Thoughts on “Privilege”

privilege copyI’ve been hearing a lot about “privilege” lately, and I confess I continue to be disturbed by the subject, and how it is most often applied.

I recognize that I have ADVANTAGES over some other people. For instance, I have the advantage that I’m healthy enough to donate blood, strong enough to carry a neighbor’s groceries, perseverant enough to hold a job, bright enough to learn fresh skills or read a book in a day, creative enough to come up with novel ideas and think about things in new ways.

But I also have certain DISadvantages. I never finished college. I’m broke pretty much all the time. I’m abnormally short for a man. I’m 62, and have yet to accomplish some of the things I wanted to do. Considering my age and financial situation, I will probably never get to retire. I’m mostly deaf in one ear. I have no family, and only a few close friends. I’ve always lived on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder.

When I’m told I’m PRIVILEGED — usually because I’m Caucasian and male — I can’t help but hear it as an accusation, and a rather counterproductive one. Privilege is something you’re supposed to feel guilty about, as if the good stuff you enjoy through either birth or hard work is directly responsible for the crushing and disadvantaging of others. If you’re privileged, it’s your FAULT that Kelly Smith is sick, or handicapped, or female, or black, or homeless. Apparently the theory is that the guilt will motivate you to pitch in and help.

One of the most obvious flaws in the thing is that there’s no bottom end to it. If you have ANYTHING, you can be accused of privilege … compared to the person poorer and more wretched. The man with two teeth is PRIVILEGED over the man with only one. It also seems to me that the blithe accusation usually takes no notice that those of us gathered here near the common bottom, 50 levels below those with the REAL wealth and power, just aren’t all that privileged.

I’m still thinking about this, but it seems to me there’s something very ->Christian<- in the idea that guilt will make someone feel expansive and generous. My experience of it is that guilt usually constricts you, makes you small and fearful, less connected rather than more. You’re LESS likely to listen to those flinging guilt at you, more likely to withdraw and look for people who appreciate and accept you. I know I have liked less every person who’s ever said to me that I was PRIVILEGED. I have sensed blame and hatred and exclusion from them, rather than good will and desire to work at common goals.

I think the whole idea of pointing out “privilege,” throwing it out as an accusation, is a failed strategy. I don’t see how it even CAN work. It might help the accuser feel good to have someone to blame for some particular social ill (or all of them), but it won’t enlist people — people at their strongest, proudest, most confident and creative — in a good-willed effort to better our common condition.

My suggestion is that we all think before we sling out the too-easy accusation of “privilege.” Think about what we really hope to accomplish.

If it’s having someone to blame and hate, I don’t see that as a useful goal. Nor do I see people taking this approach as good partners in the larger battle.

Targeting people who might otherwise be allies — driving them away or smallifying them with guilt and shame — is strategically self-defeating.

 

 

  • c2t2

    There are many privilege-101 articles online. http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/what-is-privilege/ is a good one to start with that might clear up a few things.

    Personal anecdote:

    Let me just say, though, that I get it. I’ve been in the lowest of the low points. I’ve been simultaneously disabled, destitute, homeless, starving, and alone, so my white / english-speaking / literate / highschool diploma / thin / my disability being invisible / whatever else privileges were the last thing I wanted to hear about. It sucked. It was one of the hardest things a human can live through.

    That said, having any of the above privileges revoked would have made the situation EVEN WORSE. My options would have been limited to either dying in a ditch or committing a crime bad enough to land me in prison, which at least would have given me a bed and real food.

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but being very, very young, white, female, not visibly disabled, and thin from starvation gave me An Option that I otherwise would not have had. (After years of social security stalling, a lawyer took my case pro bono and the paltry disability benefits came through at the last second, so I didn’t end up trading my body for basic necessities, but the option was there.) It’s a horrible option, but it’s one I was glad to have, given the alternatives. Even though I’m significantly older now, that option is one I’m still considering, since $80 a month after rent is paid is barely enough to survive on if you’re extremely resourceful and you never go anywhere or do anything. Ever. And as things stand, it will never get any better for as long as I live.

