Privilege – curse or blessing?

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I live in a country where I’m able to enjoy the security of free healthcare, free education and a democracy with minimal corruption. For that I’m contributing 40% taxes of my income and I endure long and dark winters. I’d say that’s not the worst deal and even though I’m not loving the winter, I consider myself very privileged. According to the UN’s World Happiness Report I live in the happiest country in the world and if privilege equals happiness, then I would agree. The problem is, I actually don’t agree.

The same way an organization or any kind of group can have a culture that doesn’t necessarily reflect the complete nature of the individual, a country develops a certain culture as a whole; a general atmosphere or collective mindset. In my opinion, that mindset around here has developed into one of privileged ignorance. Sure there are problems here with unemployment and decreasing quality of education, which should be addressed properly in the public debate as well as politically. But then there are other problems being articulated, issues regarding how to protect the country’s wealth from those less deserving i.e the people who needs it the most. It seems there’s a general assumption when it comes to social support; if you really need it, you probably don’t deserve it – doesn’t matter if it’s a refugee or any kind of immigrant or even a native citizen. Why is it that we work so hard to establish a financial comfort zone and then do everything we can to keep others out of it?

It seems that the more people have, the more they forget how it is to have less, and their main focus settles on how to protect what they have while they get more. And when they’re no longer affected by the bigger problems of life, they start bitching about the voting system of Dancing With The Stars. And believe me, that’s a heated debate around here these days.

My intention at this point is not to dissect the whole social system or list all the narrow-minded opinions out there. I’ve just been thinking that it seems the level of privilege doesn’t equal the level of compassion we have for each other. In my mind it would be obvious that the less you have to worry about, the more energy you would have to share; to love; to help the people around you; to spread some happiness, but most of the time it looks like the opposite is more accurate.

So what if privilege doesn’t equal happiness? What if most of the time it just equals an ignorant sense of entitlement, widening the gap between rich and poor, and strengthens them vs. us mentality. Not because people are a**holes but because that’s one of the potential psychological and social effects of privilege.. If the voting system of Dancing With The Stars is your biggest problem, then you’re probably going to confront it with as much force as possible.

Yesterday I did an interview with someone who spend most of his adult life working in war and disaster zones, witnessing horrors unimaginable to most people, and more than once being close to being killed himself. However, what was most vivid in his stories, was the determination he had met to be kind and happy and helpful even in the midst of tragedy, and the gratitude he felt for being able to help; gratitude for his expanded horizon.

Because of my fortunate citizenship I’m able to cut this winter short and travel for a few months, visiting some of the people I love around the world, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I’ve come to take my circumstances for granted, and I don’t know how it would feel to live even a week with the amount of uncertainty that a lot of people endure for the entirety of their lives. But I hope that I at least will continue to let my perspective be challenged, keep my eyes and my heart open, and always let my privilege be a blessing instead of a curse.

As the very wise Nowan Zen just told me (in regards to his impressive amount of wisdom but I think it applies to privilege as well); if it smears like crunchy peanut butter, you gotta spread it.

 

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6 thoughts on “Privilege – curse or blessing?

    Nowan Zen said:
    November 16, 2013 at 6:08 am

    I live in a country where education is not free, and the government is forcing the purchase of “health insurance” (as opposed to actually helping make healthcare itself affordable). Greed and entitlement here are ingrained across the entire socio-economic spectrum.

    Could you use a roommate?

    Like

      realityinprogress responded:
      November 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      I often have the impression that the people with the most struggle are the ones who actually appreciate the important things in life.. Well, sometimes.
      But at the same time, who am I to judge what’s important in life and which problems are valid..

      You can be my roommate – but the winter here is not recommendable ;)

      Like

        Nowan Zen said:
        November 16, 2013 at 3:47 pm

        Winter is filled with hot chocolate and as much hibernation as possjbe. Preceeded by the requisite sweaty dancing to keep warm.

        Like

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