Think back to when you were a child and recall Little Suzie had all the best toys, best clothes, and the coolest parties with bouncy houses. You never used to think about the fact that you didn’t really have many toys. You didn’t think about the fact that you used water in your cereal. You were happy, regardless. Little Suzie and her things, however, started to mess with your head. Through no fault of her own, she had an abundance of treasure that was so awesome. Was Little Suzie privileged? Why does it even matter?
There were other examples of this when you were a child. For example, there was a kid called Little Mike, who was a physical phenomenon – tall, tough, and athletic. No one on the playground could compare in any sport. You wished you could run as fast as him or play basketball as well. But no matter how hard you tried, there was no touching Little Mike in sports. He was clearly endowed with a natural ability through no fault of his own.
Why couldn’t you eat name-brand Captain Crunch with milk every morning? How come you couldn’t get a bouncy house for your birthday party? Why couldn’t you get a PlayStation? How come all the kids loved hanging out with Little Suzie but not you? Why couldn’t you be cool as Little Mike on the playground? That thinking started a bug in your mind, making you want things you didn’t really want or need originally.
Many of us want what Little Suzie and Mike have. We want Little Suzie to share more, and we either want to be on Little Mike’s team or make him play with bad players, so we have a chance. We want things to be more even instead of accepting things as they are and working on ourselves.
We were just kids back then, so often, this came from our parents. Did we do everything we could to learn how to be as good as Little Mike? Or did we just complain when he was on the other team? Did we learn to be happy for Little Suzie and focus on things we had more control over, or did we just get jealous?
The uneven scales are like a natural measuring tool. It doesn’t seem like the purpose of these feelings is to make us bitter against everyone who is in a better place than us. If anything, it can help us see what we do or don’t want in the future; it gives us goals to chase. If we frame it in a good way, we can make the most of it, be happy for Little Suzie and Mike, and teach them things they may even see as lucky for us.
Jealousy and Envy
For anyone who can recall a feeling of jealousy at any point in their life, one thing is sure: it is not a good feeling. The body and mind don’t want us to continue to be in this state. Just like with anger, the point isn’t to stay angry; it’s there to remind us to do something about our situation. It’s our choice to decide what to do about it.
Everything regarding Little Suzie and Little Mike seems like it comes from a place of jealousy. What’s more, there’s a fine line that separates the more internally focused jealousy from a more externally focused desire for what someone else has. When we start to try and balance things out artificially, when we try and force Little Suzie and Little Mike to our own level due to our internal sense of ‘justice,’ that becomes the definition of envy.
Now, this isn’t to say privileged situations don’t exist – they do. And it isn’t to say the feelings of jealousy and envy are not allowed or aren’t a natural part of life.
The point is that the emotions are there telling us to do something about our situation with respect to ourselves, not to do something to Little Suzie or Little Mike. Maybe we should learn to stop comparing. Maybe we should work harder to become better. Maybe we should think of other ways to make more friends. All of these things we do within and for ourselves, not by forcing or taking from others.
As we consistently see, everything is a matter of perspective. Little Suzie may have a hard time making friends without resorting to showing off her treasure trove. She may hate that kids love being around her because of her things and not her. Little Mike could get tired of being told he’s lucky and that he didn’t have to work hard to be a good basketball player.
Of course, in the same vein, maybe they do have it all. Maybe they had great parents that taught them to be humble and thankful, to navigate the social trolls, to stand up for what is right. Why would it matter if they have it all and are doing great? Why not learn from them then? And if they don’t, why not teach them instead?
What if, while we were busy always looking at Little Suzie and Mike, there was another kid that lived next door to our apartment. We never thought about him and didn’t remember his name, but whenever we saw him, he would look over longingly. His mom would always carry him up the steps. It didn’t seem like he could walk for some reason, but we never really thought about it. We just kept thinking about Little Suzie and Mike…
Injustice or Privileged
Generally speaking, in American society, when we hear ‘privileged,’ we think about either ‘wealth’ or racism. But the fact is, as we’ve seen, it’s just another term of comparison, comparing our advantages and disadvantages against others.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There have been many times in history where there was injustice toward other groups. Those perpetuating the injustices were the ‘privileged’ groups. Time and again, rebellions and revolts have occurred to tip the scales to make things more fair.
Questioning potential injustice is a must, but when we do, it shouldn’t be done by sweeping judgments. Identifying injustice has to be articulate and specific. Ultimately, being privileged in itself is not an injustice.
Privileges will exist in this world, and we need to stop using the term to identify injustices. If there’s a real injustice, we need to focus on that problem instead of what we think or perceive is the byproduct. If Little Suzie stole to get everything she has, the injustice is that she stole things, not that she is privileged.
Even if Little Suzie not only stole things, but got away with it because of her race, the injustice is still that she stole things and got away; not that she is a ‘privileged race’. If an entire race is treated differently in the courts, the injustice isn’t that an entire race is privileged, the injustice is that the courts aren’t treating everyone properly. This may seem like semantics, but focusing on a ‘privileged race’ instead of ‘fair trials’ could lead us to take from Little Suzie instead of addressing the actual injustice.
Taking From Little Suzie
Like we’ve established, Little Suzie had nothing to do with the fact that she was born into a wealthy family. Similarly, no one was born into a particular race, majority, or minority through their own design. It just is.
We may want equality, and we may want what Suzie has, but should we take from her? Taking Little Suzie’s things to give to all the other kids in the neighborhood isn’t up to the other kids. It’s up to Little Suzie. If Little Suzie is nice, maybe she’ll give gifts on her own accord.
Of course, Little Suzie could suck and be mean, not wanting to share, feeling entitled, and believing that everyone else is beneath her. Yet in other cases, Little Suzie’s friends could suck and be jealous and hateful that she has more than them, wishing the worst for her, and leeching off of her any chance they can get. This is similar with racism and many other inequalities in the world. Some people, groups, and countries will have more; others will have less. There will be groups that hate other groups and wish them the worst for reasons only they can understand.
The thing is, despite it feeling better to take from someone who is mean, selfish or ignorant it’s still not the way we should do things. We address injustices based on the specific injustice and nothing more. Being mean and selfish isn’t an injustice; it’s our right to be a jerk. Let’s stop trying to force things to be taken from those who are more privileged, even if it may ‘feel good’ or seem to balance the scales.
Growing from the Crap and Dirt
If we happen to be the underprivileged, we have to acknowledge the hand that life gave us and work from there. We can grow much stronger than anyone who hasn’t seen or dealt with the things we have. Focusing on taking things from others is simply envious and will have us quickly forgetting that there is *always* someone who is less privileged than ourselves, guaranteed.
Let’s find the energy from the crap and the dirt we came up in. For those who want to be lucky like Little Suzie, we will outwork them. If there’s someone who’s mean and thinks everyone is beneath them, we will show them through our own mentality that they are wrong.
When we learn to grow from the dirt, from the crap that life throws at us, without being jealous and bitter, we will not only be immensely tough, but we’ll end up being a pretty awesome person. We will, however, start to develop our own privileges through our hard work and mindset. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s only natural.
At some point, whether through our own perseverance, mindset, or luck, there is always going to be someone less privileged than ourselves. This means we all have a bit of Little Suzie or Little Mike in us. Don’t forget where we came from. Always be thankful and make use of any privileges we may have to do positive things for those around us.