The following is an excerpt from No Way In, a novel written by Richard Fernandez that I just finished last week:
"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 old ways?"
"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.
No 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 presidential elections.
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.
No 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.