During my trip to Cambodia, I have seen citizens from high-class families to underprivileged people. It got me thinking about how privileged some of us are compared to others. I hope to give you an equal general insight on what I think about privilege – as if you were here with me to experience such enlightenment yourself.
So how can we measure our privilege?
Have you ever done a task so functional, that it has become a leisure activity for you? For instance, for some of us, eating is a hobby and a favourite past-time. At most times, it is an activity of reunion and festivity. However, to the underprivileged, eating is an activity that is simply meant to fill their bellies. Eating is a form of sustenance for the underprivileged – an activity which possesses a functionality similar to that of breathing air.
Another activity that has become leisure (in my opinion) is fishing. We all know that people used to hunt animals, gather fruit and spices, and lastly fish for food. Although previously known as an activity prized for its utility, it is now (for some of us) an activity of leisure and recreation. Being able to see an activity crucial for survival as an activity for leisure is a testament to how privileged we have become.
Have you ever laughed and joked about something that is seemingly tiring and exhausting to another? Some people perform hard labour or live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. What had me thinking about this point was upon hearing the fact that some factories (in Cambodia) maximise the carrying capacity of vehicles to pick up and send workers to factories. A small bus of 10 seats could easily be a vehicle that ferries up to 30 workers daily. We even joked that if they could put so many people in one vehicle, fewer of us could squeeze in one ourselves.
Have you ever utilised a product at your disposal, which had taken another person hard work and labour to manufacture? You name it: food, hygiene products, disposable goods and even liquor – these are all consumed and used at the expense of workers’ time and freedom. You might say that we, the consumers, rightfully pay and reward workers for their work. Quite on the contrary, these workers themselves don’t even get paid enough to feed their families or live adequate lives. From conversations, I have heard that a person in the service industry (in Cambodia) earns from a range of 50-150 USD per month. We demand so much from them, yet we give so little in return.
Even though Cambodia has distinct classes, I can tell that all Cambodians still see themselves as equal. That is the most important thing in any society – seeing their people as one, no matter how full or empty their pockets may be, or how much worth they are placed in society. Cambodians are very humble – they believe that they are far behind many developed countries in terms of technology, economy and other industries. That is why they are always in search of knowledge to further develop their country.
We all need to have that determination to do good for our country, just like how the people of Cambodia feel. So what is our first step, as people of high privilege?
Many articles talk about privilege and inequality as whether or not we are discriminated because of our sexuality or income or culture. There is a problem which transcends discriminatory physical attributes of individuals; that is the fact that we are equal humans yet divided members of society. We need to realise that we are privileged and discover what we can do to utilise our privileges to bring equality to the world and not bicker with other people about it.
I have travelled hundreds of kilometres over water, took to the roads by vehicle instead of on foot and soared tens of thousands of feet above ground in the skies. I have had too much food than required, consumed food and drink unnecessarily aside from the main purpose of sustenance, and taken a functional task as recreation. The first step to becoming grateful for what we possess is realising that we possess much more than other people: it breeds humility, it breeds compassion – it breeds humanity within all of us.
We are becoming increasingly divided due to the emphasis on our differences in race, religion and culture. We need to realise that we were all meant to be created equal without special treatment or privilege, regardless which God we worship, what sexuality we are or what colour of our skin.
I am very privileged. To make up for that, I am fully aware of it. And I strive to bring equality to this world such that we may all progress – together, as one human race.