    All this still doesn’t negate my white / etc privilege. Privilege doesn’t mean a person’s life is great. Not even close.

    /end anecdote

    Being called privileged feels like an attack or a guilt-trip for everyone, at least at first. It isn’t, but it’s hard to get past that feeling.

    • Hank Fox

      My experience has been: Even in the gentlest delivery, the accusation of privilege has always been just that, an accusation. “You have something other people don’t have, therefore there’s something wrong with you.”

      • c2t2

        “You have something other people don’t have,”
        – This is exactly what the accusation of privilege means

        ” … therefore there’s something wrong with you.”
        – This is where you lose me.

        In our angrier moments, women/PoC/poor/LGBTQ/atheist/etc can and do remark to each other that something seems inherently wrong with the privileged group. This is a thing that happens, but it’s a temporary lashing out born of being tired and frustrated and one too many cruelties at the hands of the privileged group.

        No matter what the tone, though, an accusation of privilege boils down to “please don’t think you know anything about a disempowered group that you are not a part of.” This could be the dreaded ‘splaining* , or it can be a completely innocent and well-meaning universalizing of a privileged person’s experience**.

        That last one is what trips most people up, and the one that’s objected to most often. Basically, you can’t say ANYTHING without thinking about whether it applies to every possible viewpoint of everyone who has ever existed in any situation. This feels ridiculous and exhausting. It’s overwhelming at first, and there seems to be no way to do it perfectly.

        Unfortunately, attempting to do it anyway may be the only decent choice. The other option is ignorant, harmful bloviating that makes people hate you***. It may not be possible to include everyone, and some groups (furries, otherkin, trans-racial people) are universally mocked/ignored. Everyone has to draw their own line at how much to alter their ideas to include minority viewpoints.

        Wow, that got long.

        * describing sexism to women, homophobia to LGBTQ, or racism to PoC

        ** Cops will leave you alone if you don’t do anything wrong! Do/don’t do LMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ so you won’t be raped!

        *** Think about your reaction to the way multimillionaire Republicans talk about the poor; how megachurch pastors talk about atheists. THIS is the takaway from the whole rambling comment. Analyze your reactions to the abovementioned conservative plutocrats and clergy. This is identical to how women/POC/etc experience some of the things you (and I, and others) have said. Good intentions and innocent mistakes don’t matter, marginalized people’s experience of ignorant opining by the privileged are exactly the same. This isn’t fair, but it’s reality.

        To be clear: Everyone has the right to dismiss the whole privilege-checking thing, just be aware that every single time we choose to do so, we are indistinguishable from Romney in his infamous ‘47%’ speech.

        (edited to soften wording)

        • Hank Fox

          Well, the Romney thing really just killed my interest.

          And how is that NOT “therefore there’s something wrong with you”? A direct personal attack.

          • c2t2

            “Well, the Romney thing really just killed my interest.”
            – Okay, I’ll leave it here.

            “And how is that NOT “therefore there’s something wrong with you”? A direct personal attack.”
            – Romney probably wasn’t born a mustache-twirling supervillain. Vanishingly few people are actually evil. The thing that’s wrong with Romney is that he has many opinions on The Poors when he’s never experienced crushing poverty, nor is he interested in listening to the people who have. This is privilege writ large. It’s the same thing, but on a larger scale.

          • Hank Fox

            And again, this feels like a — polite, restrained — direct personal attack: “You haven’t experienced crushing poverty, nor are you interested in listening to the people who have … therefore you’re just like Mitt Romney.”

            Heh. And if I now said “Actually, I HAVE experienced poverty” I wonder if you’d say, “Well, you haven’t experienced CRUSHING poverty!”

            My original point, which continues to seem true, is that “privilege” lends itself very well to laying blame and guilting people, less well to drawing them into a shared, good-willed effort at solving real problems.

            In my view, it’s a wrong, bad, ineffectual tool. It might feel good to lob it out there, but on the receiving end it just feels nasty.

