Since being indoors, I’ve begun to ask myself big, worldly questions. One such question that is scrawling the inside of mind is to do with privilege. What is it? And what makes one privileged?
For example, when I think of the word ‘privilege’, I think of someone who has absolutely no worries. They have a mansion in Monaco, they visit all the top restaurants at their leisure, they’re surrounded by beautiful model-like people and they have an abundance of wealth that keeps coming, miraculously, from somewhere.
When you say the world privilege. What comes to mind? Is it anger or is it jealousy? Is it a deep emotion? Do you now wish you were a Royal married to a Prince, or that smug guy who drives around in his Range Rover SV Autobiography 5.0L V8 565BHP Supercharged petrol guzzler, because they have it all – and you don’t.
I finally stopped my jealous outpouring at how amazing everyone else is, how easy they have it, and how obviously I don’t. So, I thought, let me just see what the Holy Grail of the English language says about this word – privilege (it’s actually starting to make me feel a bit eugh – the more I say it)
Let’s break this down
The definition of privilege according to the Oxford English dictionary is; A special right or advantage that a particular person or group of people has.
Now that has really got me thinking. And since we’re all stuck at home, searching for things to do, I’m beginning to wonder; Is privilege, in all its glory, simply about special rights and advantages?
We all have rights and we all have advantages and, of course, these vary from person to person. My advantage over you, perhaps, is that; I am bi-lingual, I may have slightly more money in my account, I can lift more weight than you and I may know someone who can get me a queue jump at Café de Paris night club on Leicester square. All the above may not give me a ‘right’ but it’s certainly an advantage. Does that now mean I am more privileged than you? You can afford a £6k ticket to Dubai and have Salmon soaked in Ass’s milk with a side of caviar. Does that now mean you are more privileged than me?
The thing is, now I am no longer convinced by the definition of privilege. Surely, the idea of privilege has more to do with how we view our self-worth, rather than someone else’s?
Have you noticed that there has always been a power struggle between those at the top and those in the middle and bottom? Why is it like that? Well, I believe it’s all about control. It’s about removing a sense of worth from people. Once you do that, the people, the masses can be manipulated. I find it strikingly obvious now I think about it. It’s like telling an insecure model that they had better stay in shape and if they don’t then they’ll be out of work. Automatically the model’s self-worth is attached to their physique, not their education or their life experiences.
The Dark Triad
We are constantly being shown, through politicians, movies, TV and OK? magazines, that ‘We are not good enough.’ The media portrays the upper echelons of society as having it all and hey… look at what you don’t have. What is this doing to people psychologically? Well, you begin to get jealous, angry, and dare I say it – depressed, because everyone is doing well and you are not. This then feeds into your psyche – not the good part that is full of love, joy and happiness but the part that psychologists refer to as the Dark Triad: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. And in my opinion, these work very closely with money, power, and wealth. So, when we pull all these together, we begin to look up, to the top of the pyramid, to the 1 percent, and because we desire to be like them now, we unwittingly and subconsciously become dependent on them. And that is the perpetuating cycle that we are constantly falling into.
Our paradoxical understanding of privilege, is that over the course of time we become manipulated into being something or someone we are not. We can see this in our friends. How often have you bumped into someone and afterwards gone… Gosh she/he’s changed? They’re less empathetic than you remember, they have quite staunch views on immigration and they seem, well… awfully self-entitled now. Have you ever asked yourself, how did they end up like that?
I have come to realise that the media and the people at the top, the 1 percent, are not going to empower your thinking. They are not going to tell you that, “who you are is of value” regardless of your job title, status or wealth. I am actually now beginning to think that the idea of privilege, and the way it has been defined, designed and implemented has simply been to keep the masses down. It’s like a massive game of mind control. We are constantly being told that privilege is: Money, Power and wealth, plus an Eton education. But why doesn’t our definition and understanding of privilege widen to include learning, experience and knowledge? Doesn’t that count for anything? Well, I think it holds the same weight, if not more than our indoctrinated understanding of privilege.
Privilege IS more…
…than the Lawrence Fox’s, the Royals, and the Trumps of this world.
Privilege is working class. In fact, it’s all the classes that are belittled by those from above. These ‘lower’ classes know what it’s like to work hard. They understand the struggle. They have to dig deep to continually push on. They’re smart, street smart, and still educated but in a worldly way. That is human, and that is privilege.
Privilege is having the understanding, knowledge and experience of racism and choosing to sidestep it. Why? Because you know racism is also a perpetuating cycle. It’s a psychological game the racists and elitists play to keep people from different backgrounds and cultures wound up and angry. Not engaging with racism and staying happy in who you are takes a profound amount of self-discovery – it’s a worldly intelligence. Something the privileged will never experience, nor understand. That is privilege – for you.
Privilege is working hard to meet your financial needs – yes, we fail – but we choose to bounce back. And knowing how to bounce back is resilience, it’s determination and perseverance. That is definitely a privilege.
Privilege is knowing, accepting and experiencing different cultures without judgement. Learning languages, being born into bi-lingual-bi-racial families, and experiencing foods from around the world. That is privilege.
Privilege is experiencing life to the fullest in all its hardships, ups and downs. Without that, “what are you left with?”
These are the words a very wise woman once said to me. Here’s a little bit of not-so-anonymous information on myself. At one point in my life I was on my way to becoming an investment Banker for Goldman Sachs. By self-admission I was arrogant, driven, and pretty much a tory capitalist. I had this trait that I thought was cunningly brilliant. What I would do is get close to you, get you to confide in me only to store it and use it against you whenever I wanted. Just for sh*ts and giggles.
Why? Because I could. Because I wanted to. Because it fed into my warped desire for being powerful, wealthy and rich. That’s what they do, right?
“Think about the career you’re going into”
What do you mean, mum?
“All those top bankers that you so desperately want to be like. All those Michelin star restaurants you dream of dining in with these banker friends, all those fancy cars and houses that you want and they have… Take that away from them and what are they left with?”
“Now, think. You have all that. And it’s gone. What are you left with?”
And it hit me. I saw my banking band of brothers all so differently. I began to see everyone’s fickleness. It wasn’t real life. It wasn’t fulfilling. They weren’t inherently bad people, although their actions and choices were, it was their unadulterated capitalist mentality that made them corrupt.
They didn’t understand the struggle of the soul or the spirituality of humanity, because they didn’t need to. They had never received any type of racism or prejudice – so racism and prejudice didn’t exist. They had never felt the effects of poverty, they were rich and they had dad’s trust fund – so in their world poverty didn’t exist. If they don’t exist, then that must mean they are made up. And that is the gulf between really experiencing life and being sheltered from it.
I would much rather have the experiences of life, happy or sad, challenging or difficult, because for me, that discovery is knowledge and that is privilege. And the beauty is that you don’t need money, power or wealth to understand your self-worth, and you certainly don’t need the 1 percent dictating to you who you are.
I think it is high-time we/us/you change the narrative on privilege.