By Atty. Joey D. Lina
One may find it a timeless song that questions humanity around the world and even here in the Philippines—why senseless killings and violence abound, why many seem desensitized to the misery around.
If only for opening our eyes to inhumanity while inspiring us to make the world a better place, “Blowin’ in the Wind” is as great as legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan who was recently honored with the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.
The highest and most prestigious award in the literary world came as a surprise. For about 115 years, no established songwriter has ever been chosen for a Nobel by the Swedish Academy, and its decision this year ignited a debate on “whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.”
But Dylan was chosen for being a “great poet in the English speaking tradition” and for “having created new poetic expressions” in his songs, the Swedish Academy said. From elegant ballads to inspirational anthems, he has written hundreds of songs and it is said that no other songwriter “has had their lyrics more analyzed, anthologized, and eulogized.”
“Blowin’ in the Wind” is perhaps Dylan’s most analyzed song. It first reverberated in 1963 when it was sung by the trio Peter, Paul & Mary on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial a few hours before civil rights leader Martin Luther King gave the historic “I have a dream” speech.
Many hard questions are tackled in its lyrics: “How many roads must a man walk down / Before you call him a man? / How many seas must a white dove sail / Before she sleeps in the sand? / How many times must the cannon ball fly / Before they’re forever banned? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind / The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
“How many years can a mountain exist / Before it is washed to the sea? / How many years can some people exist / Before they’re allowed to be free? / And how many times can a man turn his head, / And pretend that he just doesn’t see? / The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind / The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
“How many times can a man look up / Before he sees the sky? / How many ears must one woman have / Before she can hear people cry? / And how many deaths will it take till we know / That too many people have died? / The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind / The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”
Many interpretations can be derived from the lyrics of Blowin’ in the Wind: Should one tread the road to hell before he can be a man? Can the universal symbol of peace, the white dove, ever find rest in places like Aleppo, Syria, or even the Philippines, where violence and strife pervade? Will weapons of mass death and destruction be ever eradicated?
When will tyranny and oppression be wiped out in authoritarian states just like a mountain is washed to the sea? Will all the innocent people languishing in jail be freed? When will human trafficking and modern-day slavery be extinguished? Could we be more sensitive to the misery of others?
Will the rich do more to uplift the plight of the poor? When can there be more opportunities for the poor to attain their dreams of prosperity where sky is the limit? When will the rising tide of economic prosperity finally lift all boats?
Will all the anguished cries of those seeking justice be finally heard? Are those behind the drug menace aware of the many lives they have destroyed? How many more will have to die before the drug war here really succeeds?
So many hard questions, so hard are the answers to find. I turned 65 last Dec. 22 and I’m still searching. But I’d like to think that I did my best to come up with answers in all the endeavors God blessed me with — as student activist, as human rights lawyer, as Metro Manila governor and general manager of the then Metro Manila Commission, as senator, as Laguna governor, as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board, as Department of the Interior and Local Government secretary.
All throughout I had strived to address the perennial challenges afflicting Philippine society, especially widespread poverty and injustice. It is appalling how many Filipinos go hungry every day, how many just die without even seeing a doctor or getting medication, how sickening corruption continues to thrive, how innocent people rot in jail and the guilty go scot-free.
Our problems remain basically unchanged and that should prompt all of us to reexamine ourselves and reflect on our values concerning life and human dignity. The enlightened among us must reach out and touch the lives of others to transcend despair and be agents of change to influence and lead others towards a better world.
Let us all do our share and fervently hope that in the coming year, the winds of positive change will blow in and bring peace and prosperity, as is God’s will for us all. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!