          • c2t2

            D’oh! I communicated that poorly. I know I said I was leaving it here, but I feel the need to clear this up. I was saying ROMNEY hasn’t experienced poverty, therefore his opining on The Poors and unwillingness to listen is a perfect example of privilege. I was turning the topic from gender/race to a topic that you have experience with, namely being broke. A rich guy pontificating on how ‘those poors are a bunch of whiners who think they’re entitled to food!’ is one of the clearest recent examples of someone who really ought to check his privilege.

            The ‘check your privilege’ thing can definitely be used for bullying (I thought I left a link somewhere in this thread, but damned if I can find it again). But I maintain that the concept is vital to understanding human hierarchy and power structures.

            Okay, shutting up now!

          • Judy Thompson

            what throwing the ‘privilege” insult at people is basically saying, without knowing all the facts, ‘you’ve not been there, you have no right to an opinion on the subject” which is not only presumptive, its yes, insulting and a slap in the face.
            It forces the insulted party into a defensive stance, if they insist on continuing the discussion. It’s akin in many ways to the “did too'” “did not” arguments kids get into.

            I may not own a dog, but I know how to treat them. I may not have a child but I was one. I can still see things from a kid’s perspective, as well as from an adult’s. Saying “you dont have kids” is an excuse, in an instance like that, for their own adult behavior.

            It also takes a word like privilege, orignally meant to mean you have an advantage (‘the privilege of a) youth, b)wealth, c) intelligence, or d)great hair, and turns it into a flaming insult, making you ashamed of what you were born with, inherited, or had no say in acquiring.

            Its a complicated and difficult little phrase, and I’ll be delighted when we find something else to insult each other with.

          • Hank Fox

            You’ve said it very well.

        • As I said to Eli above, privilege seems like a terrible word to use for this. There are additional problems in how the idea gets applied. For example, does it really make sense to claim that a poor black man catcalling a wealthy white woman is a result of the man’s privilege? The application of the idea of privilege to sexism, as if it is analogous to racism, looks to me like an ill-judged effort to conflate two completely different and unrelated problems.

          As for privilege-checking, I think some of the problem people have with it comes from the fact that the phrase “check your privilege” is sometimes used as a synonym for “shut up”.

          • c2t2

            Privilege may be a terrible word, but I’m not convinced that a replacement would end up better.

            People smarter and more articulate than I am have written 101s for intersectionality, which should help sort out things like racism/sexism/classism (which are all related, but not the same).

            ‘Check your privilege’, like pretty much everything, can be and has been abused. http://offbeatempire.com/2012/10/liberal-bullying
            I don’t know of any way around this, but I don’t think the answer is to reject the idea of privilege and everything connected to it.

          • Hank Fox

            ” … the phrase ‘check your privilege’ is sometimes used as a synonym for ‘shut up’.”

            Really good point. In fact, I’m trying to remember if I’ve seen it used for anything else, and I can’t come up with any distinct examples.

            I have never really liked these formulaic ways of saying things. Too many people never really consider what they mean. They see the thing as a quick-acting tool or weapon, and just throw it out there for whatever effect it creates, not as a useful concept to be conveyed, or thought about.

            That effect in this case is to shove people out of the discussion, to hush them up and marginalize them rather than to invite them in as contributors. It’s a way to draw a line and put certain people on the other side of it.

            I’m not saying that might not sometimes be necessary, say in the presence of thoughtless and hateful adversaries, just so you can HAVE a discussion. But as a primary tool used against EVERY critical voice, it seems problematic.

          • More than problematic, it makes the entire discussion pointless. The purpose of having these discussions is supposedly to provoke change in wider society, to end sexism and racism and so on. To do that you have to engage with people who don’t already agree with you, which involves addressing their arguments with more than just buzz phrases.

            I’m tempted to write a very long and boring comment about everything I see wrong with feminism and the social justice movement, since I think the problems with “privilege” spring from wider problems in the movement. But it would take just too damn long to go over it all.

