rizal also wanted what Liberalism wanted – the ownership of property because it gives the people a stake in the government. Also, the context during the Spanish colonization is feudalism, and we should never forget that the people were forced to work for the Spaniards that they did not have the chance to acquire their own properties or they might have lost their properties because of the Spaniards. Rizal wanted the feudal society to move towards capitalism wherein the Filipinos will finally be able to secure their own properties and businesses that will give them power and stake in the government.


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