After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic on March 11, the reactions of people both in the online and physical world truly prove that inequality still continues to exist among the classes. The multidimensional nature of poverty is indeed mirrored by the conditions of those who suffer from inadequate living conditions, lack of education, poor health, and insufficient source of income. Pride, ignorance, and misinformation continue to negatively pervade the way people respond to the situation. These hindrances obstruct the empathetic means by which everyone can witness and act on the sufferings of the most vulnerable sector of the society — the poor and the marginalised.
On Panic Buying and Hoarding
Panic buying and hoarding left the poor with no choice but to buy the remaining goods from the empty shelves in grocery stores. Social distancing favored the rich, the ones with private vehicles, forcing some who have no access to these rides to walk miles from home just to work and buy basic necessities. The sick and the elderly have no choice but to also walk to ensure their health maintenance. Street vendors who are still risking their health won’t be earning as much because of the community quarantine simply because they have no one to sell their goods to. Workers under no-work-no-pay contracts have nothing to spend for their quarantine stocks and needs.
When I stepped back and re-assessed the situation, the things I learned in my ethics class finally knocked some sense into me. As long as any societal problem does not affect an individual directly, he or she may remain ignorant and blinded by privilege. As long as they remain comfortable and unbothered by the issues that do not concern them, neglect and indifference to the people from the lower class will remain as invisible barriers that impede our problematic society’s development. It’s not until they question their biased world views that they’ll be able to actually see the realities of those who are disempowered, of those who are victims of poverty, oppression, and abuse.
Inequality in Accessing Basic Needs
The unequal access to the essentials like alcohol, sanitizers, and facial masks due to citizens who took advantage of the situation to resell them at a higher price won’t stop the virus from infecting more and more Filipinos. Front liners who are deprived of these essentials are the most affected of this mindless and inconsiderate move. The unavailability of the preventive essentials to fight off the virus makes those who shop for supplies later more exposed to the risks especially when they are not in a work-from-home setup.
The lack of transportations for front liners and workers and the prioritization of testing those who are already showing symptoms are also matters that need immediate attention, too. The situation strongly calls for the spirit of compassion, empathy, and altruism because the continuous spread of the virus won’t end if we aren’t doing something about the well-being of those who are equally prone to catching the infection regardless of their class, age, and occupation.
The Privileged and the Less Fortunate
As I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I saw posts that show the realities of those who have to go to work amidst the dangers of going out, those who were called ‘undisciplined’ and ‘stubborn’ just because they had no means to support themselves for a month, those who were left with no choice but to risk their own health just to afford their families’ basic needs. Comments that can be sometimes insensitive about them being made by those who benefit from their service continue to break my heart. Class struggle is indeed real and poverty in all its forms makes the situation worst for the ones in lowest part of the class hierarchy.