We hear a lot about political correctness. You’ve probably heard people say things like ‘oh, that’s not politically correct’, or ‘that wasn’t a very politically correct thing to say’. It pervades almost every area of our lives – in some areas more than others.
You’ve probably also heard the saying ‘manners maketh the man’. I know I certainly heard it growing up. Manners were drummed into me from a very early age. Things like standing when an elder entered the room, opening the door for a lady, taking my hat off inside, table manners, conversational manners – I could go on. I suspect for many in my demographic this was the case. I’ve recounted a story before of a family friend, a doctor and true gentleman who referred to my grandmother always as ‘Mrs Vidins’, in the most respectful, humble way. His manners were always impeccable.
I’m sure you’ve come across people who have fantastic manners. The inverse is probably true too. I’ve certainly met people who come across as disgusting pigs – foul mouthed, disrespectful boors.
Political correctness is the idea that you are restrained by an outward force – a cultural norm, a policy, a coercive power. It coerces you to not say something, or do something, in the name of ‘offending’ someone, regardless of the truth or accuracy of the message. You may have bitten your tongue sometimes because you were worried, or feared about the repercussions of your words. I’ll give some examples. You might have wanted to question the effectiveness of our past, or current refugee processes, but didn’t because you were concerned about being called a racist. You may have wanted to raise your thoughts on same-sex marriage, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled a homophobe. Perhaps you had questions on the millions of dollars that were being spent on our indigenous brothers and sisters, without any identifiable increases in health, education, workplace participation or decreases in violence and abuse, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled as a hater.
It’s important to pause at this stage, because I’m sure some will think I’m pointing the finger at progressive, or left-wing political correctness. If you’re thinking that, you’re correct, I am. I’ve noticed the most intolerance has come from the left in our present age. It comes in the form of bullying, of the threat of legal action (s18c, anyone?), of having your businesses targeted (refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding). It even comes in the form of opposing a whole nation (the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement). We see our politicians take a politically correct line when talking about terrorism. How often have you heard a prominent politician say a terrorist atrocity undertaken by a Muslim in the name of Allah has nothing to do with Islam? It’s like saying a drunk driver hitting and killing someone on the road has nothing to do with alcohol. Are all Muslims terrorists? OF COURSE NOT! Are all drunks likely to get behind the wheel and be a danger on the road? OF COURSE NOT! Political correctness is that outside force preventing you from speaking the truth, asking a question or voicing a concern because it may cause an offence, be taken the wrong way or cause a retaliation. It’s external.
Manners, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The total opposite, in fact.
Manners come from a place of inner strength, a place of confidence. Manners isn’t cowardice, oh no. Manners, which goes hand in hand with self-restraint, comes from a place of steadfast conviction. Manners give you the confidence to articulate, not as a reaction, but as a confident position of concrete values. Manners comes from a place of seeking to understand first, to inquire, to test and to challenge, wanting the best, even if that means discomfort during the process.
Manners is an absolute inner process that regulates, analyses, tests and speaks from a place of conviction, with conviction. It comes from a place of respect – self-respect first, then respect for others. Manners is the practice of holding back, not out of fear of retaliation, but from understanding there is no point in an argument for the sake of an argument.
Political correctness is a fear that your words, or some actions will have dire ramifications either directly, or from a third party. Political correctness is suppressing the truth out of fear of retaliation. Despite what some argue, there are truths. There are universal truths. Biological truths. Scientific truths. Spiritual truths. Truths that have real implications for here, and the hereafter.
Manners always seeks the best, even when there is disagreement. It’s the dignified silence in the face of howled insults. Manners is the confidence of truth, spoken in earnest respect. It’s not a cowered, timid mumble. It’s not a brash bulldozer of anger.
Political correctness seeks to crush. It seeks to paint over truth with lies. It seeks to silence. It hates dissent. It fears the thinker. It scoffs at the one confident in truth. Political correctness employs all means necessary – shame, legislation, violence to silence and intimidate anything outside the ‘correct’ narrative. It uses name calling, lies, gross distortions and hatred to plough over and rip up. Political correctness hates free speech, free thought and debate. Intolerance is its mandate, coercion is its goal. It does it for power, for powers sake. It is never satisfied with enough.
Manners seeks to edify the individual. It seeks to understand, it seeks the truth, it proclaims what is right. Manners is the respectful debate of ideas. It’s the safe harbour where ideas flourish, where the individual is nourished. Manners come from a place of confidence, it extends the hand of respect. Manners doesn’t compromise the truth, and confidently invites others to seek it.
