[OPINION] Checking your privilege during the coronavirus pandemic

“Your grandparents were called to war. All you have to do is sit at home and do nothing. You can do that. Just shut up and wash your hands. Cooperate with the government…”

These are the words of a certain underaged social media influencer, who called out her fellow Filipinos for apparently doing nothing but criticize the fragile social safety net of the Duterte administration. One video after another, she fired at "hard-headed" citizens who went out of their homes despite the metro-wide (now island-wide) lockdown due to the pandemic.

“God, why don’t you m*******ckers stay at home?! Stay at home! Don’t you guys get it?!” another Instagram influencer said. (READ: Viral content: Pandemic offers influencers captive audiences

I did not know who this other influencer was until today. Out of curiosity, I looked her up, and her profile hinted that she was from the upper class, enjoying a curated lifestyle perfect for the ‘Gram. It then occurred to me that it wasn't rocket science for her to come up with such statement.

Indeed, it is not that hard for some of you to stay at home to protect yourself from contracting the coronavirus and spreading it. At home, you can watch movies or work out. There are classes available online, if you love learning. You can also check on your friends, especially those you haven’t talked to in a while. In the information age, boredom should not really be an issue anymore. (READ: Luzon lockdown: What are the do's and don'ts?)

But it’s a different story for Filipinos who live a hand-to-mouth existence. Boredom is not a gut issue for them.

They have forsaken convenience and even safety amid the pandemic to provide basic necessities for their family. Some are laborers who only get paid on a daily basis. Some are minimum-wage employees on a “no work, no pay” set-up. Work-from-home policies are not always available nor applicable to some industries. How then can these people “just stay at home?”

Not everyone experiences the same struggles. All of us are born into circumstances we never really chose. So, to ask whether a person is privileged (or not) only elicits unproductive discussions. The question we should ask instead should be: how do we make sense of the privilege that we have?

With privilege comes a responsibility to champion social justice on behalf of the aggrieved neighbor. This is why Filipinos who sit comfortably in their homes must never “just shut up and wash their hands.” To help those affected by the pandemic and the lockdown would be the most practical thing to do.

However, there is something even more urgent and long-lasting: to exact accountability from the officials who put us in this situation in the first place. – Rappler.com

Alois Isinika

Alois Isinika is a digital communications specialist at Rappler. As a Sociology graduate, he thinks and talks a lot about the world we live in, that's why he frequently writes for Rappler Blogs or tweets his sentiments at @aloisinika.