Collective empathy is the best gift you can give this Christmas

  • This Christmas, the priority should be helping people who are suffering from the effects of calamities. Not politicizing aid

The Christmas before election season is always a stress test. Being exposed (sometimes forcibly) to family and friends with different political beliefs who just insist on talking about their brand of politics is a regular occurrence this time of year. 

The same goes with the comments section in the news. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and some of our friends and family in Visayas and Mindanao are going without basic needs this Christmas. There’s bound to be a lot of arguing both in-person (thanks to relaxed quarantine measures) and online, but if I can just request one thing from everyone, it would be a sense of collective empathy. 

Since Typhoon Odette hit my hometown of Cebu, posts like “We didn’t look for the president because we’re stronger than that!” and the like started making their rounds. More posts glorifying resiliency and independence came out—like doing everything without help is something to be proud of. 

People have praised and dismissed certain politicians for helping. Calling on-ground efforts to help mere photo-ops, or claiming that the absence of specific people in power is doing the work quietly. It’s frustrating, embarrassing, and horrifying to see how people have reacted to this disaster. And it shows just how much we’ve been brainwashed by the system to see in political color.

Before any of this is a political issue, it’s a humanitarian one. At least when people are still fighting to survive day by day. 

Slapping campaign materials and logos on relief packs is a slap on the face to those who are suffering. This shows that political candidates are taking advantage of this nightmare to move their agenda forward. The point of aid is to help, not promote. 

Though I wasn’t physically present when the typhoon almost tore the roof off my family home, or when my mom’s condo was being battered with winds that made her feel like she was experiencing an earthquake, I still feel the pain they experienced. 

The damage dealt by this “natural” catastrophe has taken so much from fellow human beings. The lines for gas and drinking water still take hours. Stable modes of communication and transport are still a faraway dream. 

The politicization of disaster management is poison. This is a purely humanitarian issue and every type of aid that can be given is welcome and necessary. Political and government accountability should come after those who need help have survived—and they should be the ones asking for it. © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.


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