Feeling guilty about privilege
Hey it’s Fabian from the think-team. Welcome to my first post of 2021 where I would like to review last year with a topic that may be slightly uncomfortable, but I think very necessary to talk about – Privilege.
Indri wrote about it in her last blog post here, realizing that electricity was never something she had to worry about, whilst a chunk of the population still lack access to. In all honesty, it took time for me to understand my privilege. No privileged people will ever understand privilege as long as they stay in a bubble. My bubble in south Jakarta did not convince me I was a privileged person. My definition of privilege was owning expensive cars and being able to shop freely in malls. Only later on I’ve realized, other’s definition of privilege was to simply have electricity. To hear that someone can be happy by just receiving electricity, is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It took especially long to know all aspects of my privilege, from food and shelter, to education and friendship. In my previous post, I explained that if I were to pinpoint my biggest privilege, it would be that fact that I have options.
I felt guilty. To come home from studying abroad to explain my experiences to people who cannot even fathom the possibility. To explain how I get to learn about anything I want. To experience comfort. I had a conversation with a dear friend about privilege. She told me she had a similar experience of feeling guilty, when she was driving her car. When heavy rain hits and all she can think of is why everyone else in her vicinity (the motorcyclists) is drenched by the rain except for her, protected by pieces of metal that is barely affordable to everyone.
A few months back I met a guy who grew up in a village in Java. We had a long conversation about the education system in Indonesia. He told me how the of studying abroad just never even crossed his mind from how he was raised. Yet, I was so inspired by how perceptive and articulate he was, encouraging and justifying the necessity for me to have invested my parents’ money in studying abroad. If anything, my guilt is slowly turning into motivation.
It seems illogical that humans would feel guilty or overthink about things they have. If any of you have a similar experience (by the thinnest chance as you and I are a small percentage of the population), maybe this book is for you. A dear friend gave another book recommendation to me as another antidote to my chaotic mind, called “The subtle art of not giving a f*ck”. There was one among many exercises that was really useful for me: draw two circles. Fill one with things you can control and things you can’t control. From here we can focus on making use of our resources and not stress too much about what we don't have.
However, you can easily misinterpret this. I had conversations about the book with people claiming that they have implemented these principles – knowing what they don’t have control over. These conversations made me realize everyone has different perspectives, making me realize my privilege of being taught many perspectives. Anyway, I think some people glossed over important points. Highlighting things you can’t control does not mean giving up on big dreams. This is where I see people in the opposite spectrum of not acknowledging privilege, because there is a strong assumption of what you can’t do. And so the thin line is blurry between what we can actually control, which may make people actually more pessimistic.
To solve this, I realized that there is an important part of making use of your privilege. You won't see a red shirt in a sea of red shirts. No one will understand what privilege means until they step out of the bubble. So if you’ve acknowledged your privilege, make use of that one thing at a time, understand how big the world is, so that you also don’t shut yourself away from the world thinking that things aren’t possible. Now I am not trying to end this blog with a cheesy quote of “you can do anything!” but really, it’s more about “there’s a lot more you can do than you actually think”. In my previous blog you can read the details about how everyone can find their own lanes. Just because something is so big, doesn’t mean you can’t do the small things to help out. In su-re.co, I've been taught the million ways you can make use of your privilege. Every giftmaker has something to offer and collectively we are working towards creating a resilient community. We don’t feel guilty about our privilege to a large extent because we have enough things to focus our mind on – our mission. Something you can be a part of through our programs :).
So if you’ve ever feel guilty about your privilege, then you’re in a good start. A very good start. However, having guilt means you see your privilege as a weakness or a disadvantage. 2020 was a catastrophe and a blessing all at the same time. The latter was experienced by the privilege. It is not impossible to give others the same opportunities and "not impossible" is a good enough start. Always remember, the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago, the second-best time is now.
Thanks for reading! May 2021 be the year more people have the courage to do something, something that requires them to use the things that they didn’t realize they have :).