A Crisis of Compassion

Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 8:40pm

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Coronavirus has infected all aspects of life, but it doesn’t present us with new problems. The issues we’re tackling now have existed before COVID-19 affected us. In the wake of a global crisis, people’s true colors show. 

Living in quarantine has made me rely on social media and the news. I saw a Facebook post about how many of us feel like this isn’t real, but only because many of us come from places of privilege. For instance, the fear we feel about getting sick when we go outside, or how we might infect people we know and love, is not far from the fear that has existed within refugees and immigrants who take risks in coming to a “safer” country — one which doesn't even guarantee or provide this safety. 

With businesses shutting down around the world and people’s incomes being halted, the worry about making money is not far from the pre-existing stress and anxiety of those who have always been coping with these issues before COVID-19 hit. Now, masses of people are forcefully addressing inequalities that have existed before COVID-19. Social and economic disparities are becoming more seemingly salient. If you’re displaced from school and forced to go to an unsafe or unsuitable learning environment, keeping up with classes will be harder. If you don’t have healthcare, have a pre-existing health condition, or live with people who are at risk, you’ll be more anxious. If there is any “appropriate” time to learn how to be compassionate and empathetic, it is now. 

With all this strife and reason to be more empathetic towards others, many people are still acting selfishly. People still care more for the preservation of wealth over humanity. In historical events that have fueled fear, people have relied on scapegoating minority groups. Many blame China as the cause of all this which, in turn, charges people to be racist towards Asian Americans. Due to all of this, our individual actions matter more.

Throughout this entire experience, I’ve realized that compassion and empathy aren’t inherent, but are learned. It’s understandable that people don’t care about the wellbeing of others unless it directly affects them, but what if we thought about social issues as problems that do affect us all? Because in many ways, this is true. Our actions affect others which in turn affect us. Everyone around the globe is experiencing similar feelings of fear, anxiety or concern. Use these emotions to think about other people. Check on the people you care about, go out as little as you can, find solace in others (and yourself) and be someone who will help.