  • Eli

    Privilege is a useful concept. For example, I have white privilege in that someone otherwise like me, with the same education, health, gender/expression, etc. but not white will very likely have a harder time finding a job than I will or is more likely to be questioned by police on their way to work for “looking suspicious,” while I’m pretty much assumed to be competent and non-threatening, all because of conscious and subconscious stereotypes and impressions we in the US have about race. Those of us who have privilege have to be aware that we do and others don’t; it’s just another way of trying to get at seeing our subconscious biases and recognizing how our experiences are not universal, even if they feel like they are, but instead follow an observable pattern bases on group identities.

    However, I also agree with you that some people do throw out “privilege” as an insult and something to feel guilty about. I don’t feel guilty that people see me as non-threatening just by existing because I’m not a threat, and being assumed to be a reasonably decent person on first encounter should be part of normal human interaction. So, rather, I think that type of privilege shouldn’t be something I have to give up or others have to earn, but instead something to work to make sure it’s afforded to everyone. But we can’t do that if we deny privilege exists OR use it as an insult (Sometimes, yes, a privilege is partially or entirely undeserved and not something anyone should have, but that’s not always the case).

    • Is “privilege” really the best word for this though? The word suggests that it’s something undeserved, something which we should not have, and I don’t think that’s a good way to describe the problem. I see the situation as being that white people get treated the way everyone deserves to be treated. Being treated politely and decently and not being constantly under suspicion is something we should consider to be a universal standard, not a privilege which is undeserved by those who receive it. “Privilege” implies that the problem is that some people are treated too well, and should be treated worse (i.e. lose their privilege); when in fact the problem is that others are treated badly, and should be treated better.

      • Eli

        I think I agree, although I don’t know enough about the history and use of the term/concept to know if maybe that is an intentional and necessary connotation or not.

      • Hank Fox

        Ophis, that is exactly how I feel. It’s not privileged treatment, it’s normal, fair treatment. Everybody deserves that fair treatment; guilt-tripping those who already get it is counterproductive in winning them as allies in getting it for others.

      • R Vogel

        ‘The word suggests that it’s something undeserved, something which we should not have’

        Of course it is something undeserved or it wouldn’t be privilege it would be compensation. What about someone’s gender or ethnicity or socio-economic circumstance implies that they deserve better treatment than someone else? As a middle class, white man it is unfathomable to me that I could be shot carrying around a BB gun in a Wal-Mart, to use a recent example. If everything about me was the same accept the color of my skin, that would be much less unfathomable. (Is fathomable a word?) There is no reason for that besides our society privileges my pinkish skin. It is undeserved special treatment.

        The pejorative use of the term comes in when, ignoring my privilege, I start making excuses for that inequity. When I ignore that if everything was the same in that situation, but it was me instead of John Crawford in that Wal-Mart, the outcome would have likely been completely different. When I declare that poor people just need to work harder, or women need to be less sensitive, etc, etc. Privilege isn’t something to feel guilty over – you don’t bestow it on yourself. But when you fail to recognize your own privilege and instead try to justify it by denigrating others or overstating your own accomplishments, that is something to feel guilty for.

        I agree with Hank that this pejorative use has become ubiquitous and is unfortunately undermining the usefulness of the term. But in language there doesn’t seem to be much that democratization doesn’t destroy! (ironic example of privilege)

        • Nothing about your skin colour, gender etc means that you deserve to be treated better than someone else. That’s not the same thing as saying the treatment you get is “undeserved special treatment”.

          To use your example: not having to worry about being shot for carrying a BB gun (particularly in a state where carrying a real weapon is legal) is not what I would call a “privilege”, because you deserve not to be shot for that. It is a right, not a privilege. Not being shot for carrying a BB gun is not “undeserved special treatment”, it is deserved reasonable treatment. The only undeserved treatment going on is the undue suspicion which black people are regularly placed under for their skin colour. That is not a mere absence of privilege, it is a lack of respect for their rights as humans.

          I don’t just object to using privilege as a pejorative, I object to the entire idea of referring to a right as a privilege. Doing so degrades our expectations of how people should be treated. It’s leading you to describe the problem as if middle class white people are being treated too well by not being under constant risk of being shot, when they are just being treated the way everyone should be treated. The problem of racism is not a problem of how white people are treated, it is a problem of how black people are treated.

