Sydney is a privilege

Getting out of bed at 5:30AM on a Sunday may not sound like a privilege to many people but I felt really lucky this morning. I went with the kids to the Spring Cycle to cross the bridge and explore the centre of Sydney with our bikes. I was joined by a friend from Croatia and another from Iran and we were there enjoying every moment of our expedition with the blue sky above our heads and in awe to be living in such a beautiful, safe and multicultural city.

I’ve been living in Sydney for 18 years and am now used to such high standards of living but having grown up in Brazil I’m all too aware that the way we live our lives in Australia is a privilege denied to most of the seven billion people that share this planet with us.

I’m not talking about wealth accumulation—although I’m sure that there are plenty of opportunity for this to those that seek financial riches—for me it’s the little things in life that make Australia so attractive. For instance, today I was able to catch a train at 6am with my bike without feeling threatened that I could be mugged or had my bike stolen. Then during the race my children took off and I only met them again at the finishing line and it didn’t worry me that they were out of sight for a little bit.

When you grow up in a country that has a decent welfare system and public infra structure that makes live more enjoyable it’s easy to complain when Sydney trains are running five minutes late. Sometimes when I hear friends whinging about minor irritations in essential services I wonder how they would cope in a country that offers very limited resources to their citizens.

Of course Australia has problems too, we just have to look at the inequality in the Aboriginal communities and we have to raise our voices to fix what’s not working. I think if we show gratitude for what we have and remind ourselves that many of our privileges are often determined by your geographical location we may become more generous as human beings.

300 Words on Privilege

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Privilege: I’ve never had as much toys, books and gadgets as my kids have.

I struggle. I work hard. But I feel immensely privileged. I had the chance to choose whether to leave Brazil, my home country, and restart my life in a developed nation. There are close to 60 million people around the world that had to flee their homes due to war or persecution – they have nowhere to go, they have no choice. I was in a position to choose because I was born in a middle class family that knew the value of a good education. I had access to good schools and university and was able to qualify for a place in the skilled migration program. Of course I had to work hard to get there but my chances of having that opportunity would have been slim had I not had the privilege of my upbringing.

Until a few years ago I didn’t see most of my privileges as such – we don’t go through life looking for signs that we have more advantages than others, sometimes we even turn a blind eye. It can be very confronting to realise and acknowledge that many of our achievements in life are not attributed to us solely on merit. It can also be overwhelming because we are limited in what we can do as individuals to give others the rights they equally deserve. We can’t transfer or share a privilege with another person. As an individual I can’t give refugees the right to come and go, or an able body to a person with a physical disability, or shield social groups from prejudice.

It can be uncomfortable to become aware of our privileges and the inequalities that they create but it can also make us compassionate with ourselves we are all denied some privileges too and more empathetical towards other people’s suffering and misfortunes. Awareness can also help us stand up for equality and support policies that give everyone access to the resources they need and deserve.