An Unequal World.
Anne Carbon. 9th October 2021
Every 10th of October, memories of my experience working with mentally ill people when I was in Peru, always comes to the fore. Those years have actually been a privileged time for me because I was able to hear, see and hold the sacred stories of how the individuals and their loved ones actually went through, witnessing the painful ordeal of someone having mental illness. Unlike any other illnesses unfortunately, mental illness is considered a long term illness. I always think that mental illness is one of the gigantic problems, or I must say, a neglected illness in the whole area or field of health care that usually no one wants to pay attention to. And it is a fact that the first world psychiatric services and mental health care have been always prominent and obviously it is even more prominent now. Looking at this on one side and third world psychiatry on the other side, one could right away say, it is an unequal and sad reality!
This year’s theme, “An Unequal World”, I think is very timely. Perhaps we could begin looking beyond our comfort zones and see what is happening around us. As we thoroughly gaze in wherever place we are in right now, we can clearly see how wide the gap between the poor people and the rich has become. And if we could extend that gaze towards further horizon, we could enumerate even more countless inequalities happening around us -racial, ethnicity, sexual orientation, denial of human rights, ill treatments of women, access to medical health care, social status at all levels, our very own wounded Mother Earth- stripped off of its natural resources and leaving the poorer countries suffer the consequences of the damage done as a result of the wrong decisions and the unjust actions of the richer countries, and the list could go on…
Our present situation with COVID 19 is another concrete example of how we are living in a very unjust world! While some countries are already receiving their booster dose of the vaccines, billions of people in the developing countries have not even receive their first dose yet! The pandemic has affected all people in many ways, at all levels and this time even the rich people were not prepared for this. Through this situation that we have been living with for almost two years now allowed me to be confronted with soul- searching questions, leading me to some realizations which I am sure all of us, in one way or another, have also experienced and are invited to face and embrace.
It has been a time of so much uncertainty. We have been ushered to this situation without wanting it, into a liminal space. We could relate to what Fr. Richard Rohr stated: “we grapple from leaving and entering into a new way of being and we are hesitant to step into an open space of threshold that leads to nowhere”. And I must admit that many times, I grappled and found it challenging to face the invitation to pause, embrace and to let things be, when I sometimes find the circumstances and the reality around me looking opposite to my values, perspectives and beliefs in life.
Why I am writing this? I am writing this because I feel helpless, ashamed and perhaps a little frustrated. Lately, I have noticed that the number of beggars around the area has increased. I see faces of children, younger people of both sexes, women, men, older people and not to forget the physically and mentally challenged individuals. Today, I went to the market to buy fruits and some essential things for our house. As always, I am surrounded by more than 5 of them, begging for food and medicine. I am wondering…maybe it is because I look like Chinese lady- a kind of look associated with money that is why they were flocking and moving around me at the marketplace.
It would be a great challenge to start giving because as soon as I start giving to one, 10 other more would come! I could see the desperation in their eyes, with an emaciated look- feeling the pain and hunger. I honestly feel ashamed and feeling so uncomfortable, carrying the food with me and not being able to share with them as much as I wanted to. In a way, I am grateful that I am wearing a face mask to hide my shame, my sad face, my frustration, my teary eye…
I know that somewhere out there, billions of our brothers and sisters are living in isolation, pushed to the margins, forgotten, hungry and victims of our unjust society. This social problem is a herculean task and a responsibility for each one of us. We all have a role to play in addressing these disparities. Hopefully, with all the concerted efforts from different organizations, humanitarian groups and even small initiatives, we can channel help and provide an opportunity for all of us to act together and aim at how inequality can be addressed. In my own little way, I could only embrace my helplessness, vulnerability and frustrations in the light of faith. I trust that God will give me the wisdom and the grace to partake love and compassion to those suffering and who are in great need around me.
As we celebrate the World Mental Health Day, let us remember in a special way people who are mentally disturbed and all those who are suffering from all forms of inequality. May we continue to be more conscious on how we live. Strive in promoting life around us knowing how interconnected we all are and to live through what Mahatma Gandhi said, “To live simply so that others may simply live.”