Privilege

<July 5/13.> I return often to thoughts about privilege.

I myself have led a quite privileged life – though I certainly didn’t grasp that during my dysfunctional childhood in a dysfunctional family. It was a trip to Barbados at the age of 14 that rubbed my nose in my previously-taken-for-granted privilege, & catapulted me into a different way of seeing the world.

It seems that something in me, down to my very bones, resists the idea of privilege & entitlement. Not sure why this is so, & let’s face it, I have at times felt as falsely “entitled” to things as anyone. (I did observe on another trip, decades later, when being put up in a very fancy place indeed, that if one does not watch it, one can quickly experience that sensation of entitlement – of having “earned” the fancy treatment/privileges. It was a good insight to get, & I’m happy to have had the experience for the insight it brought me.)

I know many people who have positively gobs of invisible privilege. In fact, most of the people I know are pretty much awash in it.

The privilege(s) of:

  • Living in Canada
  • Living middle-class lives
  • Money – most folks I know are plenty comfortable (or even quite a bit more than just comfortable)
  • Intelligence
  • Good looks
  • Good education (or what we view that way in middle-class circles)
  • Background
  • Cushy childhood, maybe (very relative term )

 

All these things give one what you might call “unfair advantages” in life – as compared to those who are lacking in these visible or invisible forms of privilege.

George Monbiot wrote an interesting column a couple of years back, called ‘The Self Attribution Fallacy’ in which he points out that most rich & powerful people have actually had most of what they possess handed to them on a silver platter, pretty much.

Most are not rich & famous because they are just so fabulously smart & deserving & wonderful, although many may think these things are so, & that they richly “deserve” all the perks.

Well. These are aimless musings, really…I am not actually going anywhere with them. I have no great insights or solutions to offer here. Sorry about that! 

To be honest, I’m kind of past believing in “solutions” at this point, really. Of course I still enjoy musing on what got us into all these messes, & all the things that keep us here – ‘cos I’m an analytical sort of gal.

I do like to think we’d all have been a lot better off on this planet if we’d always been honest with ourselves & each other, less driven by self-absorption & greed, & had always worked collectively to create a fair & equitable world for all. It’s a bit late for such idealistic notions now, of course...

Janet

p.s. thanks to Tim S. for sending the Monbiot item my way! 

p.p.s. I continue to be a person with tons of privilege, btw, in spite of having been essentially downwardly mobile, economically speaking, all my life. I have friends to die for, plenty of worthwhile work & purpose, adventures a’plenty, & a huge appreciation for the “simple” things in life. Right now, for example, I’m living (temporarily) by a river, surrounded by trees & a wonderful assortment of birds & other critters. It’s peaceful & green & the herons I keep seeing are an absolute delight. More than one kind of privilege in this life, that’s for sure! (I always say wealth has nothing whatsoever to do with money.)

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “We are privileged, and the duty of privilege is absolute integrity.” – John O’Donohue, Irish poet, philosopher and former priest

Spare quotes to throw in: “I’m proud to be counted as one of the lunatic idealists who passionately endorse the notion of a better, safer, kinder world.” – Singer Annie Lennox in Resurgence (Jan/Feb 2007) quoted in Ode, a magazine “for intelligent optimists,” May 2007

“After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, and so on – have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear – what remains? Nature remains.” – Walt Whitman, poet (1819-1892) 

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman

“Two centuries of philosophers stand in opposition to the modern American recipe for happiness and fulfillment. You can’t buy your way in. You can’t amuse yourself in. You can’t even expect falling in love to deliver you. The most promising way to happiness is, perhaps, through creativity, through literally creating a fulfilling life for yourself by identifying some unique talent or passion and devoting a good part of your energy to it, forever.” ~ Kalle Lasn/Bruce Grierson in Utne Reader [more great quotes on work & purpose here]