[OPINION] Understanding the power of privilege

Gab Jopillo
[OPINION] Understanding the power of privilege
'Come July 1, 2020, voter registration will finally resume. That opens up another avenue where we could put our privilege to good use.'

A few days ago, a couple of friends and I had a small discussion with our professor on the current state of the Philippines. What started as a few messages comparing the old university curriculum and the new curriculum turned into a call for our generation to spark change. 

Privilege has been seen as a distinct tool of division between the upper and the lower classes of society. It acts as a gold star, bestowing immediate and direct access to proper healthcare, quality education, clean water, shelter, and so on – superpowers not everyone can afford. 

The moment I took notice of my own privilege, I found that merely being born into a middle class family already puts me at an advantage over students in public schools, workers struggling to make ends meet, and families residing in slums. As a student, it has granted me superpowers I honestly can’t imagine living without, from the opportunity to choose the university of my liking, to the connections I need to secure a stable and promising career. Basically, my privilege has granted me the freedom to live however I wish. (READ: [OPINION] What privilege feels like after moving to Metro Manila)

But for a society to thrive, the privileged must be made aware of and held accountable for their superpower and its responsibilities. Unfortunately, that’s far from reality.

The abuse and misuse of one’s privilege is evident in the way our nation has operated. It is especially responsible for the creation of narratives that have redirected our attention from the root of our problems: our perpetuation of a system negligent of its duties towards the common good. 

In a regime heavily concerned with the silencing of critics and the stripping of basic human rights, I’ve noticed the lengths to which people go to protect the privilege and connections they’ve been granted. Acts such as siding with the perpetrator, barring meaningful protest and open conversations, and censoring valuable information continue to encourage a system that feeds on fear and miseducation. And although it is only human to be on the lookout for ourselves, we must not allow ourselves to settle for a status quo without equal rights and justice.

How ironic is it that despite the presence of a day supposedly marking the freedom of our nation, there continues to be a knife hanging over our heads? How ironic is it that our power of dissent is being strangled by the very people who need it to effectively lead and carry out their job? How ironic is it that the people who have sworn to protect and serve us are the very people holding a gun to the heads of the voiceless and the powerless?

Every day, the rest of the country continues to suffer from the abuse of privilege and the lack of social accountability, and it is in this constant uphill battle to simply survive that hope fades and fear takes its place. With the many ironies, inconsistencies, and obscurities surrounding our administration and the system in which it operates, we have to understand its consequences for vulnerable groups and secluded minorities. (READ: It’s about privilege, not about working or studying hard)

My privilege has granted me a plane ticket to escape these muddied waters. But the prevailing abuse of our nation’s law, threats against security, and violence in the streets – clear signs of self-serving privilege – are a reminder that it’s not the time to look away. Though we are swimming in a pool of filth left over from generations ago, that doesn’t mean we’re excused from feeling any sort of guilt or responsibility towards the nation. That is why we must use our privilege as a tool to shape solidarity. Solidarity against the face of injustice and selective justice. Solidarity in support of the little guy. Solidarity in the middle of threats and looming dangers.

By the end of our conversation, our professor reminded us of our right to vote. 

Come July 1, 2020, voter registration will finally resume. That opens up another avenue where we could put our privilege to good use. The tools are in the hands of the privileged – the educated and those who have the ability to critically dissect information – and it is up to us take a stand against the villains who guised themselves as victors. It is through learning about the responsibility that comes with this superpower that we also learn to never turn a blind eye, to never stay silent on issues that matter, and to always educate ourselves and allow ourselves to be educated.

Desperate cries to cancel 2020 and its many horrors may have flooded the internet and our own thoughts, but the year must continue as a reminder of our need to dismantle these abusive power structures and build an atmosphere of equality and mutual respect – which is why it’s paramount that we exercise what rights we still have left. With an open eye towards the powers of our privilege, we must realize the need to take matters into our hands. And in doing so, we must bear in mind that it’s not too late to take what rightfully belongs to us. – Rappler.com

Gab Jopillo is taking up AB Communication at the University of Santo Tomas.

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