The eye-opener that stopped my complaining

By on November 12, 2013 in Columns, Reportages

Survivors carry a person killed as super Typhoon Haiyan battered Tacloban city, central Philippines

Watching the news coverage from the Philippines, where the typhoon Haiyan and the aftermath of it has only just started its ruthless killings, I bit my lip and restrained myself from complaining about the work that teachers have been loading us with. Compared to the problems of the people in the affected parts of the Philippines, mine were kind of ridiculous. 

When the workload led to ignorance and indifference, I realised it was time to take a step back and prioritise some things over others. As students here at Kungsholmen, we can all relate to the high levels of stress that, by midterm, almost have become like a natural way of life. I for my part have over the past few weeks been completely absorbed by various assignments with that fearful day of doom, the deadline, approaching at an all too steady pace. This might be why not much attention has been paid to other major events that have been going on in the rest of the world. But last night, I decided to take a break to watch the news and become slightly more up to date with has been happening across the globe. Of course, I’d heard about the typhoon that hit the Philippines last weekend, but up until yesterday (Monday), I had not understood the sheer scale of it. Comfortably seated on a sofa, inside a house that provided warmth and shelter and was at no risk of falling apart by a gigantic, merciless natural disaster, my so-called “troubles” seemed pretty insignificant.

The typhoon Haiyan raged through the islands of the Philippines, notably through the province of Letye, last Friday. Behind it, Haiyan left a land of devastation. So far, about 10000 people have died due to the storm itself, but these numbers will undoubtedly rise as the secondary effects take their toll on the people. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless, exposed to the fatal aftermath of the typhoon, without a place to shelter themselves and their families. The need for aid, in particular food and water supplies, has reached an acute state. While I was watching the footages from the city of Tacloban that showed the remains of an entire city lying in scraps on the ground and dead bodies covered with a sheet of plastic or any other material considered useful enough, the reporter explained how we, members of a privileged society like Sweden, can help. “Send a text message to 72900 with the word typhoon written in order to donate 100 kr.”

Whenever a natural disaster has occurred and certain parts of the world, due to forces that man cannot control, have found themselves in a crucial need of help, I’ve always had the habit of handing over the responsibility of helping out to my parents. And this has not just been the case during the shocks after a natural disaster. These things happen all the time, whether it’s about ignoring that homeless man outside the underground station who is selling magazines in the hope of being given a second chance at life, or about avoiding eye contact with the voluntary workers from the red cross who patiently walk around the streets of Stockholm, trying to collect money for a number of good causes from people passing by. More often than not, I’ve simply chosen to sigh, express how sorry I feel for “those poor people” and then returned to my comfortable lifestyle without actually doing anything. This time though, I decided that maybe it’s time to change that behaviour. All I had to do was to send a text and then 100 kr, that otherwise would have been spent on clothes or coffee or any other absolute necessities that a teenager in Sweden might have, were sent to rescue operations that actually save lives and make a difference.

Now I’m not writing this as a way for me to boost my confidence or to convince someone that, thanks to my extraordinary contribution of the full sum of 100 kr, the world is now a better place. Quite the contrary – there are a million more things that can be done. When we are as fortunate as we are to be living in Sweden, a donation every now and then should almost be seen as an obligation. I’m writing this because, as I was at the height of my self-pitying, the report from Tacloban city really became an eye-opener. And so I thought that maybe, providing the people around me with a little information from the world outside of essays and tests and presentations and all those other assignments might result in the same way as it did for me. Make a little difference in one way or another; there are millions of people worse off than we are.