          • R Vogel

            Right versus Privilege is a framing issue. As a white male I see it as a right because I don’t have to worry about it, but a black man sees it as a privilege of whiteness because he has to. I don’t have to think about walking around with a BB gun, or an actual firearm in many places, but he does because he has a high risk of being killed over it and I don’t. It is not a right unless everyone enjoys it. It sounds like you and I both agree that it should be a right, so that is where the challenge comes in. Am I willing, as a person of privilege, to recognize that I possess it and take steps to remove it if it is unjust and truly make it a right for all? I think we often get caught up thinking about the movement in only one direction, undeserved privilege should be taken away, but it can also move in the direction that everyone is elevated to the same place.

          • I would dispute this:

            It is not a right unless everyone enjoys it.

            The idea of rights (as I see it) is that they should be enjoyed by all, not that they are enjoyed by all. Rights may often be disrespected, but it seems absurd to say, for example, that no one has the right to not be tortured because some are currently experiencing torture, and that not being tortured is a mere privilege and not a right. We might say that the right not to be tortured is not granted to others, or that the right is not respected, but to say that there is no such right suggests that we shouldn’t expect any better.

            I think you’re correct that this is largely a framing issue though and that we largely agree on the nature of the problem.

            I think we often get caught up thinking about the movement in only one direction, undeserved privilege should be taken away…

            That is an inevitable result of describing the problem in terms of “privilege”, and that’s why I object to the term. Taking away a privilege doesn’t sound like much of a problem, it might even sound very reasonable. It sounds less reasonable if we describe the problem in terms of rights, removing the implication that white people are treated too well and replacing it with the more accurate claim that black people are not treated well enough.

  • primenumbers

    Think of privilege as a recognition of bias. And it’s not a guilt thing because most of these biases are applied to characteristics you had no choice over. The other side of privilege is discrimination. You can be privileged because you’re not discriminated against.

    Using “privilege” as a conversation stopper is bad form. It doesn’t help because people don’t choose their privileges. They can choose to discriminate or not, so if you’re going to address a point in an argument, look at the discrimination aspect instead because that is something someone can act on!

    • Hank Fox

      Agreement. It’s a focus on the wrong side of the situation, and it’s an assault, however gentle, on someone who had little or nothing to do with causing the problem.

  • Frank Sterle Jr

    “Empath, noun: (chiefly in science fiction) a person
    with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of
    another individual.”

    —The New Oxford Dictionary of English

    In All Due Fairness: A Manifesto On All
    Earthly Suffering

    On
    January 1st, 2000, everyone on Earth awoke to a suddenly far
    superior existence than just hours before, indeed a Great Change. It was, and
    would always remain so, the most profound change ever; one that favoured the
    materially, physically, mentally and spiritually poorest people everywhere.

    All
    healthy and wealthy people of the world, the fortunate large majority,
    inexplicably—though it actually occurred by way of divine
    simulation—experienced the bitter ailments and enormous wants plaguing their
    fellow human and four-legged beings. Not at all surprising, it was only through
    such involuntary telepath-like empathy experienced by the fortunate that utmost
    efforts were made by them to ensure as-pleasant-as-possible lives for literally
    all of those unfortunate souls.

    The first
    spectacular alteration well-noticed in the Great Change was that, henceforth,
    any hunger pains endured by some were unavoidably universally felt by all; thus
    the well-fed were irresistibly compelled to do their very best at alleviating
    hunger in its global totality. In return, those who had suffered prolonged
    starvation awoke to an exceptionally strong sense of relief from the persistent
    unquenched pains. Uniquely amazing, the great relief was felt long before the arrival
    of food-aid shipments anxiously sent mostly by fully developed countries—food
    gratefully given because the planet’s privileged were abruptly feeling what had
    consumed the very hungry for so very long. And in return for that purest of
    empathy expressed through both mind and practise, by feeding while feeling all
    Earthly hunger, the fortunate folks’ own starvation cramps—all of which came to
    be recognized more as some form of sympathy pains—were themselves alleviated.

