Why We Must Care

PoorLife is unfair. The world is unfair. We are born into a succession of history marred by cruelty, bloodshed and oppression; overpowering tyrants that humanity was never able to free itself from. Not even today. Probably not tomorrow.  Twenty, thirty years from now might even be too soon.

I was raised in a myriad of security and satisfaction. Life was good and I was happy. I was also apathetic. Apathetic but not ignorant. I spent much of my childhood in the company of orphans from the home my family and I frequently visit. I’ve chatted with homeless Aetas residing along the islands of Roxas Boulevard when we give out chocolates and sandwiches every Christmas. Like most people, I wasn’t ignorant. I knew something was wrong. I just never bothered to ask why.

But I eventually did. The happy life I was leading suddenly wasn’t enough; I was willing, eager to let the existence I’ve possessed crumble down leaving me to redo my whole world over. I questioned everything. I questioned who I am. I questioned what I know. I questioned my every conviction. I questioned the very tenets that surrounded my existence and the society that shaped it. And the answers I got, well, they weren’t answers at all. They were ifs and maybes, impossibilities more than possibilities and improbabilities more than probabilities; they were pointy shards and puzzled fragments of one very powerful idea that all of the world’s minds spared to think and dream of but few ever find the courage to believe in: a world where justice, freedom, peace and happiness are no longer clichés of idealism but the reality of everyday life for every person in every society.

Now, everything is inadequate. Now, everything is a struggle.

The old man lying on the street bare of any luxury but a piece of dirty carton on his back is the extreme poverty that has plagued over one billion or 20% of the world’s population leaving them homeless, hungry and suffering. The little girl in the mountains of the Bondoc Peninsula that cried for the slippers she broke as she ran from gunfire is the recklessness and narrowed perspective of the dispensability of life by both the government and insurgents that has left hundreds to thousands killed, displaced, terrified and incapable of seeing a life unbound by war and insecurity. The father holding firm in the frontlines of the picket against a corporate giant pleading in unison with the hundreds of workers treated as slaves with no benefits and below minimum wages, for his capacity to provide food on his family’s table is the system playing on our instinct for survival and mocking the unifying core of humanity by shaping an individual to think that it is acceptable to exploit the dignity of another for the sake of money and resources.

Now, everything can be something better.

But why do we dare believe? Why do we dedicate ourselves to a struggle that has counted more losses than victory throughout our known history? Why do we align ourselves with the poor, marginalized and oppressed when we have the power to not care? Why do we fight for strangers and with strangers for a future that’s uncertain and highly-risked and who’s only allure is it provides an ideal alternative to the now?

I’ve said that there came a day when I just began to question the reality that was in front of me. I wasn’t alone. Many others did. There were those raised of the very same struggle we’re fighting, there were those that grew tired of the injustices the people around them had to endure and there were those that simply awakened from their long slumber of ignorance.

As for my own reason, I wasn’t sure. Not until the 23rd of November 2009. I’ve heard stories throughout the day of a massacre that happened in Maguindanao. I was intrigued, that was all. The gesture of turning on a television set couldn’t have been more life-changing. As the TV sprung to life, so did the reality I overlooked; image upon image of the brutal and insatiable murder of 58 individuals drowned the screen. Lives were taken, families were torn apart and democracy was in mourning but the only answer they had was that it was for the preservation of the local tyrant’s political interest. Political Interests. That was the cost of life nowadays? My eyes welled with tears. It was a turmoil of anger, frustration and incomprehension at how a human being—a canvass of potential and illumination and the very core of any true society—can be reduced to a dispensable political toy not worthy of dignity.

That was my answer. I dared to believe in a better world because of one thing, love.

It is love for my fellowmen that makes their suffering unbearable. It is love for the people that make me want to be in their service and take part in their struggle. It is love for humanity that drives my over-arching principle that every individual is of great worth and therefore deserves a better world than the one they are trapped in now.

This is when irrationality becomes reason. This is why fighting for the dignity of every individual is now at the core of our existence. This is why struggling to enable an appreciation and a progressive understanding of the value of human life is a tireless uphill battle.  This is why we never stop. We must care.

We are dancing in a blood-thirsty coliseum with the status quo. And it is love that keeps us in beat and still fighting.

By Tiffany Fatima Suniga, intern at WYA Asia Pacific office in Manila.