Talking about privilege makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but this is important and needs to be said.
We like to hide from the idea that we were handed more only because of sheer luck. We point to our hard work, our own struggles, anything that makes the weight of it a little less… heavy.
If you are reading this on a computer, have a roof over your head, and clean water, you are immensely privileged. The ones who are graduating from university, writing, working, thinking, and creating. If this is you, you are one lucky SOB and maybe you can relate to what I’m going to say next.
Privilege presses down with a feeling one can only describe as guilt. It’s hard to look into the world and see so much suffering, when you have been born into a world of magnificent abundance.
Some people realize this and avert their gaze – would rather pretend it doesn’t exist than let the heaviness creep in. I’ve been there, and it shames me to say that I too have looked away. But, I made a decision to take a good hard look; to stare down the problems at hand.
And to be honest, it sucks.
Because, deep down we know that things shouldn’t be so damn unfair. Kids shouldn’t die of diarrhea, people shouldn’t have to walk 20 miles to see a doctor (if there’s even a doctor there), drinking water for an entire population shouldn’t be brown and disease-laden, and the list can go on.
There’s a strange feeling that lingers after you finally realize your good fortune. It’s deeply uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the knowledge of what you have and others don’t, and in discomforts that come from work in alleviating these disparities of fortune.
People don’t turn away because they are bad people. It’s just that for some, the pain of knowing is too much to bear.
We all know to some degree about bad things, unfair things, happening in the world. These ugly facts are all around us, but it is a personal choice whether or not you let them sink in. To enter your soul, and to stir up your spirit.
Because, if you let them sink in, it means you have to act. And acting is the hard part.
Once you open your eyes, though, doing nothing is no longer an option. The burden — and the gift, is that you are in the position to alleviate the suffering and injustice around you. You who have the education, the tools, the food, the security, the wealth, by comparison, are compelled to make a dent.
Decide to act in the face of all this unfairness, working towards a tomorrow where everyone has access to the same things that allow you and I to be reading and writing on this incredible platform – water, food, housing, healthcare, and education.
Pursuing these ideals is hard, and many may call me naive, but we can all envision a world in which everyone is granted the same opportunities to succeed.
Something else happens when you let the heaviness penetrate your heart and decide to act: Fulfillment and light creep in right along with the darkness.
Because what can be more fulfilling than acting in accordance to the things we value the most? Things like love, community, generosity, teamwork. The Golden Rule we all recited when we were 5 years old.
You won the lottery at birth, and with that comes tremendous opportunity. I argue that it also comes with a responsibility to those that weren’t quite so lucky.
Use your gifts as a force of good in the world. Decide to rise in the face of so many problems.
Privilege doesn’t have to reek of guilt or shame.
As long as we do something about it.