Addicted to freedom
The following is an excerpt from No
Way In, a novel written by Richard Fernandez that I just finished last
“I think,” Alex said softly, “that all revolutions are about
faith. In this case it’s faith for its own sake, about religion without God.
Yes, we are told there could be a paradise on earth. But we’re not really
convinced and we don’t really care for as long as we have some religion and
some paradise before us.
“This makes it a moral problem, because the paradise we don’t
really believe in has to be built with the bricks and mortar of people’s lives.
What everyone caught up in revolution wants to know is whether faith in Stalin
or Mao or Antonio Moran Singson is enough to kill or be killed for? Because it
would be really funny, now that we are talking about religion – now that it is
clear that’s what we are really talking about – to exchange Communism for
Christianity and Trotsky for Moses. If you find your arms can’t reach the
heavens, what is the sense to worshipping a model in mud on the ground?”
“So what do you believe in, Alex?” Justine asked. “In the
“In the unchanging ways, in the human condition. What
condemns us to freedom is the chance that God might exist. And if salvation is
real, then freedom is real too.”
“Real freedom,” Justine asked, “must include the right to
choose slavery or even Hell, though I can’t think of a good reason for anyone
to choose it. Is that part of freedom?”
“It seems that deciding never to choose again is the one act
that is forbidden to us,” Alex said. “To do that would be to leave the circle
of mankind forever.”
It seems to me that this passage gets to the heart of the nature
of choice, freedom, slavery and the contradictory condition of man. On the one
hand, we quest for greatness, as our eyes gaze up to the heavens and ponder the
stars. On the other hand, we strive for security and the easy predictability of
plenty. We aspire to the former but are willing to give up much of our ability to
be free to dream and do for the certainty of the latter.
Fernandez is the sole author of the Belmont Club, now at
Pajamas Media. I’ve been following his writing for years. He has a unique ability
to seamlessly blend strategic issues with human nature. His writing encompasses
the whole of the human drama – from literature to poetry to film to history,
war and common sense.
Way In is a story about a middle aged professor named Alex Francisco who
never managed to move beyond his work as a revolutionary in the underground
movement to overthrow Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s. Now, as
the action begins, he is thrown back into the world of intrigue, danger and life
on the run when he inadvertently stumbles upon a secret about recently stolen
Often I find that writers have difficulty moving from one
genre to another. Books by columnists often read like 250 page columns. Columns
by novelists often read like something the author might have said better if
he had 25,000 words.
But in No
Way In, Fernandez succeeded in bringing all his passions, interests and
knowledge to bear in a single, coherent, extremely well written and engaging
composition. You learn about Philippine political history and about the Islamic
threat to the country. You learn about modes of counterinsurgency.
You read about the loves and sacrifices of extraordinary
people who hear the call to service and leadership.
Finally, you learn about the challenges of moving on from
extraordinary chapters in our lives.
You learn all of this while captivated by a fast moving, thrilling
story that transports you from Sydney and Canberra to the Australian Alps, to
Manila, to the furthest reaches of the Philippine archipelago.
Since I am unfamiliar with all the terrain Fernandez covers
here, as I read, I felt like I too was on an adventure, experiencing these
unfamiliar places for the first time. I couldn’t help comparing them to
landscapes that I know and have travelled through and thinking about how the call to fight for freedom touches people everywhere.
Way In was so engaging that I ended up taking last Wednesday afternoon
off to finish it.
I urge you all to purchase the book. I don’t believe you
will be disappointed.