The Perils of Privilege
“You need to realise that you are privileged, you have more than they will ever have, because you had a head start”
That rocked me.
As her words echoed around my head, I struggled to fit her view with my own internal view. It didn’t compute. And it took weeks to come to a different reality and a new understanding of how things are.
Kim followed up that statement by asking when I learned to read.
“I learned to read before I started school of course” I replied. She told me that many of the under privileged, start school at 5 with no idea of reading or writing and it haunts them throughout their school life.
I understood that. The sole reason I have done well is because I learned to read at a young age, I read voraciously, and all of my learning has come from reading. Especially now, later in life when things are changing at pace, and if you are not improving your skills every 18 months you are unemployable.
The reason that her statement shocked me is that there is no way I would have ever have labeled myself as privileged.
My family was decidedly blue collar when I grew up. A couple of rungs above what they now term white trash. Domestic abuse was a reality, and the future, we were, told was limited.
I’m pretty smart, but my brother is much smarter, I suggested he should go to university. (Back then university was free). Our parents laughed at such a notion. “The best you can hope for is a trade, nobody in this family is ever going to university”. I left school when I was 16 and left home when I was 17.
That’s not privileged.
And yet. I had that foundation of reading. I had the opportunity to determine the direction of my life. My destiny. And I took it.
I wrestled with this idea that I was advantaged, when for most of my life I had considered myself disadvantaged. But the truth is I am a white male, healthy and intelligent. Put like that I have already won the genetic lottery.
The truth dawned on me slowly:
Privileged. Under-privileged. Advantaged. Disadvantaged.
They are all just labels.
Human beings are far more than any label can convey. There is danger in using these labels. Danger for those that label themselves and for those that label others.
If you accept the label that you are privileged, then there is a danger that you will rest on your perceived laurels and not strive to be more, to become better, to grow. -You don’t need to.
On the other hand if you accept the label under-privileged then there is a cap on what you can achieve. –Why bother trying.
It all comes down to a misunderstanding of the term Equality.
Equality is an unobtainable concept.
Like Perfection, Equality is something to strive for.
But to strive for knowing that it can never be achieved.
If you believe that you will be perfect, then it will become an obsession that will destroy your life. In the same way, if you think that equality is really obtainable you will obsess over something that can never be.
UFC Fighter and podcaster, Brendan Schaub often talks about athletic “Freaks” he knows and has trained with. They have lucked out on the genetics, and it doesn’t matter how hard you train, the average guy is going to lose against them 99 times out of 100. -There’s no equality there.
So what does this mean for you and me?
We need to shy away from being labelled or from labeling others. Labeling someone else is effectively labeling yourself after all. We need to realise that people struggle with stuff no matter how high in status they seem to be, and that everyone has some unique talent that they can contribute no matter how low their position appears right now.
We should all focus on growth. Our own and those that we interact with. We should acknowledge those that are making an effort to improve themselves wherever they are.
If the goal is to get to the top of the mountain, then it doesn’t matter whether you are born in a ski Chalet high on the slopes, in the foothills lower down, or right down on the flat plains below.
Regardless, of where you begin, you need to point yourself at the top of the mountain, and put one foot in front of the other.
The climb is just as hard no matter where you start. We need to realise and acknowledge this is the case. Sure the climb may be comparatively short for some, and seemingly endless for others, but the decision and effort to climb is what is important.
Because there are a lot of people at every level that are going nowhere.
As a trial I want to do a video/hangout on each of my posts. This is the first time I have done this, and I actually did the video before I wrote the post. This is because I heard someone say that this is what they do. However after doing it I realised that for me it will be better if I write the post first and then do the video on it afterwards. But even though I am not too happy with it, I will include this video here.
Photo credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum: photo by Lewis W. Hine. / Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0
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