Opinion | Privilege is always present yet hardly acknowledged, rarely put into perspective
Published: Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 11, 2013 23:02
It’s no secret that our generation lives in a world where almost anything seems to be convenient, at our fingertips and easily accessible at anytime. We have multiple connections to wireless Internet, phones that do much more than make phone calls and we are lucky enough to have access to medical care and education. But there is more to privilege than just being able to update our Facebook or Twitter accounts from any location, or the fact that we have the opportunity to receive a higher education.
With websites like First World Problems and White Whine and Twitter hashtags highlighting the “problems” people of the middle and upper classes must endure everyday, one might think that we would be more aware of how ridiculous we can be sometimes. Namely how ridiculous we sound when we complain that there is no wi-fi, that our brand new shirt got ruined or that our new haircut looks bad.
But instead we focus on the negatives in an otherwise extremely positive and generous world, one where we typically don’t seem to know the true meaning of what hard work and dedication can mean for us. A world for many of us that has been handed over on a silver platter, where we are so blinded by what we don’t have that we cannot see just how fortunate we are.
There are some people whose behavior and attitudes lead me to think that we are a generation of unearned self-entitlement. That we feel as though the world owes us something, when in reality, we are the ones who need to give back to the world.
When I refer to the privilege experienced by those in the middle and upper classes, I don’t just mean that we have clean water and medicine as opposed to those in third-world countries. What I also think encompasses our privilege and eludes those of the lower classes are things we take for granted. Benefits that maybe we don’t even think about the possibility of others not having access to.
Benefits and privileges such as free medical attention for those of us under our parents’ health plans, which many of us in college are; the ability to buy what we want or need without worry, or being able to buy things for luxury or comfort; the freedom to waste; the ability to employ people to care for our (future) children; entertainment at our fingertips; and not having to worry how an emergency will impact our financial situation.
While many of these can also be attributed to race or even gender privileges, the real divide is evident between classes. But what is most disturbing is that while there are people who cannot make enough money to support their families living in many of the same cities or communities we live in, we are complaining about how our coffee is too hot.
We need to be aware of those less fortunate than us, who struggle to live by what is considered the norm for many of us.
However, I believe we can also be a generation that is self-aware. We can acknowledge our privilege and not see it as entitlement, but instead as something that can be used for the greater good.
“With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Setting aside Spiderman and superhero origins, this quote can actually be applied to those of privilege. In order to prove greatness, we must be aware of expected privilege and look beyond it. By being self-aware and acknowledging our own privilege, then we can move past it and on to greater things that actually give our lives structure and meaning. With privilege, comes responsibility and higher expectations.
It’s what we choose to do with our own lives, regardless of privilege, wealth or having neither. Success isn’t measured by someone’s income, but instead by how they see themselves and what they do with their lives.
A friend told me that service to a cause greater than self is the rent we pay for our room here on Earth. Hearing this and seeing that many people of our generation will choose to give time to volunteer or non-profit organizations, such as AmeriCorps or Teach for America, gives me hope that maybe we are moving past the notion of entitlement and are instead coming to terms with the idea that we need to build upon and work on our own character.
And if you need something to really make you aware of our privilege and to put things in perspective, watch “First World Problems Read by Third World People” on Youtube.