The Privilege of Complaint

I've been thinking a lot about privilege recently, as it applies to both my personal life and western society as a whole.  In order to prevent potentially preachy-feeling conversations, I decided to do a series of three mini-essays on privilege to vent it out.

One common social mechanism is complaining; it starts conversation, brings groups of people together in their shared grievances, and it can contribute to inducing change on any level, individual to global.  Everyone who is capable of forming an opinion can bellyache and blame; though some are allowed to do so more freely and publicly than others, all can work through an internal dialog along these lines.

The world is massive; our potential experiences so innumerable that we can never do everything, have everything, or be everything that we could potentially desire.  Some dreams are simply mutually exclusive.  So if want is universal, and everyone can complain, then why consider it to be a privilege?  I would argue that it is not the act of complaining that is the privilege, but the very subjects of our complaints.

Students gripe about academic work, but they are lucky to have the chance to study.  Home owners moan about property taxes, but they have shelter.  A tech junkie might lust after the newest gadget, but he or she has the privilege of being able to consider its purchase as being in the realm of possibilities.

Consider the hypothesis that for every set of two people on this earth, there is something that one has that the other desires (and does not have) and vice versa.  It might be hard to imagine what a jobless individual in Somalia might have that Carlos Slim Helú might want: it might be as abstractly simple as youth or free time.  Proving or refuting this claim is pointless, but it serves as a mechanism by which we can consider our own blessings and desires.

Acting on want is needed in order for beneficial change to occur in our society, but not all want-inspired actions are good on all levels.  As individuals, we can reflect on our wants and the privileges that enable us to make our complaints.  We can renounce desires that we find to be unworthy and use others as tools for world betterment.  We can rejoice in what we have and share it as we are able.

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