Understanding the word privilegeJul 11, 2022
All too often when the slightest thing goes wrong people believe that life has dealt them a bad hand, however, if we really want to be accountable and see life as it is, most of us in the west will have to admit that their life is a dream come true. Let’s have a look at what the word privilege actually means. A privilege is a special right, an advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.
So, with this in mind, if we are truly honest to ourselves, we can see that we are one of these lucky ones because we have a roof over our head, a place to go home to. We live in a safe country where we can go for a run at ten o’clock in the evening, as a woman, and not be raped nor killed. We can buy and wear the clothes we desire to wear. We have the choice of what we eat and how often we eat. If we don't feel like cooking, we call Uber Eats to have the food of our choice delivered to our doorstep.
We have hot water coming out of our shower-head and drinking water pouring from our tap in the kitchen. Some even have an ice-maker built into their fridge to better enjoy cold beverages on a hot summer day. For our convenience, we have a fridge-freezer to store our food for a longer period of time.
We have access to libraries were we can borrow books, we can learn anything we want, many things are even free. The Internet brings a wealth of knowledge right to our tablets or laptops. Modern telecommunication facilities have made it possible to talk to anyone, anywhere at any time, even face-to-face over videoconference. Isn’t that just divine to know that we can be more connected than we ever were!
We live in an organized state where we can take advantage of great roads to drive our cars on or use a wide network of public transport options. Every Friday our rubbish is collected for us, making sure we living in a clean and disease-free space. Moreover, there are employment opportunities all around us, and medical care readily available to all. But lastly, the most important one of all, we can enjoy the genius of our senses. We can see, hear, smell, taste, feel and we are mobile. Being in good health and realizing it is a gift, because without those elements, life can be experienced, but at a very different level.
Now let’s have a look at the flip side of the coin.
There are many people who did not fare that well. They are homeless or displaced and sleep on the street or worse, in a camp. There are many places in the world where women and children are not treated that nicely and where rape and murder are the daily norms. In countries with strict religious beliefs, women cannot choose what they wear; they have to cover up entirely. Some cannot imagine what it would feel like to be able to choose what they eat, they are happy to receive one meal a day, a tiny bowl of rice and some watery soup, gifted by the Red Cross. There are tribes and groups of people who have to walk 30km to go and get water, which they carry back on their head. By the time they have returned to their village, twenty percent of the water has evaporated due to the heat. Having water streaming from a tap is only a fantasy for them. Some areas in the third world don't have electricity, so having the convenience of electrical appliances is not an option.
In Colombia, Luis Soriano travels with his two loyal donkeys Alfa and Beto to deliver books to children in rural communities. His make shift mobile library is called the Bilblioburro (donkeylibrary). This way, he has been spreading the joy of reading to children for over twenty years. It might be a cute story but definitely very different from our life where we have a library just around the corner.
The Internet is now available in most countries, however, not everyone has the monetary ability to purchase a phone, a tablet or a computer. In the developing world, roads are not sealed, and they often get washed away after a heavy rain or flood. There is no public transport and rubbish is lying around on the street, leaving people exposed to infections and disease. Also, some less favored nations might not have a thriving economy, so employment is scarce and only for the educated. And in those instances, it is best not to get ill, as the nearest hospital is 300km away. And finally, imagine being blind or deaf or not being able to walk, life can still be enjoyed but it will undoubtedly be a very different experience.
And on a very last note, I would like to pass this by you:
What thoughts pop into your mind when you witness a person looking through a window at a house in your street? Well, you might say: ‘It depends what the person looks like, if it is a man or a women, if they are white or of colour,…
If it is a white women, she probably locked herself out. If it is a man of colour, there could be a slightly different judgment.’
Did you know that the chance of the neighbours calling the police is 83% higher if the person staring through that window is of colour? And there yet again is another kind of leverage most people are not even aware of, the power of white privilege.
Considering this, it is now much easier to see we have won the lottery of life, realising we are indeed privileged. Imagine if we add some gratitude to this perspective and practice kindness towards the people we share this privilege with, envision how this would change our surroundings and in addition extending this kindness and inclusion to our fellow humans who need it most.
And realise how different your life could have been if you were born on the other side of the planet…