Monday, June 04, 2012

Healing From Privilege?

Healing from privilege? What does that even mean? How is privilege a wound? What’s wrong with getting ahead? Having some entitlement? having a little leverage in life? It’s not like I am a bad person to have resources or authority or get a pass on a few things others have to account for, am I? Am I?

Privilege in and of itself is not a wound. There is nothing wrong with having privilege, per se. However, there are significant vulnerabilities that come with privilege that initially hurt other people and ultimately hurt oneself.

There are at least three significant areas in which people with privilege need to heal.

Mono-awareness. People with privilege do not have to be aware of much outside of themselves because in large measure there is little need to have to be aware of it. Nothing is contingent on needing to know how others (gender, ethnicity, wealth…etc) live because they are (in the short term) unnecessary. People with privilege do not have to get to know anyone unlike themselves. Therefore the privileged seem to gain nothing for stepping outside their comfort zone. It is the exact opposite with the less privileged.

Healing from mono-awareness means first and foremost becoming aware that one is privileged – that not everyone lives like they do. What is easy for them is difficult or impossible for others. Then it means being intentional about learning the lives other people who are very different than themselves. It requires learning enough to be able to grow empathy for other people and be able to connect in their less than privileged status.

Leveraging for self. People with privilege have, in general, either learned how to leverage the system to their advantage or were simply born into a leveraged situation. There is power in their status or resources which make increasing their status or resources easier than less privileged people. There is a certain logic to this leveraging that may or may not include greed for more resources or lust for for more status or power. Whether there is greed and lust involved or not, the very act of leveraging all of one’s power for oneself is a wound.

Healing from leveraging for oneself means to find meaningful and sustainable ways to leverage one’s power, resources, and status for the benefit of others who have les privilege. It is an intentional act that should not be reactionary, guilt-based, or a mask for further leveraging as so much philanthropy is today.

Narcissism. The world revolves around the privileged. Attention, resources, trends – any pathway toward maintaining relevance seems to require a little if not a lot of narcissism. It is an accepted part of the game. Be as narcissistic as possible without looking like that is what you are doing – who you are being. You can get away with a whole lot of it without penalty with some extraordinary payoffs.

Narcissism is a wound in need of healing. Gaining perspective that any world that would decide to revolve around you is a pretty sick world is a good place to start. Being willing to release and abandon the narcissistic striving required to maintain one’s place is a major component to healing the would of privilege.

A final word. Healing the wound of privilege does not require a vow of poverty. It requires perspective, empathy, and action.

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