What is privilege?

Never before have I truly understood privilege…

Until the kind of understanding that smacks you in the face and says, look at the gulf between our worlds; the glaring divide between those that can jump on a plane to go practically anywhere without too much of a second thought, and those that have a corregated iron roof, odd scraps of plastic and wood as walls and are cooking on an open firepit day in day out to feed their family of…8? 10? Or more…

This is the realisation of privilege that stops you in your tracks and makes you say thanks for your education, the opportunities afforded by your circumstance and your capacity to create change in your life. Living among this kind of glaring discrepancy, even for a period of time (weeks is, in my experience, enough to embed the significance of the discrepancy…) is what will make you rethink your daily moans; your ritual gripes…

It will demand that you add gratitude to your internal witterings, and it will ask you to accept your lot.

Although I’m still not sure that I do, fully, understand privilege.

Umpteen juxtapositions

This kind of experience will also make you ponder on the privilege question. Is privilege the opportunity to battle with the tube, to live on the other side of the country to your family (or on another continent), to haul your belongings around the world with you, or to sit in traffic on the M25 day in and day out…? Or even, which car shall I use today?! Burning through the planet’s fossil fuels as you go…(Granted, not single handedly.)

Or is it to wake up at sunrise every day… When every day the shining sun or warm rains to feed the lush, rampant greenery…? Is it when the default setting is to beam from ear to ear, come what may. To create fun playing in the water and the mud as a kiddie, with a wealth of siblings and neighbours and friends living together. Or as an adult to have time to stop, be still and let the world wander past you, or to truly know your neighbours, your community…?

Is privilege always wanting the latest model of the next new thing? And going to get it because you want it.

Or is privilege about being innovative with your resources? Crafting something from hand versus running it off on a 3D printer… Knowing which fruits from the sea are edible…compared to hazarding a guess which choice on the menu will be the most delicious. Passing down skills within a family, or chasing after this course or that course to become more and more ‘qualified’…

Or is privilege about innovation because you’ve had so many vastly different experiences to draw upon…?

In all of these juxtapositions, there are no definitive answers to the question, ‘what is privilege?’ Both sides of the coin have their pros and their cons…

Some say privilege is having untold advantages as a function of birth. But this still doesn’t answer the question, upon which barometer are we measuring our quality-of-life-related-privilege?

The basis of privilege?

We are where we are. We have been born into whichever situation we find ourselves with, and we will meet life’s trials because of the journey upon which we individually need to embark.

Perhaps privilege is about knowing how to make choices within your particular set of circumstances. Knowing that there are choices. Whether those choices revolve around ‘in which hotel should we stay on holiday’…or which child in your family is going to be the ‘lucky one’ and go to school…?

In one way, shape or form, we all have the choice to make the most of whatever we find on our doorstep. And to endeavour to make it better…

And doing so with a smile, with grace and with thanks is always, always an option; acknowledging the simple pleasures life offers, making a choice as to how you respond to strangers as well as loved ones… Cherishing family and friends, nurturing community, living resourcefully and taking a personal responsibility to look after our environment…these are not options available only to the western, educated ‘privileged’, these are available to every single one of us.

Knowing this and acting upon the earth-oriented opportunities available to all of us, is surely the very basis of privilege…?