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Understanding "privilege"

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  • Understanding "privilege"

    I came across this comic strip today which beautifully captures what privilege can be and how it operates. I think a lot of people don't understand what "privilege" is, and subsequently don't really understand the concerns about the issues, or the steps that can be taken to address them. I hope that comic can be of use in illustrating the basics of what is involved in this issue.

    The same person born into different social circumstances could end up having a very different life. Depending on how our society is structured, it may be that people born in certain situations may almost never be able to achieve the levels of success that come easily to those born in more favorable conditions. Such social structures can lead to inter-generational poverty, and inter-generational wealth, where ultimately we see the development of a class system with an aristocracy and a lower-class. Those born into the aristocracy would inherit riches and political connections and be able to live a wealthy and satisfied life with minimal effort, while those born into poverty would potentially struggle to make ends meet no matter how hard they worked or what effort they made.

    Many people see the ideal capitalist society as being a 'meritocracy' where the amount of success people have in their lives is determined primarily by how much effort they put in and how hard they worked. This is seen as just and good, as it incentives effort and hard work, and rewards people for their effort. The underlying social foundation that such an idea requires is equality of opportunity: A person born into one family who works twice as hard as a person born into another family, ought to achieve more on average, while a person who put in much less effort ought to achieve less on average. In order for this to happen, the social playing field has to be balanced. But if one person is fighting their way uphill their whole lives, against a system rigged against them, while another is born into power and privilege at the top of the hill and by no effort at all can achieve more in their life than the person born into worse circumstances will ever be able to accomplish, then there is not really a meritocracy at all.

    To ensure such equality of opportunity - to ensure that everyone who is prepared to work hard and make an effort can do well in their lives - it is necessary to have extensive programs to address poverty and ensure that those born into difficult circumstances have the same path to success available to that everyone else enjoys. When considering the subject of government welfare, we should always consider the children being born and raised by these families: Are we doing enough to give those children a path to eventual success in life if those children choose to work hard? Or is our society fundamentally denying those children any path to success at life? If there is a clear path to success for the hard-working among those children born into the worst of our social situations - if we are ensuring they have enough healthy food, enough education, enough healthcare, enough opportunities for employment, for them to succeed if they make the effort - then we can be satisfied that we probably are a meritocracy, at least to some extent. But if we've rigged the system against these children, such that very very few of them ever will achieve any kind of real success in their lives, no matter how much they try, work, struggle, and toil, simply because of which family they were born into, then we've achieved a society of privilege, and reinstated the class-based society we once derided.

    To put it as a simple question: Are we locking the children of poor (or black) people into a cycle of poverty, by rigging the system against them, so that by and large they will not succeed no matter how hard they try?
    Last edited by Starlight; 05-30-2015, 11:30 PM.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Starlight View Post
    To put it as a simple question: Are we locking the children of poor (or black) people into a cycle of poverty, by rigging the system against them, so that by and large they will not succeed no matter how hard they try?
    OK, I read the cartoon. Not really seeing how "we" "rigged the system" against them.

    "More than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children."
    — Barack Obama on Sunday, June 15th, 2008 in a speech at a Chicago church

    So, Obama claims - and Politifact.com "rules it true" - that the problem is absent fathers. How is that my fault?
    "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
      OK, I read the cartoon. Not really seeing how "we" "rigged the system" against them.

      "More than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children."
      — Barack Obama on Sunday, June 15th, 2008 in a speech at a Chicago church

      So, Obama claims - and Politifact.com "rules it true" - that the problem is absent fathers. How is that my fault?
      What about voting against programs intended to level the playing field or voting for programs intended to rig the system further?

      Comment


      • #4
        We are all participants in a complex system. Some of us, by virtue of luck, are born into circumstances where our environment is much more nourishing than that into which others are born. It is not our 'fault' if we are privileged, but we are in some sense accountable if recognising our undeserved good fortune, we do not work to extend it to others.

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        • #5
          A college degree has been in many nations one of the key class divider and a main propagator inequality of opportunity. And as we all know, college administrations and staff in the West are dominated by progressives.

          As long as progressives - those who dominate the scholar class - still maintain such a divider, all their whining about privilege should be vilified as hypocrisy: trying to earn public brownies points for shouldering the new White Man's Burden while actively maintaining one of the key causes of inequality.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

            So, Obama claims - and Politifact.com "rules it true" - that the problem is absent fathers. How is that my fault?
            It's clearly your fault that you as a Christian didn't do enough to protest and preach against the destruction of the family promoted by the progressives. If you've just tried a little harder there just wouldn't be that many broken black families.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
              "More than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children."
              — Barack Obama on Sunday, June 15th, 2008 in a speech at a Chicago church

              So, Obama claims - and Politifact.com "rules it true" - that the problem is absent fathers. How is that my fault?
              The other half of the issue of privilege is the tendency of those who have had social factors working in their favor (or, at least, not working against them) to attribute 100% of their success to their own hard work, and none of it to their social circumstances. In the cartoon, the privileged boy, Richard, who has had quite a number of different social and family factors working in his favor, thinks his success is primarily because of him when in reality almost none of it is. When I saw that cartoon, I thought of you, Cow Poke, because I've seen you equally declare in these forums that you feel your own success at life can be attributed to your own hard work, without any apparent acknowledgement on your part that any kind of social circumstances whatsoever may have helped you along the way. Whereas other people can find themselves in circumstances that make their success very difficult, no matter how hardworking and determined they are as a person.

