Privilege

“Why are these people successful?” asked a trainer at an event about financial responsibility that I was helping out at. “It’s because they are rich!” one of the students in my group shouted.  I didn’t respond to it at the time but in my heart I secretly agreed with him. At least one or two out of the examples given of successful people had opportunities to follow their passions and at least one was fortunate enough to be sent overseas to educate himself.

While not a prerequisite for success, and also not to denigrate the local education system, for better or for worse having opportunities such as those have given them a better chance of succeeding over those who don’t. And it saddens me that this boy at his age has already noticed a disparity in his current situation with others and coming from less than ideal conditions, seeing people with more supportive family backgrounds or the opportunity to go overseas to study seem like luxuries compared to his meager background.

“It’s because they are rich!”

Privilege is not something most of us notice. We try to treat people as though we are equals but that’s not necessarily true. Our perspectives are different and even at times skewed. We have a tendency to speak about how tough our lives are compared to others because for some reason we feel a sense of perverse joy from knowing that we’ve had it worse off than others. In some ways, reassuring ourselves that our struggles are worth it.

And people tend to be accommodating, being nice and agreeing with you. Reinforcing within yourself that you’ve somehow overcome some great challenge and pat yourself on the back before the next pity party. As such, similar to how we get bored with our new phones after a while, we start exaggerating our situations to get a bigger response in the future and lose touch of what we actually have.

It’s not that people who are in a more privileged position bad people and that people who have less are automatically saints. It’s not good to pigeon-hole whole groups of people into stereotypes. This is more of a reflection to myself to listen more and judge less. To be grateful for the opportunities I have and work harder to attain those that are out of my reach. And I hope that I can sincerely pass on this message to the kids that I meet in the future, that while yes, others might have had better circumstances to mold them but it doesn’t mean they have to be hardened to the world and be more optimistic about their own futures and work hard for it.

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