On privilege

When we moved from hunting-gathering to agriculture and domestication as the primary way of living, aggregation into groups and formation of hierarchies became critical for the effective functioning of these structures. This gave birth to the concept of privilege.

Being privileged is about having special rights and powers that are only available to you because you are part of some group. Among other advantages, it allows the exercise of influence by a select few and is responsible for where we are today or where we go from here on. Given the benefits that it entails, getting on the right side of privilege forms the basis of all our major cravings—from aspirations of getting rich and powerful to attaining fame.

The problem with privilege, however, is that it is also at the core of a lot of issues we face as a society. The privileged build traps that create inequality and in extreme cases become a proxy for oppression. But we often fail to recognise and isolate these instances.

There are numerous examples that illustrate the point but this viral comicstrip by Toby Morris is a perfect take on how privilege runs the world—inconspicuously masked behind the usual perceptions of success.



Two important points to note are:



The purview of this privileged and not privileged divide is too wide and beyond the timescale/scope of a single discussion but fundamentally what is important to understand is that this divide works for and against us in different circumstances. The way to deal with it can be summarised as follows:


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