Let me tell you this. We need more people with manners, across the spectrum of ideas, ideals and thoughts. We absolutely need less political correctness. Next time you have a choice when it comes to the truth, what will you do? Will you cower to political correctness, or will you use your manners to confidently proclaim what is right?
Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. Have you found that? Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. Yelling out. Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me: She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’ She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call. I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.
Writer’s note: I wrote this not to advocate any position, or to say anything in particular. It’s simply a collection of observations, stories, hushed chats and whispers. There’s stories in here that aren’t my own, and it’s certainly not my intention to sound like I’m advocating a position. It’s in a minor key, it’s a bundle of observations and a collection of mumbles.
Bekka’s turning 18, coming of age, party at mum and dads. Scotty spins the tunes and dad throws up the fairy lights, mum caters to fill teenage stomachs – it’ll come up in the front paddock in a few hours anyway.
Mason’s got a new truck, lifted with an LED bar light to be seen from space. He’s the first to arrive at this festive event, and his country dimples cover valleys of insecurity. Cowboy hat bent at the front, ma and pa secretly hope he’d turn his eyes towards their Bek – if only they knew.
Stace, Maria and Bree tumble out of someone’s back seat, pre-loaded. Dressed to the nines, their heels sink into soft country soil, squealing with each squelch, their lives work to snob you off.
Jase makes an entrance, circle work in his beat up ute. The joker, always the laugh. Bekka’s beau, the half bottle of cheap bourbon held by it’s neck. He’s the joker, but she’s got a creeping suspicion the joke’s on him. 20 years old, on the same an hour, with no prospects of increase.
Family comes, smiles abound. Uncle Frank and Aunt Nina, there’s grandma and gramps. Cousins of all ages. Dad playfully grabs Danny in a headlock, trying to explain that his sodomite son is merely creative, like you can try to explain the gay away. Thanks dad, but they both grieve, unable to move past recent revelations.
Raye and Chrissy sit in the tray of Mason’s ute, necking cheap vodka straight from the bottle. He could have both in a heartbeat, but his sights are set on other targets, perhaps tonight he’ll pipe up the confidence to tell her.
Dwayne sings along to the country ditties, he’s unusually talented that way. Laughing off the compliments, he wonders how life might be different if not yoked with three generations of expectation breathing down his neck. Still, he hums along, wondering, even for a second, if things were different.
Kal, as everyone agrees, is classic wife material, the mother hen of the group. She chats CWA with mum, half an eye on Danny, blissfully unaware he’ll make no woman honest. She mistakes his compliments for flirting, and the thought crosses his mind that perhaps he could fake it, until he made it.
Speeches, and mum and dad praise their perfect Bekka. She spies Jase, he’s getting amorous with Raye, and way too close to his bourbon. She pats her tummy – a week late, and she wonders how daddy will react if she breaks the news to him.
And the party continues, and the fire crackles. They all continue to live their lives together, all in secret.
Picture from https://www.google.com.au/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fuploaded_images%2F108685-Bonfire-Party.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.lovethispic.com%2Fimage%2F108685%2Fbonfire-party&docid=2BomfXY3f8L2kM&tbnid=ahC-QHXakHIw-M%3A&vet=1&w=500&h=332&bih=708&biw=1517&q=teenagers%20party%20bonfire&ved=0ahUKEwiY4ePVj7_SAhVrrFQKHcKHDpgQMwhFKCMwIw&iact=mrc&uact=8#h=332&imgrc=ahC-QHXakHIw-M:&vet=1&w=500
You can set your watch to it. It’s not rating season for the tele, Parliament isn’t sitting and it’s just that bit too early to be outraged that Coles and Wollworths are selling hot cross buns. So what does ‘the media’ predictably turn it’s mind to just after the new years day hangover? That’s right – changing the date of Australia Day.
For the uninitiated, Australia Day is the commemoration of Lieutenant Cook (as he was then known) colonising Australia in the name of the British crown. We celebrate this on January 26. With a rag-tag bunch of ships, a handful of convicts and not enough food to last, they hooked a left at what we now call Port Botany, rowed ashore and popped up a flag.
Here’s where the problems start though.
Since that flag went up, for our original owners, it was the beginning of the end. The beginning of the end of traditional ways of life, land, customs, law. It was the beginning of European disease. Grog. Livestock. It was the beginning of harsh, harsh laws. Missions. It was the beginning of dispossession. Incarceration. White mans responsibilities without white mans rights. Stolen wages. Stolen children. Forced labour. The list goes on. And on.
