Do we really heal as one?
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - June 2, 2020 - 12:00am

Psychologists, sociologists, marketing, and especially advertising people swear by the usefulness and effectiveness of sloganeering. It commits and move people’s emotions and actions to a desired goal better and faster. It becomes a rallying cry to inspire, unite, and to make the journey bearable. A catchy slogan or theme is always used in any campaign and it’s even more important in recovering from disasters by the governments and entities taking charge of the campaign. Among the more successful ones was the “We are the World” slogan for the campaign against famine in Africa in 1985. The song even won the Grammy Award that year. In this time of the pandemic, the slogan is, “We heal as One”, supported by words like, “we are all in the same boat”, or “we are in the same storm”.

The factors that make sloganeering successful or effective are the credibility of the idea and of the messengers, and the reality of the situation and the actions. The Philippine government latched on to the slogan and even included it in the title of the law appropriating the money to fight the pandemic and to revive the economy, “The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”. A number of pundits and writers echoed this theme, but given the performance of the government in the prevention of the contamination in terms of isolations, quarantines, testing, lockdowns, and distribution of financial assistance, it seems the private sector and some local governments are more credible than the national government. The slogan is passable, but the messenger is the problem.

The slogan also isn’t reflective of the real situation. Due to the economic or wealth distribution, socio-political disparities and geographical dispersion, all affected by the pandemic aren’t really in the same boat or storm. The public health effects and the economic effects of pandemic are more severe on the lower-income classes. While the government and the private hospitals are providing free/subsidized treatment facilities, the lower-income group is more vulnerable and don’t get as much medical attention as the middle and upper class. During the lockdown, when everybody had to stay at their houses, the well-to-do are more comfortable in their airconditioned homes in gated villages than those in the squatter areas. Definitely, in terms of provisions during the lockdowns the upper and middle class who have income and savings, are eating better even with the food packs from the government and the private sector. We aren’t in the same boat, some are in big boats with better provisions, while others are in small boats with meager provisions. The only equalizer here is that some bigger boats are in worse storms in larger seas, while some in smaller boats are in a lesser storm in a cove. I have two friends; one lives in the forest and another in a small island and they grow/catch their own food. The pandemic didn’t bother them at all.

In the economic recovery after this pandemic, the economic divide persists in that the upper class may recover faster as they have reserve capital to revive their businesses or they get back to their good-paying jobs, while the lower class struggles to earn enough to put food on the table. The billionaires may have lost billions because their investments in the stock market and in their business lost half of their values, but most of them will still be comfortable.

We do not really “Heal as One” but we may heal together in a long wavy line. It’s primarily the task of governments and secondarily of the wealthy to try to flatten, reduce the peaks and valleys of this line, to avoid extreme poverty and wealth. This is the only way to go for the Philippines and the world to have a future.

PSYCHOLOGISTS
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