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Responsibility of Privilege

What may sometimes be seen as audacity, courage or non-conformist choices, often stem from privilege. Privilege gives you the freedom to make these choices but also the responsibility to make the choices.

Woke up this morning to 55 unread messages flashing on a whatsapp group with my close, like minded girl friends. Among assorted topics, we got into a debate on choice. A lady (not on the group) was considering separation from her husband and was being advised by well meaning acquaintances not to plan for children so as to make the decision to separate and the actual separation easier. We had wide ranging opinions among the group about the problem on hand and the advice, hence a raging debate. 

The details of the debate and our individual opinions are less relevant to this post, but what we converged on is important. We all agreed that as women of privilege, we owe it to ourselves to use the privilege to make the best choices for ourselves, to normalize decisions or actions that may be seen as unthinkable, to live to our best potential. In short, work towards self-actualization. The important detail here is privilege. What may sometimes be seen as audacity, courage or non-conformist choices, often stem from this privilege. I want to argue that the benefit of privilege is the freedom to make these choices and the responsibility of privilege to make these choices.

What is privilege? Synonyms for privilege range from authority and entitlement to freedom and opportunity. I am using it here in the context of freedom and opportunity. My friends and I are smart, independent, assertive women, have a solid educational background, are financially stable and our family (parents/spouse) has our back. This by itself allows the freedom (and hence responsibility) to make choices that others without this privilege may not have.  Continuing further with this line of thinking, responsibility of privilege should not just be limited to oneself but also be directed to the broader society.

Curious, I turned to google to read other perspectives on this subject. I came across Naom Chomsky’s essay titled Responsibility of Intellectuals written in 1967 during the Vietnam war. It was a tedious read (and I may have skipped parts), but the gist is that people who have the resources, skills and opportunity to speak and act for the greater good must do so. I finished reading while being acutely aware that I haven’t done enough to make the world a better place with whatever abilities I have. 

Being aware of the issue is already halfway to achieving success. What remains now is to consciously and continually make the best choices, for myself and beyond.

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