    Then,
    again unprecedentedly profound, every fortunate person who’d never been
    tormented in such a grievous manner instantly began empathically equally
    sharing in the anguish suffered because of the greatest personal loss that fate
    seemed to apathetically reserve for those few so extremely unlucky—that of a
    parent who’d lost a child to torture and murder. In rehabilitative return,
    those unfortunate parents who’d suffered the unjust extreme loss and cruel
    crime felt so very great a relief of their affliction, since every fortunate
    person on the planet also bore a tiny portion of that emotional turmoil in its
    collective entirety. In the Great Change scheme of things, when all members of
    ‘the world community’ genuinely empathically shared in such terrible loss, it
    was to be a literal sharing of grief, just as though each and every person was
    each and every child victim’s parent.

    In
    further such divine intervention, every person who’d intentionally caused
    suffering, justly yet involuntarily sustained the more intensely bitter side of
    truly empathic justice. If one had shot another person, he then experienced the
    same excruciating pain and terror suffered by his victim. If one gratuitously
    harmed a harmless stray animal—a neighbour’s benign beloved pet being the
    example divinely considered, (non-human) animals being intellectually incapable
    of malicious acts simply for the sake of malice—the offender thus experienced
    both that animal’s suffering as well as its owner’s emotional anguish.

    Regardless
    of how minor the bad deed, the perpetrator was always left experiencing,
    through divine simulation, the precisely same resultant physical and mental
    turmoil. Furthermore it quickly became realized by all that, even without the
    unfortunates’ and victims’ awareness of the unexplainable sudden Great Change, their
    cause was still equally endured in due fairness by all fortunate persons and
    perpetrators. Indeed, soon put into newsprint was the old-school journalistic
    mission statement: the comfortable were being empathically afflicted, while the
    afflicted were contrarily comforted through similarly empathic means.

    The figurative
    thesis statement of the genuinely just function of the Great Change was rather
    analogous to a fiscally imprudent national government squandering a large sum
    of the public treasury. With the impact of the monetary shortfall shouldered
    equally via a negligible tax increase placed upon every service-recipient
    citizen, each endured but a miniscule portion of the collective monetary
    damage.

    There was also
    beauty within the vast newness expressed through excessive wealth, albeit under
    the vast weight of overwhelming divine compulsion, being fully distributed to
    the countless in most need. In great return, the newly-forced-into-philanthropy
    were alleviated of the clinical depression that typically accompanied their
    unquenched thirst for progressive purpose in their lives to replace the
    melancholy manufacturing meaninglessness of faithfully reading The Wall Street Journal.

    What amazed
    everyone in every nation by noon that New Year’s Day was the unanimous hundred
    percent effort made by the planet’s fortunate residents to significantly better
    the lives of their fellow though unfortunate human and four-legged beings.

    Amongst
    the few seriously dreading the Great Change the very most, not in the least surprising,
    were the bigwig CEOs at the insidious helm of the giant tobacco industry. There
    was no denying that their PR reps and senior henchmen knowingly caught and
    firmly maintained within their deceitful web for many lucrative decades
    billions of addicted people who abused the vicious health-hazard product thus
    severely sickening before prematurely dying.

    The said
    offenders awoke to specifically feel what it was like to incessantly worry over
    their loved-ones’ inevitable future financial difficulties due to their
    debilitating smoking-related illness or death. They suffered the same
    continuous anxiety suffered by their countless smoking patrons, though
    particularly those not covered by any adequate medical insurance or sufficient
    savings to ensure their families the necessities of life.

    Then, the same
    offending moral-fibre-bottom-feeders experienced a divinely-induced simulation
    of the stunning stinging sensation frighteningly felt by a chronic smoker whose
    collapsing lungs are undergoing serious blood-vessel breaches. The tobacco
    product profiteers coughed uncontrollably until imminently releasing globs of
    blood into the sink. Yet, although they were in fact experiencing the physical
    sensations and visual effects caused by their own menacingly toxin-laden creation
    that’s promptly promoted worldwide, the divine act of the Great Change
    nonetheless spared them from the actual physical damage that would’ve been so
    poetically justified.

