Unwrapping Privilege

Posted: 25/09/2016 in Education, Freedom, Struggle

I saw these recent articles on “white privilege” – here and here, and it has been nagging me especially in view of my recent concerns about Brad. I have been trying to put this privilege in context to see how I respond to the articles.

What is privilege in general? It is a form of entitlement that the system offers:-

“a special right or advantage that a particular person or group of people has” [Oxford dictionary].

Somehow different people have privileges – special rights or advantages, but what is somehow? It is custom and practice, in other words it just happens.

But the dictionary gave another usage:-

“the rights and advantages that rich and powerful people in a society have
As a member of the nobility, his life had been one of wealth and privilege” [Oxford dictionary].

If we begin the analysis of custom and practise here we begin to see the importance of the word “privilege”. The entitlement for the rich and powerful (1%) – privilege – includes a legal system that works better for the rich, protection for business against the interests of the people/ Amongst many failings – why are taxpayers paying all the money for protection against copyright theft? How much money do individuals have to pay for security systems to protect their own small businesses – to protect their homes? And what is the police hierarchical priority – protect big business or burglary from our homes? This is all part of the custom and practice that comes under the umbrella “privilege”. Basically the custom and practise of privilege is “defined” by our political system – the 1%-system.

This places consideration of privilege in a proper context, when we consider privilege we are seeing entitlement based on what the 1% wants.

Historically the 1% were known as the bourgeoisie, and it was generally accepted that we lived in a class system. A fundamental Marxist analysis discussed an intentionally divided proletariat, this division is more commonly recognised in the context of “divide-and-rule” colonialism – not dissociated with the Marxist analysis! It is also known within such analyses that racial divisions are fostered by such a system. White privilege does not just “happen” it is a consequence of the political system we live in.

For many such an analytical approach (Marxist) is an emotive stumbling block, it was certainly not the direction of the article. Basically the article asked us as “white people” to accept that we are privileged, and then we could understand the anger of campaigns such as “Black Lives Matter”. If we are aware of the overarching 1%-system then as privileged groups we should start to consider our own behaviour. As a white male I have been privileged in two ways – being white, being male. Luckily enough my youthful immaturity allowed me to gain the qualifications of a miseducation, and I also became privileged because of this. Where was my country of origin? England, part of NATO. NATO is the world’s dominant military organisation, effectively the military of the West. So I have a privilege by being British.

Because life can contain suffering individually we have bad experiences, we become biased seeing the suffering and not the privilege. If you don’t question privileges it is hard to see the benefits of these systemic entitlements because we also suffer because that is part of life. Seeing the distinction is important.

The real sense of this blogpost is unwrapping privilege because privilege is entitlement that comes from the conditioning of the 1%-system. To be free is to be aware, and if we do not know whether what happens to us is systemic privilege or merited rewards then we cannot understand our conditioning. Removing conditioning has been discussed here and here.

I first questioned privilege when I hit bottom. I had been given privilege by being relatively successful academically. This miseducation had given me qualifications that have been beneficial, but it never taught me about genuine intelligence. I was arrogant with the entitlement, and hitting bottom helped remove some of that arrogance. Following hitting bottom there was emergence of genuine intelligence (limited), and when I participated in the Arts Centre I met people with the intelligence of creativity, people in many cases who put creativity first. This taught me about the privilege of academia, and the need to focus on creativity and intelligence.

My understanding of the entitlement that came from privilege was still very limited despite this. Soon after I began to question over race – white privilege, as I began teaching in a mixed race school. I was taught a great deal by that situation especially with the help of black friends who taught me to overcome my conditioning.

Much later on at 42 I began to travel for work, and living in different countries showed me some disadvantages as being an expat – I term this the suffering of life. Whilst there are also privileges for being an expat, experiencing disadvantages helps with an understanding of privilege. In Thailand, where I now live, there are many expats and there is a great deal of racism amongst the white people towards the Thais. In my view this is based on privilege. As English white people these expats have always been privileged in their own system, coming to Thailand some of those privileges have been removed and I feel this is the source of their reaction; it does not help that racism amongst many Thais also exists.

