(Photo taken from NYTimes, published 02/02/2020, Aaron Favila/Associated Press)
When I first learned that our city is about to implement General Community Quarantine with loud speakers booming protocols on the street, it felt as if I were inside a Tim Burton movie where an invisible monster now lurked at the empty shops and hushed city streets. For days, I lived in fear and isolation dreading the economic and social trauma this would inflict not only upon my business but more so for the thousand of families who live off daily wages. My lingering thought was: How on earth do we survive this?
But then I was invited by a group of youth advocate friends who started organizing a campaign to raise funds for Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for our health workers. I also found another youth-led initiative of a dear friend calling for donations in behalf of tricycle drivers who would not be able to go on with their livelihood given the current government orders. It was then that I remembered a Princess Diaries quote I repeat to myself in times of great anxiety, “Courage is not the absence of fear but the realization that something else is more important than fear.”
Arguably, there is no other time in recent human history when we have witnessed more acts of random kindness and selfless giving than right at this very moment. In the face of an invisible, deadly foe threatening to crush not only entire cities but our collective human spirit, we have most probably stumbled upon a neglected truth of the highly-individualistic 21st century: We are, and will always be, stronger together.
Through quiet reflection and a re-reading of my colorfully-highlighted Certified Training Program manual, I have come to realize that Solidarity is more than my Summer Camp team name or just another big word from World Youth Alliance’s glossary of terms. It has become an ideal that we all strive to adopt in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
A crucial aspect of standing with others is the acknowledgement that humans are subjects and not objects as exemplified in Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” article. As we have come to appreciate and express support for thousands of front liners regardless of their social status, race, or gender; we do so as an act of honoring their dignity and worth as humans. Stripped of the prejudiced boxes we so often put people in, it becomes easier to connect to our shared humanity and recognize that someone is worth our kindness and respect because of their inherent dignity alone.
Another important facet of solidarity is the idea of Satyagraha advocated by Mahatma Gandhi. Whereas it is tempting to lead a life of passive resistance, an angry state easily leading to violence; we are called to go back to the pursuit of Truth and the universal values that make our existence worthwhile. While we must call out oppressive policies and fake news whilst also effectively containing this disease, I pray we do it with compassion and love. In Gandhi’s words, “If someone gives us pain through ignorance, we shall win him through love.”
If we move forward in genuine solidarity to address this pandemic, it is not a far-fetched hope that history recalls this time as a moment where human dignity triumphed over sickness and despair. And so everyday until this pandemic ceases its grip on our lives, we must ask: What act of solidarity did I accomplish today?
Published: April 11, 2020
Written by Anne Ocaya, Secretary of the WYAAP Philippine National Committee
Read our WYA President’s Statement of Solidarity amidst the COVID-19 Global Pandemic here.