Search This Blog

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Freedom from obstacles can be an obstacle itself

We hear on a regular basis about the privileged class such as Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, the Kennedy's and so on.   We hear about the mistakes and struggles they go through such as drug and other addictions, unhealthy relationships and just general misery.  From those not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, there is often a certain contempt with the 'poor' privileged folks and often times a lack of empathy for them.  When that 'poor privileged' people lectures us we are quick to show contempt for them. This is especially true when that class publicly fails or makes mistakes. Disgust/contempt/condemnation can manifest itself as:
  • Irritation and anger that they would 'dare' tell the rest of us who struggle to make it, how to live.  Especially if they've never had to.
  • Resentment/envy at the advantages or opportunities they have (and are in many cases throwing away).  We put ourselves in their shoes and note how if only we had such opportunities how we'd do a millions time better them.
  • Disgust at them when then when they show themselves as ungrateful for the advantages they have or seem to obtusely complain about their struggles.
  • Rage when they seemingly avoid consequences for their mistakes and actions that the 'rest of us' wouldn't dream of being able to escape.
I used to be one of the stone throwers and perhaps to a degree I still am, however, a funny thing happened on the way to heaven: I started to see past the common takes, the contempt, and the like.  I started to see the 'poor' privileged people as not caricatures, but as real people.  That's not to say the privileged class don't earn or should be exempt from scorn heaped on them when they abuse or otherwise take for granted their privilege.  It's just to say that "beyond the headlines" there is more to the story or more than a simple take.  I'm not sure what got me to thinking about this all except that I was thinking recently about some of the obstacles that I have had to overcome in my life and I realize in some ways they made me stronger.  It occurred to me that had I been born into privilege I might have never had the opportunity to grow and develop coping skills.  So, let's consider some differences that some of a privileged and someone of a non-privileged class may have in their lives or development:

Privileged vs. Non-privileged.
  • Necessity of Work
    • Non-privileged: Not an option, if I don't find a way to make money I could be hungry and homeless and may not survive.  Therefore, the need to work has helped me develop certain skills.
      • The need to budget/spend wisely.
      • The need to choose a career wisely.
      • The need to keep/sharpen my skill set.
    • Privileged: Optional possibly.  If money is not an issue, there is less pressure to do the following.
      • Budget/spend wisely.  If hard time comes, a person who has never been forced to do this could struggle to survive.  In other words, the lack of this skill could be an obstacle.
      • Make wise career choices.  If money isn't an issue, there may not be an urgency to making a focused career choice.
      • Keep/sharpen skill set.  If money isn't an issue, the incentive to do the hard work of 'keeping skills up to date' can be greatly diminished.
  • Sense of Purpose
    • Non-privileged: Forced to find a purpose or at least something they are good at.  Pride in earning a living can give a sense of purpose.  Success in earning a living can also give confidence to explore other ways to have purpose.
    • Privileged: When the absolute need to work and find a skill is lessened if not altogether removed, it can rob a person of motivation.  When you know you'll be fine either way, motivation to succeed has to come from somewhere else (besides survival).
  • Friendships/Healthy Relationships
    • Non-privileged: Relationships can tend to be purer or more legitimate
      • When you don't have excess resources or financial value to offer others, you are less likely to be "befriended" or "loved" based on what you can do for others.
      • When you have less to impress others with (including fame or popularity), if you are appreciated, it is likely to be based on impressing others.
    • Privileged: Relationships can be more questionable.
      • To some extent people are attracted to what others can do for them.  If you have means or something that you can effectively trade for money or fame, then you are more likely to attract gold-diggers, hanger's on and/or people who are looking to trade of your fame/privilege.
      • When you have privilege, people can get stuck on your privilege or seeing you for what you have or offer (worship) than a more honest person to person relationship.
  • Expectations
    • Non-privileged: Less likely to have absurdly high expectations.
      • Success is more likely to be treated as a nice accomplishment rather than an expectation.
      • Failures and mistakes, while not good, will not tend to be as high profile (and therefore easier to get past).
    • Privileged: More likely to have absurdly high expectations.
      • People that come from privilege, especially where their family tree is littered with great achievement, are typically expected to live up to or at least continue the success of the family name.
      • Pressure to live up to the family name can be enormously stressful.
      • Failures and mistakes will tend to be more well known or high profile.
  • Relatability/Empathy.
    • Non-privileged: Easier to relate to the "average" person if you are closer to their class.
    • Privileged: If you are not exposed to "average" people, but instead mostly to other "privileged" people, it will be much harder to relate or understand them.

I grew up in a working class family and was the first person in my immediate family and the second person in my extended family (that I knew) to graduate from college with Bachelor's degree.  Given obstacles that either directly addressed (or implied) in other blog posts--see Anxiously awaiting - Not just words for some--success has never not come easy for me.  But, I was blessed with a good mind and an instinct for survival.  I had many opportunities in my early life and early adulthood to hone my survival instincts too.  I didn't see it that way back then, but I see it now.  In any case, it occurred to me that if I had had everything that I could ever want, I may not have developed a strong personality, I may have found less authentic friendships and I may not have honed well my survival instincts (for when bad times hit).   But potentially what bothers me most is that I probably would not have developed a good sense of relatability or empathy.

As any athlete who has ever tasted success knows, you can't develop mental toughness and take your game to the next level without facing and overcoming obstacles--injury, pain, even some agony.  As with athletics, in life the obstacles we face give us an opportunity to grow and better ourselves.  If we are exempted or protected from obstacles or not required to overcome obstacles, our emotional, mental, spiritual and in some cases even physical growth will be limited.