by Nic Nikcevic (’23) & Kiran Seef (’23)
It is 6:00 pm on a beautiful evening in Downtown Santiago, Chile. (This description is based on a video captured by an eyewitness.) The surroundings are a scene of chaos. Bells are ringing, signs are waving around in all directions, and the words “Chile despertó” can be heard loudly. Chile woke up. The streets are flooded with people, altogether for the same purpose: to protest the increase in subway prices, and other privatized public services. To provide a bit of background, after Chile’s military dictatorship ended, which ran from 1973-1990, a lot of previously public government services were privatized. This included the pension system, healthcare, education, and water. Recently, the government announced that they would increase public transit costs in the nation. As a result, residents of Santiago took to the streets and were soon met with military action.
The riots in Chile are a good example of people standing up for what they believe in. The Chilean public are mobilizing to make their voices heard against a perceived injustice. In some ways, their actions can be seen as inspirational, motivating more fortunate communities to speak out when things are unfair.
In the SHP community, the amount of privilege leads to fewer opportunities to stand up and make the communal voices heard. Sacred Heart students are given an outstanding education, while many other students around the world receive only a substandard education. Residents in Atherton can have water and basic resources whenever they please, while in other parts of the world, people have to fight for the most basic resources. Many Sacred Heart students run the risk of living in ignorant contentment, unaware of the challenges facing those in the outside world.
“It’s just our community” explains Mr. Ben Hunter, a social science teacher at the school. “We are on the Peninsula, in a small, crazily affluent community. I think it’s also the difference between being suburban and urban.” Mr. Hunter elaborates , “We have a Sacred Heart in the city, and the students that go there have a very different experience than the students that live here. I think it’s partly wealth [related] and partly the urban and suburban divide.”
When asked if they had any knowledge of the riots, 4 out of 100 students shared with us what they knew, while the other 96 were oblivious. It would be easy to conclude that because of our privilege, students at the Prep seem to be uninterested and more out of touch with Global Affairs than the general population. However, it’s plausible to assume that students at other American high schools may perform similarly in the survey.
Senior and PASH member Caroline King explains, ̈No one knows about the riots in Chile because they aren’t going to directly affect us tomorrow, I’m supposed to be a political advocate of the Sacred Heart and I didn’t even know what’s going on, but we all know about the Uber protests because they might affect our rides to school the next day.”
Caroline later goes on to say that it’s not that students at the prep don’t care about the riots or, in a bigger sense, Global Affairs, rather they are more in tune with their local issues that directly impact their lives and the everyday stresses of being a high school student. This also raises the question whether this is a Sacred Heart phenomenon or a common one among high school students across the United States.
“Students of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to a social awareness which impels to action.”
Can we do better? Given our privilege, do we have an obligation to a higher standard of social awareness?