              To deal with your question about black fathers being absent, it is interesting to consider the possible causes of that. One possibility is that black fathers have become significantly less responsible over the years, and they have much less interest in their own children than they once did. That explanation strikes me as laughable at face value. An alternative explanation that readily springs to mind is that they have been imprisoned. As I have discussed previously, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world, which has skyrocketed since 1980 as a result of deliberate policies on the part of various administrations, which have served to massively disproportionately imprison black men for non-violent drug crimes that the data shows they are not actually committing at any higher rates than white men. I strongly suspect that lurking behind all this is the goal in some people's minds of successfully returning to a Jim-Crow type era of segregation where all the black people are in prisons.

              Not really seeing how "we" "rigged the system" against them.
              You sent them to jail on a scale pretty much never seen before. And then you blame them for being absent from their children as if their absence was a voluntary moral failure on their part.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                A college degree has been in many nations one of the key class divider and a main propagator inequality of opportunity.
                Right. Hence the importance of programs to ensure that every child gets a good education, and ensure that funds are available for poor people to attend college should they want to do so. Because a good education is a crucial way to break inter-generational cycles of poverty.

                And as we all know, college administrations and staff in the West are dominated by progressives.
                And since progressives love the idea of everyone having more education, this should mean such programs will be failure easy to implement and welcomed by colleges... and in fact by everyone except the conservatives who will rant about how it's "unfair" that their tax money is going to pay for someone else's education, even though the education they themselves received was probably free at the time and was paid for by the taxpayers of their day but they feel oppressed to be told to do for others what others have already done for them.

                As long as progressives - those who dominate the scholar class - still maintain such a divider
                There are religious-operated colleges for people like you Paprika, where religious conservatives dominate the staff and they are free of the taint of progressives. You might also get taught about how the earth is 6000 years old, but them's the breaks.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                  And since progressives love the idea of everyone having more education others paying for more education
                  Fixed that for you.

                  Progressives don't actually want everyone to have a degree (or more specifically, similar educational qualifications) since that will eliminate one of their main status badges - "look at me I have college education but those ignorant [religious] hillybillies don't; these badges are precisely one of the ways the class system propagates. Supposing magically everyone went to college; not only will the value of a college degree tend to zero because everyone has it, new status badges will emerge, "Look at me I have a Masters/PhD/etc".

                  Realists (such as myself) will point out that it is clear not everyone is up to a current college level standards (which have already been dumbed down in the US) unless you dumb it down even further, which only means that it loses even more meaning and utility. We reason from the clear fact that people are not equal and that exists significant differences in intelligence, for example, to reach the inevitable conclusion that the the idea of a class system-less society merely a pipe dream smoked by worshippers of Égalité.

                  There are religious-operated colleges for people like you Paprika, where religious conservatives dominate the staff and they are free of the taint of progressives. You might also get taught about how the earth is 6000 years old, but them's the breaks.
                  Nah, I prefer the reclamation of the great institutions, those previously Christian that have been subsequently taken over by the progressives.
                  Last edited by Paprika; 05-31-2015, 04:48 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
                    How is that my fault?
                    You know the idea of privilege Starlight spoke of and th comic represented isn't that you did anything wrong but is rather an acknowledgement that sometimes life doesn't present fair opportunities through no fault of themselves?
                    I am become death...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ana Dragule View Post
                      You know the idea of privilege Starlight spoke of and th comic represented isn't that you did anything wrong but is rather an acknowledgement that sometimes life doesn't present fair opportunities through no fault of themselves?
                      Privilege? As before I prefer to go with "a lot of blacks are significantly disadvantaged because of the actions of their parents."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Paprika View Post
                        Progressives don't actually want everyone to have a degree (or more specifically, similar educational qualifications) since that will eliminate one of their main status badges - "look at me I have college education but those ignorant [religious] hillybillies don't;
                        Um... wanting more education for more people is like, one of the major policies of the progressive movement. So your claim that progressives don't want that seems kind of blatantly empirically false.

                        An education teaches both knowledge and thinking skills. Its primary purpose is not as a status badge. I'll grant that progressives to tend to respect the opinions of educated experts... that's because we know how much of a difference education and expertise make.

                        But it is certainly a reasonable question why the conservative Christian parts / red states of the US are so... unusual... in their views compared to the rest of the Western world. Part of the answer indeed appears to be that the people in those areas are substantially less educated.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ana Dragule View Post
                          You know the idea of privilege Starlight spoke of and th comic represented isn't that you did anything wrong but is rather an acknowledgement that sometimes life doesn't present fair opportunities through no fault of themselves?
                          And, if I were part of such a class of "less fortunate", I would be advocating very strongly for change from within my own class, instead of constantly whining and complaining and using it as an excuse for failure. Instead, you have poverty pimps getting rich off the misery of their own kind.
                          "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                            Um... wanting more education for more people is like, one of the major policies of the progressive movement.
                            They run the entire education system in the US. Why haven't they fixed this? Why don't they allow school choice, for example?
                            "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Starlight View Post
                              You sent them to jail on a scale pretty much never seen before. And then you blame them for being absent from their children as if their absence was a voluntary moral failure on their part.
                              Do you have any idea which race is the greatest threat to blacks with regard to murder and other violence?
                              "Neighbor, how long has it been since you’ve had a big, thick, steaming bowl of Wolf Brand Chili?”

                              Comment

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