It is not new. The Philippines was hit by a calamity and we see well-meaning people using their time and resources to reach out and help the victims. It is nice to see action, don't get me wrong, but I do wonder: What about the rest of the year? What about the rest of the victims who may not necessarily be in the public eye? What about those who suffer with or without these natural disasters?
The thing with calamities is that it brings out a sense of urgency to act. The thing with calamities is that it brings a sense of connection, a sense that what one chooses to do can help others. It shows that people care and are capable of helping others- if and when they see the connection.
The truth is, many beings suffer. But often, the connection is not easily made. I am not undermining the situations of those who are directly affected by the recent typhoon. On the contrary, I am bringing attention to how grave the situation is to the rest of the others whose suffering is continuous and denied.
We pack relief goods, donate our clothes, show up at volunteer centers, and we feel we've done something. Weeks will pass and then we move on to our normal lives, as if we've done our part and absolved our responsibilities, as if that token action when calamities strike is the end-all and be-all of our good intentions.
Here is my challenge to you. After you've donated and volunteered and done what you could, how about using this action to expand your sense of connection? How about becoming aware of the suffering of others instead of choosing to turn a blind eye? Many beings suffer. Workers in sweat shops making trendy clothes suffer. Women in sex trafficking industries suffer. Animals in kill lines in the name of meat, dairy, and eggs suffer. Factory workers in animal agriculture industries suffer. Low-income employees working unreasonable hours with no job security suffer. Cows who are raped for their milk suffer. Children who have no access to clean water suffer. Wild animals who are forced in captivity suffer. People oppressed in North Korea suffer. There is a lot of suffering in the world, and to those involved, this is urgent, even if most of us may not think so.
I have at times wondered how it is that the world worked this way. One being could be having the worst time of his life, and another being at some other part of the world could be completely oblivious to it. I have wondered about the scenario wherein it was I who was suffering, and nobody cared enough to think that my suffering is urgent.
My suggestion is simple. You who are doing your part in this calamity can continue to do your part in alleviating suffering in the world. Go vegan and spare about one hundred animals a year from unnecessary pain, boycott industries where human beings are treated like machines, stop supporting businesses that use child labor. There are many things you can continue to do- write letters of protest, sign petitions, speak up for those who need your voice, stop being a consumer and use your money where it matters.
In the face of this calamity, we have a choice on how to act and move forward. We can take a token action and feel good about ourselves for a few days, or we can make a lifelong decision to be of service to others and make others feel good about themselves permanently. It is always a choice. Choose to take a token action, or choose to make a lifelong decision.