Some thoughts on Power and Privilege
“Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.” James 1:10-11 The Message.
I am a man of power and privilege. I can’t help that. I am a man; I’m reasonably intelligent and well trained in a number of disciplines. I can put an argument together in writing or verbally; I am able bodied, I had a loving family as a child, I have been married to the same person for over 48 years and we’re still deeply in love; I have four children and 17 grandchildren, and I have money in my wallet and in the Bank. I have a house to live in. It is warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I have friends whom I can trust and I have a personality that finds it easy to avoid anger and express love and kindness. I live in Australia, one of the luckiest countries in the world and in Melbourne, one of the most liveable cities in the world. My pension and superannuation are adequate and the health care I receive is amazing. I am a man of power and privilege. I can’t help that.
So, the question is how do I use that power and privilege? Should I give it up for the sake of the under-privileged? Not necessarily. The more helpful thing is to make sure my power and privilege are used for the benefit of others, especially those who are not experiencing what I have. The more important question is ‘Who benefits from my power and privilege?’
I had the privilege of serving as a Councillor for the City of Melbourne for a few years. I loved it. People often ask me why I loved it so much and my answer of ‘the power and the wealth’ cause concern until I explain that the wealth I had at my disposal and the influence I had because of the City’s wealth and influence I used for the benefit of people who often missed out… the homeless, the artists, indigenous people, community sector organisations… people who found themselves powerless and marginalised, not reaping the benefits of belonging to this great City. This is what I mean by people benefitting from my power and privilege…. And its so much fun!
You don’t have to be in a position of political power to live like this, although it is a good reminder to our Federal, State, and Local politicians to try it out. However, to all of us who experience privilege and power, please join me in asking ‘how can I use my privilege and power for the benefit of others?’ This is a call to see things clearly (#2020) and then act accordingly.