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The power of privilege, the privilege of power!


Fist signifying power

Privilege is defined as a ‘special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”.

In a sense it is the power to imagine, to say and to do whatever one pleases because of an existing condition, artificial or real.

It may be exercised outside the law, within the law, outside natural justice, outside and within codes of moral conduct, and outside acceptable behavior.

The rich in society are privileged on account of their riches. The politically powerful are also privileged. And they often use privilege for their personal benefits, usually selfish, not for the common good.

Race, ethnicity, religion are sometimes instruments of privilege also.

Power imbues man with privileges. Privilege is power. Power is also a privilege, that is, in a sense. Some are born privileged, born into privilege.

Some others inherit privilege from parents or mentors or a social group. Yet some others struggle and acquire privilege and spend the rest of their lifetime sustaining privilege.

Nobody allows privilege to go away without a fight, without a struggle. It is the nature of man to retain privilege even at the expense of other beings.

All human beings cannot have equal privileges. That is how we are created or how we have found ourselves in the cosmos. Some have questioned the justice of it- how and why certain persons are privileged over others.

Yet there is nothing we can actually do to spread privilege to everyone. Wish everyone had equal privileges! Wish! Wish! Wish!

The Power of Privilege and the Privilege of Power! Power carries with it certain privileges. This is also dependent on the level of power- local, national, international.

Power is a privilege which is acquired through politics or wealth. It is not eternal. While it lasts it gives the impression of something that will remain forever. But it is not timeless.

Beauty is power, could be power. Because it does not endure forever, because it is ephemeral it is not a privilege in the real sense. Does this mean that privilege is forever? Certainly not! Privilege is also time bound in the deep sense.

Nothing lasts forever. Privilege can be abused. We have seen it in sacred and profane history.

Individuals have abused privilege. Groups have abused privilege. Only a privileged person may want privilege to last forever.

There is a sense in which we can say that all human beings are privileged for the reason of life. But life is not a given as a peculiar object to anybody. It is universal. It is general.

All of us are entitled to it. So life is not a privilege. But certain privileges yield a better quality of life to individuals. Some are privileged to raise their standard of life.

There are some who are born underprivileged or with no privileges at all. Life is circumscribed, fixed and rigid.

Nowhere is this more visible than in societies where the obnoxious caste system is practised. To perpetually be without any form of privilege or power is the highest form of slavery.    

Racism privileges White over Black. There is something odious and immoral about how white police officers kill African-American men in the United States.

The official killers assume privilege. Privilege as police officers and privilege as white police officers! Racism connotes, promotes the superiority of one of one race to the detriment of another.

At the peak of apartheid in South Africa racial classification went beyond white and black.

The colour of one’s skin automatically guaranteed certain privileges. Sometimes access or denial to privilege becomes inscribed into the consciousness of the victim.

In the final analysis, when the day of reckoning comes racial privilege is negative in the scheme of things. It drives people to savage acts as in the holocaust or the current wave of fear promoted in the era of Donald Trump.

For what reason should a synagogue or a church building be bombed by people who worship and practice their faith differently? Small thinking, narrow world view and bigotry come to play.   

Ethnic privilege suggests and promotes the superiority of one ethnic group to another. Population or control of the levers of power by the big ethnic groups could become, has become entrenched.

As a result the small ethnic groups feel marginalised and have been compelled to fight for their rights.

The privileged people take all the social and economic benefits of society. They leave the crumbs for others, the small ones. The others soon sometimes accept the crumbs as their lot or as posited earlier fight to the death.

All the major religions teach that no one should abuse privilege, no one should abuse power and no one should abuse rights.

The laws of the land are meant to guarantee conformity and justice. But sometimes the instruments of justice are in the hands of the privileged.     

An artiste has the privilege of self expression in a particular manner; he may swim out of the conventional methods of doing things.

Sometimes this privilege is presented as a right- the eight of a creative mind. The choice between opaqueness and plain writing or symbolism is that of the artiste.

To enter into the mind of an artist who has painted life in a surreal manner is the privilege of the reader/admirer/explorer.

So there is crisscrossing, there are meeting points and divergences along the line on privilege, right and choice. 

We lament the failure of privilege which we have granted elected and appointed leaders to be enough motivation to please the ordinary people of the land, the millions of people without privilege.

To deploy privilege to the benefit of the common good is the highest service which mankind can give or receive. To serve the people is not a right. It is a privilege based on trust.

That trust sadly has been misplaced. Because we have a short time to live the privilege which we enjoy is also a very short journey.

As life comes to an end we would have to look back and assess what we have been able to do with the privilege which we were given, which we acquired. What would be our answer to Maker of the world?  


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