Killing the ogre that never dies
It was a thought-provoking conversation about change in our society, an admission that our generation has largely failed, and that change would be led by this generation.
While waiting for the wedding of TV reporter Pia Gutierrez to naval officer Errol Dela Cruz on December 26, I chatted with my partner in the procession: Rear Admiral Jose Renan Suarez of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
He had a quiet strength that showed a passion fueling his faith in the future – necessary for his job as the head of the Naval Education and Training Command.
We spoke about a shared focus: the ongoing battle against corruption, instilling a code of ethics, providing a clear mission, and encouraging strategic thinking – for his officers and our journalists. [Disclosure: I sit on the board of the Philippine Navy.]
We discussed problems in organizational development: breaking feudal structures of management; empowering marginalized voices; creating a culture of excellence and meritocracy; encouraging entrepreneurship and accountability.
Over the next half hour, we spoke about what drew both of us to this couple and their wedding: the idealism of youth and our hope for change in the next generation.
He spoke so eloquently that I asked if I could do an interview about leadership on video, and while he said yes, it's a shadow of our conversation. With the camera on, he became stilted and retreated into "safe" language, but our conversation stayed with me for days.
We talked about the lure of power, and when I asked him how he keeps his ideals, Suarez replied, "I hope I will never reach the stage when I become the ogre."
Then he told me a story.
The Ogre that Never Dies
Once upon a time in a land far away, there was a village under the control of a huge and terrible ogre. Whenever he wanted to, the ogre raped, pillaged and stole whatever he wanted.
Every year, one champion challenged him, and every year the ogre reigned supreme. The champions would just disappear. The ogre would be especially hard on the villagers after he won the annual battle. All the poor people could do was cower in fear.
Seeing the destruction, two brothers decided they would bring down the ogre once and for all. They trained long and hard.
Then the elder brother challenged the ogre. It was a long battle, but the ogre emerged victorious. That year, the ogre was especially vicious on the villagers.
The younger brother mourned the death of his brother, and vowed he would avenge his death and liberate his village.
That pushed him to train even harder because when it was his turn to fight, he wanted to be ready. The villagers saw how hard he trained, and that began to spark hope that someday, the reign of the ogre would end.
Their battle lasted for 3 days. At the end, exhausted and bleeding, he swung his axe one final time, closed his eyes, and killed the terrible ogre.
It took him a few minutes to catch his breath. Then he looked at the body of the ogre he vanquished.
The hair began to fall off, and to his horror, he watched the ogre’s body transform into his brother.
He sat in shock as he saw his axe blade sticking out of his brother’s body.
He picked up the ogre’s axe, and he felt the electricity of power surge through his body. He dropped it and vowed never to pick it up again.
It turns out that the champions win every year, but the lure of power turns them into the ogre, who rapes, pillages, and steals holding the village under a vicious reign.
The champions didn't die. They just turned into the ogre.
There are different versions of this parable: Suarez said they were brothers; others say they were friends. Some say the winner becomes the ogre; Suarez said they had a choice.
The lesson is the same: that the enemy isn't out there, it's in you, and that power is so tempting few can resist its lure – especially when you enjoy its fringe benefits.
Suarez said as he rose up the ranks, he avoided the trappings of power: for example, he drove himself to the wedding, and he doesn't have an aide. I understood that: I live within my means; avoid borrowing against the future. That's allowed me to quit high-paying corporate jobs, and while I make a fraction of what I used to make, my ideals are intact.
The enemy is within.
As we go into the 2016 elections, these are the leaders I will be voting for: the men and women who have slayed the enemy within – who are self-aware enough to draw the lines they will never cross...before the lure of power can turn them into the ogre that never dies. – Rappler.com