Male privilege is something I have recognised but has been the hardest for me to deal with. The big dilemma of course is in personal relationships because turning principle into practise every minute of the day is difficult; it is hard to remain detached. At the same time male privilege has another issue attached to it on a personal level, the male sexual drive is extremely dominating especially when younger. However much one wants to see a woman as an individual, those sexual needs can change your perception of a woman into a sexual object at times especially during the sexual act. With a man’s personal needs being so different to those of a woman this personal interaction creates much conflict which is hard to rationalise. I was never able to work these out to mutual satisfaction and I live alone. Such conflict can lead to violence, and whilst I can understand where the violence can come from it is never acceptable to use violence. This is also an issue of privilege. Men are conditioned to expect control, and in the home situation they can lose that control – “An Englishman’s home is his castle”. Because their privilege has been removed they respond with violence – not an acceptable response. These issues of privilege are nurtured by upbringing in which young men are taught to behave in a certain way as are young women, but when that cultural upbringing breaks down conflict within marriage becomes more prevalent.

I see this as a particular problem in the West where the culture (upbringing and miseducation) has broken down many of the traditions that produce stability in marriage. However in the West many of those traditions were also oppressive to women, and were quite rightly broken down. Unfortunately in this time of cultural change what has replaced these traditions is not working, thus explaining why so many marriages are breaking down in the West. There is further damage caused by increasing pressure on the home by the requirement for both to work, and consequently children are suffering – becoming more ill-disciplined.

I don’t have any disagreement with social issues of feminism although I do understand why many men do. There is an unwritten trade-off. Many men go out to work to provide for their families. In many of the home situations much of the responsibility is in the control of the women, and whilst for much of the time men are satisfied with this there is resentment towards the loss of control. Men cannot control their bosses in the hierarchy of work but this loss of control at home often leads to resentment in work towards women bosses producing stereotype comments such as “she slept her way to the top” (same applies to stereotyped views of black people higher on the ladder – affirmative action). Again this is an issue of privilege as previously men have had privilege in work, and since the rise of feminism in the 60s this has slowly begun to change – and will rightly change more because as yet there is not equality in the workplace. And why is there not this equality – the patriarchy aspect of the 1%-system, how many of the 1% are women? And will the Bilderbergers ever allow such equality?

Privilege and entitlement become egotistical issues for those on the Path. On a personal level many people on the Path are respected for their wisdom and Nature provides many merited rewards, but the system offers no such respect or reward. Do people on the Path seek social position or financial reward? Beyond sufficiency to survive this is rarely a motivation, and such motivations are frequently disrespected seen as “straying from the Path” by those who recognise the Path. There is a great deal of difficulty surrounding privilege and the Path. Those accepting the Path see the Path as part of Nature, and the greater the adherence to the Path is seen as concomitant with what Nature wants. In other words, such people are leaders in Nature or Natural leaders. But the customs and practices of society often marginalise such people who survive based on the respect of those who seek understanding of the Path from these people. Far from the majority respecting them oft-times these people are derided – by those who do not recognise the Path – for their lack of acceptance of materialist customs and practices; people on the Path usually lose this acceptance because they have moved beyond the conditioning that lauds these practices. Occasionally the Path crosses privilege, for example Eckhart Tolle gains that privilege through the efforts of the system represented by Oprah – without having to compromise his spiritual duty. But such examples are few and far between.

When a white person questions themselves concerning privilege this is a step in the right direction, but such questioning is not systemically encouraged. Privilege is an integral part of the rewards of the 1%-system and as such questioning privilege would lead to questioning of the system itself. And for those who do question a search for social justice is a usual response. And where does that conflict lead?

Unwrapping entitlement from privilege is part of the process of removal of conditioning. Unless the rewards we receive in life are merited we cannot know that we are doing what Nature intended, we cannot know that we are following the Path. Buddhist understanding that life can contain suffering – the 4 Noble Truths – is important to give context to our understanding of entitlement. We all suffer to some extent, and how we handle that suffering is the Path to Understanding that is the wisdom of the 4NT. Not to recognise the entitlement that comes from privilege also leads to suffering because there are rewards for not following the Path – the carrot leading us in the wrong direction. This is all part of conditioning, and awareness comes from removing conditioning and in doing so we are free to be who we are – to live compassionately.

Books:- Treatise, Wai Zandtao Scifi, Matriellez Education.

Blogs:- Ginsukapaapdee, Matriellez.


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