Here’s what that British flag also brought (and most definitely not for our Aboriginal brothers and sisters for way too long). Participative democracy. The Westminster system. Voting rights. That British flag saw the birth of a nation that prides itself in being peaceful, tolerant and welcoming. That British flag brought with it amazing growth and development for this country.
200 years ago, there wasn’t much of this globe left to explore by England and Europe. Africa had been colonised by a kalidescope of European countries. America was well and truly established. Central and south americas were claimed by the Spanish and Portuguese. Asian countries hadn’t made any real territorial advances and the Middle East was still stuck, for want of a better term, in the dark ages. The Dutch and French sailed past the west coast of Australia decades before the British, but decided not to stop.
What I’m trying to say is, it was inevitable that ‘someone’ would colonise Australia. There was still a host of European countries looking to build empires and suck the wealth out of their newly invaded lands. Just turn your mind however on countries that were colonised by France, Belgium, Spain or Portugal. Look at the legacies that those countries have left, in terms of peace and stability. The Congo will be suffering for decades because of Belgium’s rule. Central and south America still struggle with unstable governments and corruption. Compare that with, for example, India, also taken over by the British. Look at the stable democracy, progress and development occurring there.
I’m the first to acknowledge the horrible, horrible things done to our first Australians. Things done with the worst intentions and even worse outcomes. Things done with the best intentions and bad outcomes. Horrible, unmentionable things. I understand that the notion of celebrating (for want of a better word) is offensive and upsetting to our first Australians, considering all the atrocities done to them.
I’m very aware that this could sound like ‘it could have been lots worse so shut up and be thankful that your genocide wasn’t even worse’. That’s absolutely not what I’m saying. What I am saying is British colonisation, on the whole, has brought so many positives. It’s been the nucleus that now magnitises people from all over the globe here. Because of British colonisation, we have a stable, orderly system of government. All we need is stable, orderly polititians to go with our great system 😉 . We have a robust bureaucracy. We all (now) have the vote. We can associate with whom we want, worship or not worship the God, gods or entities we want, or not want. We can wear what we want, generally say what we want, join an organisation, political party, religious group – even a line-dancing club, without the fear of persecution.
To change the date of Australia Day to me is focusing on the worst of British colonialisation. The absolute worst. It focuses on pain – terrible, very real pain, but it ignores all the fruit that has come not from the circumstances, but the system colonialisation brought.
If we start changing dates because it represents hurt (and real hurt, pain and terror was the result of British colonialisation), we forget the rich blessings that this same system has brought for all Australians. If we start changing dates because of hurt or offence, one of two things will happen:
1. We forget who we are. Australia day can both be a celebration, a remembrance, a time for saying sorry and a time for forgiveness. It’s a key moment in Australian history. We will never find a date or say that both is significant and means something without running the risk of offending someone
2. We open the door to changing other significant days to minimise hurt and pain. Anzac day, for example, is a day dear to our hearts but for many Australians of Middle Eastern background, represents a time of the end of the last Caliph, the Ottoman Empire. Easter is the most important celebration and time of rememberance to Christians. Australia is no longer a Christian country, and I can only imagine the hurt that Easter causes to our Jewish brothers and sisters when they are called ‘Christ killers’.
I want to again truly, and deeply acknowledge the pain and suffering British colonisation has done to our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. The terrible things done to them, and I do not want to minimise the pain inflicted on them by white mans policies. Like many others, I am deeply sorry for the things done to our first Australians, and look forward to a future where we walk together in improving the outcomes for all Australians. What I do not want though is to throw away a day of such significance, a day that has brought so much good to this land. A day that saw the dawning of a beautiful country becoming a great country.
Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.
If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.
2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.
I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.
2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets should be ‘redistributed’.
2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.
2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.
So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.
So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!
Editors note: If you’re not into preachy, Christian blogs, this one isn’t for you.
An associate posted a thought provoking post the other day dubbed ‘12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church‘. Have a squiz at it. I read it. I read it again. And again.
My first, second and third impressions is that the author thinks way too highly of himself, is waayyyy to happy to signal his virtues and seems more than happy to blame others.
I read his bio and about him, and my personal opinions of him softened, just a little.
The article ’12 Reasons Millennials are OVER Church’ is, for the most part, is a list that says ‘wa wa wa wa me me me me’. Read it for yourself.
The author though, is onto something – I suspect though he doesn’t know what it is.
He’s rallying against something, in hope for something, but is looking in the wrong spots.
His heart naturally is in the right place, but he’s asking the wrong questions.
Now, I try to avoid preachy things on this blog. Actually, I like to avoid preachy things like the plague, because no one likes preachy things. I don’t even like preachy things. But I’m going to get preachy, because the author is striking a match against every surface, hoping it would light, when only flint will cause the spark.