    Again very
    profound events occurred, involving elected and appointed officials who had
    knowingly allowed lifelong crippling diseases to infect large quantities of
    banked emergency blood supplies. Of course, collective humankind being what it
    was, the inexcusably inhumane crime was committed for the single-minded immoral
    purpose of increased ill-gotten personal-profit and government-coffer loot. But
    the guilty were all individually made to make significant empathic amends,
    especially as they had permitted sickness and death to prolifically spread by
    way of their personally-convenient silence. The perpetrators awoke in terrified
    bewilderment to mandatorily suffer the same horrendous consequences that they’d
    caused multitudes of young and old alike to needlessly suffer by way of
    Hepatitis C and HIV. All perpetrators experienced “a bleed,” during which blood
    accumulated in the stomach until the pressure increased sufficiently to have
    the blood horrifically burst the wall of the esophagus. Exactly as would many
    Hep-C victims, those responsible for the disease infection and rampage within the
    blood supply literally felt the life flow out of them as they regurgitated
    their own blood, just prior to complete liver failure.

    Henceforth, the
    offenders were unavoidably self-compelled to devote the remainder of their
    lives alleviating their own simulated symptoms of the deadly blood illnesses
    they had allowed to flourish. And yet again in return was the immense relief of
    the actual illness and symptoms excessively suffered by those innocents
    unjustly infected because of the monetary and political gain by others so
    poetically brought to bear for their great misdeeds.

    Furthermore,
    through divine inducement did all other diseases immediately become broadly
    acknowledged; thus, medical research into them, to procure both treatments and
    cures, increased exponentially through exponentially greater funding to the
    point of surplus monies, almost entirely by multi-national corporations.

    Dominantly
    flanking that just cause, the few yet overly-privileged pharmaceutical industry
    insiders—until New Year’s Day, 2000, their freshest fruits monetarily
    inaccessible to the virtual totality of Earth’s large majority impoverished
    populace—empathically endured that suffered by the countless unduly unfortunate
    folk unable to afford the extremely expensive medication. What else could the
    empathically penancing over-privileged mass-pill-peddlers at all do but to make
    the greatest possible effort to ensure that no person, regardless of wealth and
    Earthly location, was ever again left wanting of equal access to top-quality
    medical treatment.

    Also
    highlighting the first day of the rest of humanity, the mass beneficiaries of
    superfluously profitable gargantuan corporations began to truly feel the
    debilitating anxiety and hopelessness suffered by the plenitude of employees
    they’d fired. They were fired people heavily reliant on their jobs in order to
    provide food and shelter for their families but left destitute due to
    “down-sizing” for the sole soulless goal of enabling even greater
    financial-beneficiary yields for all corporate insiders. Irresistibly complying
    with their inexplicable compulsions to halt all needless terminations of
    employment regardless of the negligible negative effect upon their grand profit
    margins, the corporate mass beneficiaries discovered that the unpleasant ‘sympathy
    anxiety’ they were suffering was quickly alleviated simply by their miniscule
    fiscal sacrifice for the sole yet far superior sake of their employees and
    relevant loved-ones.

    Furthermore, the
    same overly privileged business tycoons residing easily in their extravagant
    mansions while feasting on figurative or literal truffles and caviar, also
    empathically endured the same great angst suffered by the forlorn
    massive-majority poor typically languishing throughout the undeveloped world.
    The overly-privileged had long retained the shamefully shabby employment of the
    deteriorating poor for but pennies per hour, with so very many withering away
    under the worst of working conditions, often for eighteen-hour days.

    But out from
    such inhumanity poured profound moral freshness solely because of the Great
    Change, gratefully offered and generously accepted was the sudden yet long
    overdue many-fold increase in wages paid and quality of working conditions.

