Valentina Couceiro –
«All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.»
This is a quote from the book Animal Farm from G. Orwell (1945). In this fiction, the animals of a farm take over the power and supposedly recreate an egalitarian society. While we go through the chapters, we soon realize these animals represent our society very closely. Europe is supposed to be the most “liberal” place in the world with its supposed perfect democracy. Yet, there are still a lot of injustice. This is probably because people don’t acknowledge and use their privileges wisely. According to the oxford dictionary, privileges are “special rights, advantages, or immunities granted or available only to a particular person or group”. There are various social privileges we tend to forget: social class, education, gender, ethnicity, language, religion, sexual orientation, health, and geographical origins (passport).
As humans, we all have privileges in certain circumstances. Yet, are we really aware of them?
I got the unique experience to go to Zimbabwe for a year and be part of the “white” minority. When I arrived, I did not want to see color but rapidly I realized it made a difference. At first, I thought they were thinking backwards in making distinctions. Actually, I realized that not acknowledging these social differences was not acknowledging my privilege of being “white”. When I came back to Europe these struggles of power that were hidden for me before became self-evident. From everyday little jokes, to the judgmental staring, to the difficulty of being taken seriously in any situation. I feel like most of white western Europeans, including me, don’t realize the privilege we have. We pretend to live in an equal society, and we blind ourselves of these privileges. This especially holds true when we look at the Eurostat regional yearbook of 2017; the ethnic inequalities are not even mentioned. The first step towards equality is recognizing our privileges.
I also want to remind all EU students in Maastricht their privileges to be studying in such an environment. The EU passport gives us a superpower. It enables these students to receive a very good level of education for an affordable price, such as €1,030 on average in the Netherlands. Although they sometimes have to work, the demand for jobs is very high for EU students in Maastricht. If they think they are struggling, international students have already done the seven Herculean tasks to arrive in the same place. For instance, in the Netherlands, non-EU students have to pay an average of €6,000-15,000 at bachelor’s level and €8,000-20,000 at postgraduate level. They also have to pay for a special assurance, and the demand for jobs for international students is very low. Actually, most of the time they are not allowed to work. It is a privilege that European students don’t realize that should not be forgotten if we want a more understanding society. Besides, what is “affordable” for high middle-class EU students is not necessarily affordable for other EU students. Some privileges come with other privileges which creates wide inequalities.
It may be difficult to acknowledge privileges because it sometimes diminishes some achievements .
Yet, it is necessary. In refusing to see these privileges such as ethnicity or geographical origins, we make ourselves believe that some people have more value than others. Ultimately this transforms us into the oppressors. I took these examples because they concern myself and I believe a vast majority of students in Maastricht. However, everyone should recognize their own privileges if we want to step towards a more equal society with genuine, loving and human relationships.