Attending a debate in the House of Lords yesterday about current political issues, made me think of privilege and how misconceived that term is. It also made me feel very grateful for living with it.
We don't like admitting that we are privileged. It is often seen as a synonym to "struggle free bad person", and we do not, in any way, feel we represent that expression.
We all work hard for what we have and where we are, we have our hardships and tussles, but the truth is, every and each of us, in the Western world, lives in privilege every day.
Just because we are born into it, shouldn't make us oblivious to that fact. Acknowledging privilege is the first step to fighting oppression.
Citizenship for example, is a huge privilege many do not recognise as one - as Europeans we can freely study, work and move in 28 countries, we can also travel to over 150 other countries visa free. This a privilege not available to Afghani,Pakistani, Iraqi and Syrian citizens
We live in a society that protects our human rights,but those rights are very much a privilege.
I know that, this is a touchy subject that many will argue over, but never-the-less facts speak for themselves
Freedom of speech - we bash our politicians and leaders on a daily bases, we criticise and ironise them, considering only our very own vision. Do the North Korean people for example have that same right/ privilege?
Education - we can study for as long as we like and develop skills in anything that we are interested in, we have a free or paid access to a wonderful education system taught by very smart, insightful individuals. Do the kids and people of Somalia, Haiti and Ethiopia have those same privileges?
Class, race and religion - Being born into a rich family can guarantee, to a big extend, your health, safety and a good education, do people from poor backgrounds have those same opportunities?
Being a white man in Apartheid South Africa meant king, Being a black man in BEE South Africa means the same. It is simply a privilege ( or disadvantage) people are born into.
I can drive my car, wear my colourful short dress and bounce my blonde curls while walking around, I can marry into any race or religion I want, and I can have sex with as many men as I would like , do the women in the Middle East have those same rights/privileges?
Sex - being born a male you can easily blame sexual harassment on the barely exposed breast or legs of a woman, but you don't see running half naked in the park as a provocation, right?
Sexual orientation - being born straight won't make you become a victim of a hate crime just for that reason, and will also give you the right to legally marry anyone you wish. Do gay people everywhere have the same rights/privileges ?
Sadly, many people completely misunderstand what privilege really means, and therefore deny it.
Having privilege does not mean that we are immune to oppression or problems, it simply means, we are having an unearned benefit or advantage in society.
It is very important to get a better grasp on the fact that, just because we have don’t have a certain kind of privilege, does not mean we don’t benefit from another kind.
Changing the status quo of social imbalance can only be possible by recognising the injustice created by privilege, not by abusing it or feeling shame or guilt for being born into it.
I live in privilege and this affords me many opportunities. I am not ashamed to admit I am privileged, but I try every day not use my privilege and discriminate against others.
Acknowledge and act ....and don't forget to smile!