It feels like ages since I wrote the first part of my blog on privilege, that was the easy part. It had a distinct focus. Part 2 is more nebulous. Actually, now I come to think about it, it’s not really about privilege, it’s more about the assumptions we make.
We all make these assumptions. I’m as guilty of this as everyone else, but they still need to be challenged.
This is about assuming that you can understand other people’s life choices and experiences just by referencing your own. It’s the way we attack other people for not achieving things we have achieved, or justify our own success as being entirely our down to hard work and skill.
Sometimes it may be, mostly there are other factors. I am reluctant to use the word “luck” here because people interpret the word in different ways but I will use it as shorthand to mean “circumstances that happen to an individual that work in their favour and may not have happened”. I understand the whole “you make your own luck” argument as well as the “positive thinking” one but leaving aside the whole business of positive thinking and seizing your chances I still think that sometimes things go well and sometimes they don’t.
For many people there are circumstances which favour them in some way.
You will have all heard actors who are the offspring of famous actors insisting that they achieved their own success purely on merit. But think, even people like Nicholas Cage who changed his name to avoid nepotism have the inside track on how to go about finding work, finding an agent and so on. They have access to knowledge if nothing else. The same applies to people wishing to go into medicine or law. Knowing the system and having contacts is an enormous asset.
Similar reasoning applies to other situations. While you may have been able to talk your way into that lucrative job, or had the confidence to set up your own business, not everyone has the confidence to do the same. Just because you succeeded in certain circumstances, it doesn’t mean that people who fail in similar circumstances are somehow lacking in effort or application. Yes, there are doubtless feckless and lazy people out there but there are also many people doing their level best in difficult circumstances.
I count myself lucky. I am well-educated, articulate and generally (though not so much of late) self-confident. I had parents who cared and did their best for me. Not everyone has that.
There seems to be a widespread tendency just now to blame people for their lack of success, without acknowledging that there may be any other factors involved. I suppose all this is saying is remember your assets, both material and otherwise, and remember that not everyone has them.