Privilege Report #canyoudrinkthecup

Yes, I had a very painful injury a month ago. Yes, I had to undergo spinal surgery. Yes, it will take at least three months to fully heal. Yes, I am confined to our apartment till then.

But then:

I do not have to live in a war zone. In fact, I live in a nice neighborhood of a major city, and I have no problem getting sustenance or clothes to wear.

With some help from family connections, I received first-rate health care – for free. And I had access to one of the best neurosurgeons in the country.

I did not have to wait weeks for the MR scan, and I did not have to wait months for the surgery.

My condition was not life-threatening, and my recovery will (hopefully) be full. I am not losing organs, movement, or brain function.

I did not lose my job during my sick leave. And if I had lost my job – I am not the only earner in the family.

Last but not least, I have family, friends, colleagues who gave me help, love, and compassion throughout my predicament.

I realize this makes me immensely privileged: I am probably a one-percenter in my country. I cannot help but feel immensely grateful for my situation, for the help I got, and for the people in my life.

They say privileged liberals love to feel guilty. But it is as it should be: no-one deserves privilege. Being “grateful” for one’s situation is probably as good as “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of a school shooting.

So: What about others who deserve health-care, a place to live, sustenance, and people in their lives – and do not get them? When I take my privilege for granted – how can I take others’ deprivation for granted at the same time?

What do I do to build a society where one does not have to be a one-percenter to have all this?

We are tempted to say: “Let’s just live life. All this thinking about it only makes things harder.” Still, we intuitively know that without looking at life critically we lose our vision and our direction. When we drink the cup without holding it first, we may simply get drunk and wander around aimlessly.

Henri J. M. Nouwen: Can you drink the cup?


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