I have always been accused of having a myopic view of the world. I have never denied this, nor have I taken offense in being described this way.
Everyone’s opinion of me is just as valid as my opinion of them, and that what matters is I know what to believe in, and that I stand by my beliefs. Even as the world went down in proverbial flames in the last five months, I tried to keep a grip on the things I believed in, one of them being how everything would work out in the end just like they always did, and that we would all go back to our normal lives, no matter how “new” this normal was.
What I didn’t count on was the fact that this belief didn’t exempt me, and everyone I knew, from experiencing the ugly circumstances brought on by the pandemic. And these circumstances did not discriminate, regardless of one’s political views (or lack thereof), and socioeconomic standing.
I was one of the lucky ones who got to keep their jobs and started working from home in March. I thought it was one of the better things to have happened since 2020 began. I was saving up to three waking hours of my day from commuting via public transport, and started using that time to do other things like catching up on my TV shows, working on my passion projects, and learning new hobbies like baking and gardening.
For some of my friends, life went on as usual. They were essential workers who needed to be at the front lines. Some of them either had their job and pay reduced to a minimum, or lost their job altogether. A few others tragically lost loved ones to the disease—a person they cherished reduced to a statistic.
It was hard and emotionally exhausting. And despite all the hard science and evidence presented for all the world to see, there were still those who did not want to believe the pandemic. It was infuriating to see people denying what was really happening and defending their beliefs as either a valid opinion or as a result of a higher being’s actions. Some of them just didn’t care about people getting sick and dying.
That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a myopic view of the world. I had toxic apathy. It’s something born out of a life of privilege, and something that I have both consciously and unconsciously chosen time and time again.
When I was in grade school, I didn’t have to eat packed lunch just like my classmates, because I had my nanny bring me a hot meal every school day for lunch. I didn’t know it at that time, but it was a clear case of privilege. In high school, I didn’t have to produce a promissory note just so I could take the final exams. I felt lucky that my parents were hardworking and good providers; but it was privilege. In university, I changed my major and went on to a foreign exchange program that extended my college life to six years, without the pressure of having to graduate as soon as possible to provide for my younger siblings and family. That was privilege.
Five years ago, I quit my comfortable job and flew thousands of miles away to “find myself” without any concrete plans for the future. That, too, was privilege. And just recently, I had to stop telling friends and people around me to just follow their dreams and their passion, because I realized that passion is expensive. Not everyone who is passionate about art, or poetry, or music can just quit their day jobs to pursue an endeavor that may or may not pay the bills. Not everyone has a safety net like I had when I was following my passion. My words of encouragement were coming from a place of privilege.
A life under these circumstances has made me apathetic about most of the things around me, and I realized that I have come to a point where my apathy has become toxic. It’s dangerous enough that apathy is toxic, but we shouldn’t let it go viral, too. People in places of privilege should break out of their bubbles, use their platforms, and start recognizing the problems we have as a society. We must be more proactive and in touch with reality, especially during a time when a pandemic is testing not only our country’s resources, but also the kind of leadership we have and how it is managing and mitigating the spread of a disease we’ve never encountered before. People who truly care and people who give a damn are what the Philippines needs right now.
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Gregson Rocafort, 29, works at a non-profit by day and writes sad poetry by night.
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