COVID-19 Op-ed

Making the Social Movement Personal during the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Khriscielle YalaoGraduate
Student, Department of International Studies,
College, Philippines

We are one” or “We are all in
this together”
are cries echoing loudly in the time of COVID-19
(Guterres, 2020). Global disease outbreaks are not new. Yet, this feels so
unfamiliar, uncertain, unending, and as it’s turning out, a rude awakening.
The pandemic is explicitly showing the discrepancies in (capitalist) systems
that seem to establish norms in society, such as the fault in tying
healthcare with employment, healthcare becoming a privilege of the rich, and
the instability within “no work, no pay” employment (Harvey, 2020; Meadway,
2020). There is also the irony in how essential workers are applauded in
times of crises, but remain underpaid and deemed expendable.The pandemic has
made the needs of the most vulnerable sectors of our society – senior
citizens, poor people, homeless people, (undocumented) immigrants – more
visible and the services they are deprived of, with or without COVID-19, more
apparent. These are aggravated by the eclectic responses of governments in
their containment policies, which are globally attaining varying results,
with competent leadership being an essential factor.What do we do in times of
collective despair? According to history, we make change. Social movements
are birthed daily but are usually taken for granted. Maybe because the world
has so many problems that it’s too easy to accept them as they are too
overwhelming to fix. In the time of corona virus, we are all forced to
confront them and compelled to act.Groups rally support and donations to help
key workers around the world daily. Online discussions are formulating
concerning workers’ rights (Chugh, 2020; Parker, 2020), universal healthcare
(UNDP Asia and Pacific, 2020; Kickbusch & Gitahi, 2020), education
reforms (Tam & El-Azar, 2020; Luthra & Mackenzie, 2020), and
countering various forms and degrees of discrimination (Voices for Youth,
2020; He, et al 2020). Environmental causes are strengthening, especially the
direct involvement of capitalist modes of production in contributing to
climate change and global warming (Carrington, 2020; Henriques, 2020;
McGrath, M., 2020). Mental health advocacies are also surging in social media
to increase awareness and enable support whilst in isolation (NAMI, 2020;
Cornell University, 2020). These are signs of solidarity and manifestations
of empathy at work.Social movements promote citizen engagement with the
political process. With every update on COVID-19 seen in the news or in
social media, people are exposed to issues they wouldn’t otherwise hear of or
care for. Normally you would hear it in the streets, but right now, you see
it in tweets, in Facebook posts, in songs. However, empathy works for all
variants of experiences and social movements engage with all variants of
emotional responses. So as there are pledges being made to stay home to
practice social distancing (Global Citizen, 2020), there are protests against
state lockdowns and “stay-at-home” policies in countries such as the United
States (Al Jazeera , 2020), Brazil (Reeves, 2020), and France (McGrath C. ,
2020).We are compelled to look within us and outside of us. As we look, we
discover our desire to help others. That’s why we practice social distancing
rules – to keep each other safe – or we don’t follow social distancing rules
– to protect our imbibed beliefs. These are seeds of mobilization, regardless
if it’s for or against the status quo. Social movements matter because they
represent social change. They resign a form of control over the events of the
future by maneuvering the machinations of the present. As long as there is
suffering, inequality, injustice, and most importantly, people who are
willing to dedicate their lives to fighting against them, social movements
will remain inevitable.Saying this, we’re all products of social movements. I
cannot imagine my life without social movements that have enabled my rights
and my freedoms. The works and the sacrifices of those who came before me –
of the women who fought for equal rights and against gender discrimination,
of the Filipinos who, for decades, have struggled for a free and just nation,
our culture and democracy, of the Asian peoples who advocated against racial
discrimination and the pervasive influences of colonialism and imperialism –
has rendered my whole being indebted. My life, then, will always be one that
is owed.Who knows what would come of us in this pandemic? Everything is
uncertain but I believe change is coming because it has to. I hope we come
out of this with more empathy towards each other, our fellow living beings,
our environment, and our planet. No one truly lives in isolation. Just look
at history that has unfolded and is unfolding and you will see. Being human
is being revolutionary.References:Al
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