When I was young we were lucky enough to live in a nice house with a fire place that we would gather around in the winter, feeling the natural heat warm our bones. I like that. ‘Lucky enough…’ in America they tend t say ‘we’ve been very blessed’. ‘So you grew up in a mansion in up state New York because your father was the CEO of the company that makes all the string?’ ‘Yes, we were very blessed’ or’ Yes, I’ve been very fortunate’ but, you know… ‘we were always taught the value of money’ or ‘we weren’t spoilt’ or ‘we had to earn our keep!’ or ‘I was still working on the weekends at 16!’ oh! ‘Wow! That really is humble, it’s almost like you’re a real person!’
Confronting and acknowledging your privilege is an uncomfortable thing to do and it is uncomfortable exactly because it is not a case of you simply being lucky or fortunate or blessed as an individual. This gives your privilege an isolation from the context that creates it. Your privilege was not simply a product of you and good fortune. It is calculated and it is cold. ‘We were very blessed’ divests you from the context in which your privilege arose. In ‘We were very blessed’ you were just one family existing on it’s own, being blessed. Especially when this is actually formed in the religious context in which it belongs this becomes completely removed from the essential relationship between the privileged and the impoverished in our world. You have a direct relationship with a God who, in their power and wisdom, has blessed you.
God did not have to take from another to bless you, he simply blessed you. But in the real world, in the world where your ‘blessings’ are manufactured, are produced, are given to you in abundance and deprived of others, there is no such thing as ‘blessed’. I remember sitting by that fire, I remember feeling the warmth on my bones (now our fire holds peat and hardwood briquettes, not quite as warm or as fun, but less guilt I suppose) I remember thinking about the fire, and thinking about the wood, and thinking about the warmth. And never once thinking about those out there with no fire, with no wood, with no warmth. And never once thinking about how the structure that gives me warm bones makes theirs cold. I was lucky to be born into the life I was born into, but only because we live in such an unequal and unjust world. The ‘luck’ of some to be born with one life and the misfortune of others to be born with another is a damning indictment of the institutionalised inequality we all now accept as normality.