"What is happening now is the unveiling of a harsh reality."
If there is one thing which the COVID-19 pandemic exposed to the fullest, it is this: The sheer inequality and marginalization among and within countries worldwide.
As the pandemic spread like wildfire globally, the richer countries muscled their way to get hold of much needed and increasingly scarce medical equipment like PPEs, masks, ventilators and even basic medicines for colds and headaches, like aspirin. No less than the WHO acknowledged much later that it had to hold the upgrading of its earlier advisory from the mild "public health emergency" to a global pandemic warning to enable countries with less developed health care systems to prepare themselves for such an eventuality. A lot of developing countriesid manage to ramp up their capability in time for the final announcement of the direst WHO reading which necessitated total lockdowns.
But the majority had to scrape the bottom just so they could moderate the ill effects of the pandemic. Lately, the race for a vaccine and an eventual cure has again highlighted the disparity. It is clear from the latest reports that the smaller, less developed nations will have to moderate their expectations as the rich countries will, for all intents and purposes, get the first vaccines and cures for their citizens. All others will just have to wait for the crumbs to fall down from their surpluses.
Within countries, the marginalization and inequality are even more graphic. The Philippines is no exception. Early on, while the country was scrambling for PPEs, test kits and associated essential equipments and supplies, reports had it that ranking government officials and their households got the first crack at testing. Then, we have all kinds of sad if not horror stories about favoritism and even politicalization of the distribution of cash assistance and other basic items for the "poorest of the poor." Up to now, sections of urban poor communities have been busily broadcasting on social media the hardships and frustrations they had to go through just to avail of the assistance.
And these are just for the mandated assistance. Imagine many times when politics became the basis for assistance and, yes, opening of sectors not medical and scientific findings. The sad cases of the sordid marginalization of OFWs, LSIs, jeepney and bus drivers and other poor sectors as the government implemented the Bayanihan-Heal-As-One plan is instructive.
The same is true with people going back to work: some in their cars or using shuttle service, others have to walk to survive. Even the means, methods and ways to open up schools and proceed with the education of millions of our youth mirrors such disparity. Some can work with blended instructions, most may not be able to even see or hear any kind of instruction at all given their status in life and their places of residence. This is not a case of some being smarter than others. It is the full-blown unveiling of the harsh reality of political, economic and social marginalization and stratification among and within countries.
One thread in social media so graphically illustrates this in a piece by an unknown author entitled "We Are Not In The Same Boat." This which went viral early in the outbreak. I yield the rest of my space to this, hoping we can learn lessons from this pandemic which did not spare anyone but instead exposed the cracks needing repair and resolution in the world and in societies.
I heard that we are in the same boat. But it's not like that. We are in the same storm. But not in the same boat. Your ship can be shipwrecked and mine might not be. Or vice versa. "
"For some, quarantine is optimal; moments of reflection, of reconnection. Easy, in flip flops, with a whiskey or tea. For others, this is a desperate crisis. For others, it is facing loneliness."
"For some, peace. rest time, vacation. Yet for others, torture: How am I going to pay my bills? Some were concerned about a brand of chocolate for Easter (this year there were no rich chocolates). Others were concerned about the bread for the weekend, or if the noodles would last for a few more days."
"Some were in their 'home office'. Others were looking through trash to survive. Some want to go back to work because they are running out of money. Others want to kills those who break the quarantine."
"Some need to break the quarantine to stand in line at the banks. Others to escape. Others criticize the government for the lines."
"Some have experienced the near death of the virus, some have already lost someone from it, some are not sure their loved ones are going to make it, and some don't even believe this is a big deal. Some of us who are well now may end up experiencing it, and some believe they are infallible and will be blown away if and when this hits someone they know."
"Some have faith in God and expect miracles during this 2020. Others say the worse is yet to come. So, friends, we are not in the same boat."
"We are going through a time when our perceptions and needs are completely different. And each one will emerge in their own way from that storm. Some with a tan from their pool. Others with scars on the soul (for invisible reasons)."
"It is very important to see beyond what is seen at first glance. Not just looking, more than looking, seeing. see beyond the political party, beyond religion, beyond the nose on your face. Do not underestimate the pain of others if you do not feel it."
"Do not judge the good life of the other,. do not condemn the bad life of the others. Don't be a judge. Let us not judge the one who lacks. We are on different ships looking to survive. Let everyone navigate their route with respect, empathy and responsibility.”