So lets get down to business.
‘The Church’ has failed Millennials. Big time.
It’s not because ‘the Church’ hasn’t been inclusive
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t giving to the poor
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t accountable for it’s finances
It’s not because ‘the Church’ isn’t mentoring it’s young (although there is a yawning gap here)
The Church has failed Millennials because for the last umpteen years, all that’s been served up is what could be best described as a wishy-washy ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ gospel. The Church has failed miserably to teach basic, fundamental truths.
The Church has absolutely abdicated it’s responsibility on key matters such as repentance, the Sovereignty of the Lord, the authority of the Scriptures.
The Church has really, really made a mess of any type of systematic teaching.
Think about strong cultures. I’ve written about culture before, but just think about it. What makes a culture strong? Systematic teaching. Living the culture. Breathing the culture. Being deliberate in teaching the young the culture. Imparting. Mentoring. Teaching lore and law. Wrestling with it. Wrestling with your place in it.
When was the last time you actually heard a Church talk about it’s doctrinal statements? Explored – and I mean really explored what it means to be a Christian? The author seems to critisise Christians who explore the truth, who delve into their faith, who explore the beautiful Scriptures. Reasons 7 & 9 talk about how Millennials don’t want to be preached at, but want to hear about the controversial issues. I whole heartedly agree that mentorship is lacking in the church, however, preaching – and I mean real systematic preaching and teaching is a wonderful, effective and authoritative way of delivering truth.
It’s telling, that the author seldom talks about biblical truth. About teaching even the very basic fundamentals of faith. There’s no real talk of ‘hey, teach us the truth and let us go and make disciples of Jesus’. There’s no real talk of ‘how can we really be set apart in righteousness’. There’s scant talk of biblical basics such as sin, repentance and forgiveness.
The truth is, the Church has failed Millennials. It’s failed Millennials by not giving them even the most basic tools for understanding biblical authority. For having the confidence to stand of the word of the Lord. For imparting discernment. In a time when the Uniting Church of Australia is scared to mention the name of Jesus in it’s advertising material, I tell you – the Church has failed Millennials.
To quote the X-Files, the truth is out there. Where’s the best place to start? Pick up your Bible. Start reading. Read it with fresh eyes. Ask the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask him ‘why’. Find him in the story of creation. Find him in the exodus. Find him in the Passover. Find him in beautiful detail in the law. Find his promises in the prophets. Find his fulfilment in his Son. Explore the Gospels. Read, and re-read the letters. Read it for yourself.
There are some great podcasts out there. Don’t find ones that cover the hot topics. Find ones that explore the truth. Find ones that will help you understand the Scriptures as they were intended to be explored. Find ones that will give you the tools to both understand what the Scriptures ment when they were written, and what they mean for you now.
We are living in a time were globally, Christianity is under persecution. I read just earlier this week a church in Cairo was bombed with worshipers inside. ISIS is doing dreadful things to Christians, as well as other Muslims and minorities. Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia actively make it difficult for Christians. Churches in the Philippians and Malaysia are being burnt down. In ‘the West’, churches aren’t being burned down, but hold up a bible and preach the gospel in a university, and tell me about the warm reception you get.
The things the author desires are good things- charity, mentorship, accountability. These are good things, but they don’t nourish the soul. The sooth, but don’t heal. They wipe tears, but they don’t reconcile the ledger of sin.
The Church has failed Millennials. It’s time now for Millennials to grow up, take responsibility of their own faith and start grappling with their own faith, and not by having a wa wa fest over the ills of the Church.
Danny was the odd kid out in class. He had ADD, he couldn’t play sport to save his life, his mother had recently shacked up with a new man. Being the eldest, he took up the mantle of looking out for his younger brothers.
Steve was an outsider. He was from a non-English speaking background, didn’t have his dad around growing up and both wrestled and accepted his mothers’ view on faith.
Grant changed schools a bit. By the time he finished school, he’d been to 5 schools across two states. Sure, he’d met some mates, some good mates, but never really felt popular.
I’ll tell you about Danny, Steve and Grant. They are all me. Let me turn the story around, and change the perspective:
I grew up in the confines of my parents loving marriage, that also produced my two amazing brothers. My dad went through a trial or two – he was laid off in the coal mines and managed to carve out a landscaping business to support his wife and boys. Sadly, he contracted cancer and was dead just after his 33rd birthday.
I started school at the local state school. My mother re-married a man who I am proud know, a man that supported us the best way he could (and did a solid job of it), a man who always followed the call of his very strong convictions, even when they were unpopular.
