Parasite. It couldn’t have been more relevant right now. It recently won 4 awards in the Oscars early in February this year. Now, its story and themes are being highlighted in the daily lives of Filipinos in our current global pandemic. If you’ve watched Parasite, and you probably have because you’re reading this. Then you’ll know that it’s a story about social class and the divide between the rich, the broke, and the broken. For non-Parasite viewers, this means the rich, the poor, and the poorer.
Parasite is a movie I just recently watched given the opportunity from the current lockdown/quarantine. It opened my eyes to so many things I took for granted as a person living in the comfort of privilege. This is a very personal experience for me to write as a lot of these things I will be giving commentary on is something I am guilty of doing. I am unashamed, but I am guilty. And it hurts. I wish I could donate billions to combat the struggle against COVID, but unfortunately, I am in no position to do such things. So this article is my way of helping. I hope I can illuminate some issues and encourage you to do what you can to help as well.
A lot of things have been going on since the implementation of the national lockdown, or as the Philippine government likes to call it, a “community quarantine.” Pretty much all of the countries struck by COVID-19 are facing the same situation with few exceptions here and there.
From this lockdown comes the relevance of Parasite and the socio-economic disconnect of rich and poor it depicted. In Parasite, the rich Park family has drawn a line between their high-class position and anyone they perceive as lower than them. In this case, it’s their workers, the Kim family. This line is introduced to us and reiterated repetitively by the head of the Park family, Mr. Park or Dong-ik. In fact, they identify the poor with their scent. Not by their laundry detergent, but by the scent of the subway, and the odor of the semi-basement. It’s the the smell of poverty.
I may not be on the same level as the Parks, but I am still guilty of having done the same in certain parts of my life. Looking back, such discrimination towards people doing their best to survive in life stinks more than “poor people smell.”
Perhaps the most accurate display of this gap between the high-class Parks and the less fortunate Kims is in the rain scene. Right after they escaped the Park household, the Kims run back down to their semi-basement home as it gets flooded by the downpour. The Kims had to struggle with their drowning home as their toilet vomits muck, and are subsequently forced to sleep in a community gym all while the Parks rest comfortably in their designer house.
The Parks view the rain as a minor inconvenience and even a blessing, insensitive to the hardships of people affected by the flood it caused. This is another thing I am guilty of doing. I have always lived in high places and condominiums far away from the effects of flood. In fact, I love it when heavy rain pours at night. It smells good. The cold breeze feels good. The sound of rain is like music that calms things away. But this movie made me see it differently.
The rain might be beautiful up here where I stand, but if I were down there where everyone is struggling to get their belongings out of the house just to survive, I won’t be enjoying it at all. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy the rain. What I’m saying is, we shouldn’t take the comforts of our home for granted.
This insensitivity and disconnection of people in privilege is reflected in our own world. The quarantine forces us to stay at home to prevent the spread of the virus, but not everyone is given the ability to sit luxuriously at home. Many people need to go to work and be paid in order to survive. Not everyone has the money and savings to live weeks or months without pay. Unfortunately, there are many people in privilege who don’t understand this fact. All they see are hardheaded “motherf*ckers” who don’t want to stay at home, as said by one specific influencer.
The really sad part here is the rushed implementation of this quarantine by the Philippine government. There was a huge lack of consideration for the people with lower than minimum wage earnings. The government has suspended all public transport, making it difficult for people who need to work to go to their respective jobs. This includes those people in the front lines fighting for the lives of our people, like nurses and medical technologists. Not everyone has a car. This disconnect from the government really shows the gap between social classes. Can we say that our government understands the needs of its workers when they themselves are in positions of privilege, riding their cars to work?
This is something to ponder upon. I don’t mean to discredit the government for their actions, but I do hope they see the issues arising from this lockdown and come up with appropriate solutions with proper consideration for everyone.
Now, I am not claiming all privileged people to be disconnected. There are many privileged people out there who are making a stand to support causes against COVID. If you, reader, are sitting comfortably at home and have the ability to help, please help. Here are some Twitter threads compiling many initiatives to support the battle against COVID. Take your stand.
LET'S COMPILE DONATION DRIVES!!!
— Flynn Driver #MassTestingNow! (@s0rbetero) March 16, 2020
"Hi guys, please pass this on to feed the frontliners 🙂
Here’s a list of RockEd Relief team leaders to get in touch with to donate cooked meals or cash. Money is used to purchase meals and PPEs."
— Ashley Petallano (@Ashleleleleh) March 17, 2020
Good News! Our donation campaign for health workers fighting #COVID19 has reached P21,992,978.14, as of noon today, 21 March 2020.
Thank you to all those who donated! Magtulungan tayo, kaya natin 'to! pic.twitter.com/3VXv0kr87E
— Kaya Natin! Movement (@KayaNatinPH) March 21, 2020