On Typhoon Yolanda and Response to Calamities: Indifference makes a big difference

It’s been a few days now since Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the Philippines, specifically in the Visayas area, one of the three major geographical areas in the Philippines. This is one of the greatest, most damaging storms in history, according to various news sources.

I’ve had some time now to mull over the events, and still I am ambivalent. While I am extremely grateful to the news coverage that has produced on the clock reports, I am also frustrated.

Again, I am grateful for the mobilized support and response to calamities, but it is notable that it takes a natural disaster to literally rock the world in order for (international) communities to come together and focus their efforts in aiding those in need, more than the norm, that is. I understand that there is a constant ebb and flow of social issues that may take precedence to the rampant poverty that has been ongoing since the earliest centuries. Issues like civil wars, human rights violations, the war on drugs and terrorism, child soldiers, to name a few- all are equally necessary to acknowledge and respond to, but it is interesting how as individuals and as a society (local and international) we respond to these issues.

I am blessed to have been raised  in Canada, and equally blessed to have the Philippines as my family’s other home. Balancing an identity strapped between two hemispheres is a feat and a gift. Living in a first world country has equipped me with North American living standards, North American expectations, and a North American education. At any rate, the Western world has not prevented or limited my access to a global perspective. I am not referring to the poverty of the third world captured in National Geographics or infomercials: these are romanticized notions that have over- simplified complex social issues.

Admittedly I may be biased having majority of my relatives and family living and growing up in the Philippines. Or maybe I may be in no position to comment on the situation as I’ve only visited for more than a few of weeks at a time.  Still, I know what remains constant, family or not, is my own resolve to be educated about the social issues impacting our global community. My curiosity and desire for knowledge from different perspectives gives me a more accurate global education.

With Typhoon Yolanda leaving behind a ravaged Philippines, it makes sense that our first reaction is an ardent desire to reach out and to help. But why must  a natural disaster be that catalyst of change and a call to action?

What I’m exploring is what we, as a society prioritize in our values: if it is truly the worst of conditions that underscore our good deeds.

Was that too direct?

I am not suggesting that at every moment of our every day we dedicate our actions to the concerns  in the Third World- we see enough of that through infomercials. Instead, let us find a way to change this indifferent kind of thinking. The least we can do is educate ourselves about social issues that our global neighbors are struggling with, so that a single event does not suddenly shock us into action. Let us find within ourselves the intrinsic desire to do good, and not out of ignorance, unprompted by calamities and disasters.

Indeed, the storm will pass, but what will it leave behind? In a few months, when the media’s spotlight turns to document other equally important social issues impacting Eastern Europe, will there still be the same amount of concern for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda? There is much work to be done to reconstruct the brokenness in the Philippines. Indeed, reconstruction can come out of monetary aid and goods, but more importantly, a mindset that is mindful that we shouldn’t have to wait for the very worst to occur to open our lives to the harsh realities that are very much ongoing. We do not necessarily have to wait for media coverage for us to take action. All I’m asking is that we make ourselves aware,  alleviating that indifference that lurks and festers when we get up caught up in the monotony of our own lives.

A global perspective can just be a bigger perspective.


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