It has stuck me that most of the time it is the stories that we choose to tell and/or remember that shapes our views (especially on privilege) , so let me illustrate that with an example …
I am so proud of my dad’s accomplishments, principled life he led and many ways he let me make my own decisions and that is big contributor to who I am today. So bear that in mind as I tell the story of my Dad
- Born in land owning family (few acres)
- Grandfather tried to send get all his children educated and only my dad youngest of them all had any inclination and excelled in education
- He walked 2 km for middle school and 5km for high school
- Each year of college my grandfather used to pledge Jewels to pay fees and later redeem after harvest
- My father went on to become first graduate and post graduate in his side of the family
- After PUC my grandfather did not believe he could afford to send his son to college and same thing happened after undergrad (he stormed out every time family soothsayer predicted what was going to happen your son will finish UG, PG, is what I was told!)
What I wrote is 100% true as I recollect from family lore! It has classic self-made person storyline but I failed to highlight two pertinent points below that adds colour to narrative
- In the same village probably there were 20-60 kids in my father’s age group and maybe 10% of them probably had parents who could feed them 3 days and my dad was one of them
- He was homeschooled until 5th grade in Telugu medium and switched to Tamil medium in middle school (which is remarkable but think of privilege he enjoyed)
I could continue to slightly embellish my father’s story a bit or acknowledge reality and be grateful. Though we were landowning community, My dad side of family was relatively not well-off financially and he was respected as self-made person by lots of relatives when I was growing up. So my father overcame lots of adversity it does not diminish his accomplishments if I point out enormous advantages he had.
When we were growing up our mother is her own small way reminded us to be grateful for food and shelter we had and how so many people struggle for square meal and it is my belief that this really shaped my thinking from early age and made me think more about have-nots than what we did not have. Even though my father was bank manager when I was growing-up, we had our challenges and umpteen times I was upset about our financial situation but did not lose sight of the fact that I had lots of advantages. But as I went to college and started becoming exposed to more diverse set of people, this awareness has enabled me question the world around me and made me evolve continuously and appreciate “privilege” . The older I grow I have come across bunch of people who have this “Ayn Rand mind-set” notion of self-made person , that they are totally oblivious about lottery of birth . I have seen people being raised in the same household develop a different meaning for privilege, so I never get surprised by persons view on things.
As read somewhere I want a world where there is “equality of opportunity, not necessarily equality of outcomes”, my views are unabashedly liberal/progressive so I support reservation even though it is not perfect system ( humans can imagine perfect system but can never implement one!). I believe government should provide a helping hand to the needy (sure not deserving ones will grab some) and it is ok for well-off to be taxed but I am also pretty sure there are areas where I would like Government to not to get into and let private enterprise flourish etc.
This has been difficult one to write, tried to re-frame my thoughts (multiple times) and condense my 30 years of evolution on this topic into a blog post and my hope is this helps others reflect about what is their definition of privilege. this is my expression of gratitude for privileged life I continue to live …