Human indifference. The latter word is defined by Merriam-Webster as a ‘lack of interest in or concern about something: an indifferent attitude or feeling’.
When the body of the three-year old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi was found ashore on a Turkish beach last week, Europe’s migrant crisis drew international outrage. People from different parts of the globe could only ask the same question in different ways: Where is the humanity? How lamenting it is that some lives have to perish for processes to be questioned and addressed by authorities.
In the university, indifference is everywhere. We have become too focused on ourselves, and there will be times when we shut down from the world we are in. We see something wrong, yet we do not do anything because we think that we can’t do anything to change what already is. Idealism becomes impossibility to others and some may make it an excuse to settle for mediocrity. Where are Ateneans now in terms of indifference? Is social justice just a brand of ‘the Ateneo way’ and not something the majority is willing to take?
The Ateneo Fiesta’s Group Dance Showdown having a theme of ‘Social Issues in the Philippines’ was a success for the cause and participation of every division. It is a challenge to make well-off students understand the value of seeing through injustices outside the institution. We are more than only uniting in celebrations and competitions. The recently held EcoCongress proposed resolutions which are something to look forward to in encouraging every Atenean to live out the widely discussed Laudato Si. The promotion of Ecoteneo’s Program, Clean As You Go (CLAYGO) is a good start, considering that until now, Ateneans generally just leave their plates on the cafeteria’s tables and more follow because that’s what everyone else seems to be doing. How can we acknowledge societal issues when we can’t even handle individual decisions justly?
In the city’s celebration of the Kadayawan Festival, when everybody was busy setting dates for night-outs and get-away, Lumads who are considered the event’s ‘original stars’ from Mindanao have stayed in evacuation sites instead of celebrating. Their communities are out of reach from the government’s social services. While they continue to stand for their children’s right to education, they also struggle for justice to other Lumads who were killed because of speculations and principles not understood and/or agreed upon by many. The Lumads have become the victims in Mindanao. They have become the victims in no less than their own land.
Going back to Aylan Kurdi’s death, we see that he could have lived a longer and better life in his own country, only if basic human rights were respected and people cared enough that ‘rights end where the rights of others begin’. In this world where rules and due processes need to be followed but rights are stepped on than protected, we need to step out of our comfort zone, do something to break the status quo, and right the wrong, no matter how small these are. Everything else starts from caring.
As Mindanaoans and Ateneans, however, what can we do in the society we are in? Or as our Philosophy class would ask us, “What does it mean to be human?”