    The corporate
    masters then went even further by hastily insisting upon such wearily
    impoverished laborers’ lives in every aspect becoming generally aligned with
    those enjoyed by laborers throughout the developed world. Meanwhile, average
    workers in the developed world were themselves straightaway brought up to par with
    their far more generously salaried fellow labourers and countrymen. Most
    significant in the demonstratively vast newness in universal labour practises
    was that, because of their extensively improved wages, working conditions and
    therefor much healthier lives, the said undeveloped-world labourers were
    finally enabled—with full credit going to their employers’ ‘sympathy symptoms’
    or divinely enforced empathy—to relish their weekends, away from work, to freely spend them with their loved-ones or even
    with their own untroubled thoughts.

    Yet in primary
    profound intent was the Great Change so aptly defined, as all persons directly
    or indirectly responsible for mass-scale torture and murder were those at the
    highest peak in the order of the lowest moral fibre to be found anywhere on
    Earth, and for their vilest of misdeeds they were henceforth foremost
    empathically forced to justly correct and compensate.

    Having
    so abundantly utilized the mightiest armament to cause incalculably prolific
    suffering, weapons so readily peddled to them by powerful nations’ worst human
    beings—the latter being vastly armed yet minimally self-allotted humane
    responsibility thus to suffer uniquely great empathy—various tyrants of so many
    war-torn territories found their divinely-induced ‘sympathy pains’ of the
    utmost unbearable kind. As they quickly realized, any forthcoming relief would,
    first of all, have to be preceded by the total relinquishment of their
    blood-stained loot to their surviving victims and families of such. Secondly, though
    of greatest importance, the relatively meagre material recompense would itself
    have to be immediately followed by such greatest of offenders, without any
    exception, devoting the remainder of their waken lives toward naught but doing
    their utmost to alleviate suffering they’d brought upon the multitudes.

    Although they
    could never, even in multiple lifetimes, even come close to empathically
    experiencing all of the needless anguish they’d so cruelly caused, they
    nevertheless were ultimately even greatly gratified to just be permitted to
    lead their remaining days in that precise penancing direction. To spare their
    victims some suffering—to genuinely sympathetically endure the simulated agony
    for which they were responsible—was all that they’d ever again passionately
    crave. Henceforth were the worst of Earthly perpetrators so sincerely grateful
    for their opportunity to perform a penance so perfectly befitting—one so
    earnestly paid in all due fairness—that any of their own empathic suffering or
    sympathetic pain alleviated in return was for them purely charitable divine
    icing on an already rich cake.

    From that
    January 1st of the new millennium, the very first day of the Great
    Change, not one single person would receive any satisfaction whatsoever from
    another’s misfortune. Quite the contrary, in fact. Since sensitivity was
    divinely ruling the day, fortunate people soon began experiencing exactly that
    afflicting unfortunate people—regardless of the fortunate folks not even being
    at any fault.

    In the process
    of so fully sensing and acknowledging others’ plights, fortunate people
    actually imminently became insufferably weary of others experiencing any
    burdensome health or event in the first place—great weariness felt because of
    pure sympathy, following the brief period of feeling such for but self-serving
    personal relief in exchange. No longer did one person enjoy comfort and
    pleasure while another agonized over sadness and misery. All pleasure and pain
    were shared or, in another sense, balanced out equally across the planet.■

  • B-Lar

    Don’t take it so personally Hank. If you hear it as an accusation it just means that you understand the concept intellectually but have not fully explored its conclusions.

    More harshly: Lets face it though, being made to feel guilty* is small potatoes compared to being on the receiving end of society’s systemic other-ing of those who are not the Caucasian male ideal. You might have some “disadvantages”, but because of your privilege you have greater opportunities to neutralise or overcome them.

    As an aside:
    -What do you think about racists who complain about people making them feel guilty for their racism?
    -If there is an error that has been concealed, should we focus our criticism on the whistle-blower or the person on whom the whistle is blown? How about if the error was accidental/non-malicious… Should the error-maker be left alone to continue to make the same error, even though their feelings might be hurt if their error were publicised?

    *Is anyone actually making you feel guilty? Can you really feel guilty about something that you haven’t done?

  • Daniel

    Now that the previous commenters have thoroughly examined their navels, let’s look at what the “privilege” accusation really means. It is the other person saying “I haven’t got what I want in life, so I’m blaming you for my shortcomings.”