Power, Privilege and Privation

Power, Privilege and Privation

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We all have our childhood experiences, but for many forgotten ones, childhood trauma has left such an indelible mark on their psyches that they bear those marks of abuse everywhere they go, in everything they think, feeling through a heart that was damaged so long ago.

The world is a place of power for the few, privilege for the many, and privation for those lost ones society seems to care so little about. Don’t get me wrong, there are always advocacy groups prepared to fight the cause for the lost ones, but advocacy by its nature is reactive; the harm has always already been done, or is being done, or both.

We each have a role in life in terms of power, privilege, and privation.

The powerful enjoy privilege and so often have caused privation, not that every powerful person acts in a privileged way or causes privation. Many deal with power and privilege responsibly, but so many don’t. There is a case for those who experience sustained success, especially if they don’t have to give appropriate account for their actions; often these people lack empathy and misuse or abuse their power.

Those who have suffered much privation in life will not have experienced much if any privilege, and they will almost always have been in powerless situations, at the mercy of the powerful (and how ironic it is to use the word ‘mercy’ in this context).

Those living in privilege, and I am counted in that number, often need to be reminded of the mercy and compassion that is due for those who have experienced much privation. It isn’t natural for us who have been born in our working-class or middle-class families, who have lived working-class or middle-class lives, to truly empathise with those society has rejected and abandoned. Our only real hope is some kind of journey into grief, to suffer something enormously, to know the enormity of anguish, which births compassion in us. And yet so many working-class and middle-class people do, and they benefit accordingly.

Grief is good in that it can raise us from a necessary death-of-self

to a life spent for others in the very definition of compassion.

But we are all tempted to abuse what power we have. Those who’ve suffered privation may appear to have no power, except for the power they have within their own families to extrapolate the hurts from one generation to the next. This is why those who have been subject to privation need compassion and therapy and a way forward to break the curse, so their family has a fresh chance. As a society, we have a role to ensure this is facilitated. But, as a society, we have more often than not failed the forgotten ones.

Where we have power, we ought to de-power at the very power structures we have responsibility for, without abdicating our responsibilities. Power ought only to be given to those who have a desire to serve; who genuinely seek to elevate people, especially those who have little or no influence over such elevations.

Where we have privilege, we should be patently aware of the luxury we have experienced and continue to possess, all the while being just as aware of the impact that there is on those who do not enjoy such privilege. What a gift that is truly to be able to see from privilege the disadvantages those without privilege face. And how good it is when that vision is able to be converted into action.

I have personally been in all three situations in my life, as a person powerful in my profession, as a person who has enjoyed the privilege of my culture, yet also as a person who has from time to time experienced privation in the form of abuse. It is only the latter that has taught me anything, especially in context of power and privilege. It is only the latter that has taught me how much trauma sticks and changes people.

Without privation we can learn little about the important things in life.

Power teaches us nothing unless we fail.

Privilege leaves us blind to what those without privilege face, unless we are shown very intentionally and can feel something of their pain.

The powerful and privileged must be educated regarding the worthiness of those who have suffered privation, but it is ironic that privation is what they often must experience to truly understand.

Society is at its greatest when it cares best for its least.

Civilisation is founded on its just treatment of its vulnerable.

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