Privilege – A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.
We are not equal. Some of us are born to rich parents, some to poor parents. Some who are born in poverty make it big in life and become rich. We think its merit, its our efforts. To a certain extent – yes it is true. But a major factor is privilege. Privilege of being born to well to do parents, being born into a peaceful place, being born to parents who can afford to get you quality education, just good genes. Privilege of being born into a specific race, skin colour, gender, religion, caste. Even your looks or physical abilities are a privilege. Just being a man is one of the biggest privileges, even in 2014 and even in the most developed countries of the world!
Right now I am sitting here in an air conditioned office, typing this post on a laptop sipping coffee. The way that I make money doesn’t involve me doing a mundane job where I don’t even have the liberty to take a loo break whenever I wish. I see people all around me who if they decide to take a break from there work for a day or two, they loose income for those days. Why is that so? Why don’t they deserve the life of comforts that I have? And I am not even at the top of the pyramid, I am somewhere at the middle of the middle may be. Life at the lower levels is a daily struggle.
These days its mostly education that makes a lot of difference in what sort of work a person ends up doing. Better education usually affords one a better job and a higher quality of life. Why does some people have better education and others don’t? Simple – privilege. Those who have a better education had parents who understood the value of education and had sufficient means to educate their children. That’s a privilege. Now now now, we see all around us poor people working hard to educate their children – again they are the parents who are intelligent enough to understand the simple truth that education pays. They limit the number of children, work extra to educate their children. It’s a privilege for the children. Also that the parents happened to be living in a country/society which is relatively peaceful and has institutions that provide good quality education for an affordable price. A child born in some poor country in Africa or in a war zone of Gaza, Syria or Afghanistan will not have that privilege. And then we pass on the privileges to our children. So if I am educated and make good money I will make sure my daughter also gets a good education so she will carry that same privilege.
There are some other privileges that are not as obvious – like gender based privileges or caste or race based privileges. A lot of people don’t realize this. Being a woman automatically closes a lot of doors for you. In many of the conservative societies women are reduced to nothing but home makers and child bearers. All in the name of protecting them or even giving them a comfortable life! Being a girl reduces one’s opportunities drastically. So if you are born as a man you already have an unfair advantage over half of the population just for being a man!
Should you be ashamed of your privileges? No. We don’t choose our privileges. We just happen to get them, we don’t have to be ashamed of them, but we do have to be aware of our privileges. Be humble. Don’t brag. If you got a job at a multinational company then it’s because you had parents who could get you good education, you had a good intelligence because of your genes – factors that are totally out of your control. So be humble. Do not look down upon those who are not as privileged as you. You aren’t better and they aren’t worse.
This video of a speech by Tim Minchin is relevant