My parents (meaning my mum and step-dad) somehow managed to send me to one of the best schools in the district. I don’t know how they did it, but I know it would have been a sacrifice for them. It was there that I was diagnosed with ADD, and despite my best efforts, was never really one of the sporty boys. I can’t say why I moved schools after that, but I did, and was equally happy in all of them. I found a few good mates (the benefits of being an introvert), and some of them I am proud to still call mates decades later (geeze, I’m showing my age!).
Why do I tell you these stories?
I’ve noticed a creeping word in our lexicon. Privilege. You see it more in America, but it’s creeping up here.
Privilege. What is it? It’s a benefit you derive really by the luck of the draw of your birth.
Privilege. It’s also becoming an insult, a put down, a slur. It creeps into conversations as a shut down or shut out. For example, someone like me (who happens to be Anglo-Saxon, straight and Christian) can’t have an idea, opinion or suggestion on someone’s life or experience that is different to mine. For example, I can’t say ‘he got the job because he worked hard for it’ because that would mean I am privileged and supporting a system that uplifts men (and by implication, pushes down people who aren’t men).
This idea of privilege manifests itself in other ways. You may have heard examples of some teachers saying parents shouldn’t read to their children at night, because this is promoting privilege (because some children don’t get read to at night, and this reinforces an unfair system).
Essentially, the idea of ‘privilege’ gets used to say that all my success in life is because I was born into a system that fully supports me and will do whatever it can to ensure I succeed. It also says that people who are different than me (for example, minorities) are born into a system that actively discriminates against them, and will do whatever it can to keep them down.
It says I got the job, because I’m a white, straight man. It says I got the promotion for the same reason. It says I don’t get pulled up by the police because I don’t have coloured skin. It says I don’t get stopped at the airport for bag checks because I don’t look like a terrorist.
Some people use the phrase ‘you got that (whatever) because of your privilege’. For the people that say that, here’s what I think.
My privilege (and make no mistake, I’ve been privileged with plenty) isn’t a ticket to an easy life. It’s a set of expectations. A set of expectations whose results yield rich dividends. A set of expectations that is open to everyone. Everyone.
My privilege expects me to work. There’s no two ways about it. My privilege expects I get up every day, dress appropriately and work.
My privilege expects me to be present in my family. It expects me to be a husband and father who is loving, present, who leads with integrity.
My privilege expects me to look after my family. It expects me to work out problems in my family with my family. It expects me to make future plans, to discipline my children in love, to listen to my wife.
My privilege expects me to show my peers, colleagues and managers with respect. It expects me to respect the delegations and decisions my workplace entrusts to me. It expects me to be a good steward of the resources entrusted to me.
My privilege expects me to respect those who have delegated authority. It expects me to comply with lawful directions in a respectful and honest way. My privilege expects me to obey the road rules. It expects me to be a participative citizen, interested in my community, my state and my nation.
My privilege expects me to be respectful to my fellow citizens. It expects me to listen to differing points of view, ideologies, cultures and ideals, even when I find them offensive.
My privilege expects me to have consequences for not meeting my expectations. Very real, very tangible consequences.
I mentioned the story of Danny, Steve and Grant above. Danny, Steve and Grant could have all been victims of circumstances. Medicated, minorities, single-parent households, austere upbringings, but I’m not a victim.
I’ve been blessed with privilege, but I’ve been blessed with something much more onerous. Expectations. Expectations that I meet and don’t meet every day of my life. Expectations I put on myself, expectations others put on me.
From time to time, you’ll hear people saying you (or me) have gotten an easy life because of our privilege. You’ll hear this loud and clear with ‘victim’ groups who both act like all their problems are someone elses fault (read: yours) and they have no agency in changing their lives.
I’ve benefitted from my privilege, but here’s the rub. If I start failing in my expectations, that privilege is going to evaporate, and quickly. Stop turning put at my job? No amount of privilege will keep me employed. Tune out to my family? Eventually they’ll get the picture that I want to be elsewhere, and they will probably make the first move. Start breaking the road rules, or not complying with the various laws that govern my life? You can bet your bottom dollar that before too long, no amount of privilege will keep me on the right side of the law.
Privilege only works because the privileged keep on practicing self-discipline, and keep meeting the expectations they have for themselves – good expectations, but expectations never the less.
The next time someone accuses, or even casually mentions that you’re privileged, ask them what expectations they put on themselves to better their life. Ask what responsibilities they are taking on board – not who’s supporting them, not who’s keeping them down, but what disciplines they are putting in their life, then tell them to stop practicing privilege.