Day 1:  I am the 9%

Credit: Nathan Colquhoun

Public Privilege Challenge Day 2: Resisting My Privilege of Wealth

Though my mother would vehemently deny it when I say this, I am very, very rich.

According to the Global Rich List, I am the 538 986 752nd richest person on Earth. That doesn’t sound very impressive until you realize that I am in the top 8.98% of the world. THE WORLD. Somebody should let my mother know how well I am actually doing for myself.

Just the fact that I 1) have a bed and 2) do not go to it hungry means that I am a very well-off person. Never mind the luxuries I own including personal hygiene products, a winter jacket, and my obscenely comprehensive Star Trek DVD collection.

I set out on this challenge to seek to understand, acknowledge, and resist my privileges. Some of these were easier than others.

I began the day listing off my privileges of wealth which I encountered, and soon this became somewhat silly and my hand started to cramp. I have a job, health care, I have access to food and water, health facilities, transportation, a savings account, the list goes on and on and on. Acknowledging this was somewhat easy; understanding my wealth and more especially resisting it was substantially harder.

My privilege of wealth is difficult to understand because, though our current neoliberal climate is so focused on rewarding efforts, I didn’t actually earn much of it. Yes I topped up my privilege, in that I actively pursued schooling and literacy which gave me quite a push on the North American social justice economic ladder. But I did not actually earn my starting point; much of the reason I am a relatively successful womyn with many life choices is because I was born with the proverbial global silver spoon; I had access to education, health services, a strong network of social supports, and was born into a relatively stable middle class family. I had no reason to struggle against racism or ableism; in fact, I benefited from them. I can in no way take credit for this head-start.

So though it seems somewhat easy to acknowledge, slightly difficult to understand, it seems even harder to activity resist my privilege of wealth.

All day I tried to think of active ways to resist my privilege of wealth. The best offering I could come up with was giving up on ordering a cup of steamy fair trade coffee at the local student’s union, a trite offering considering I am in the top 9% of the world. If others cannot enjoy the luxury of coffee, than why should I? I walked by the cafe, head held high. Yes, this is true solidarity.

And that’s it. I could honestly not find a way through my working day to effectively resist my privilege of wealth. I saw no opportunity This has haunted me all day. And as I sit here right now beside my warm radiator in my hydro-lit apartment, away from the constraints of my day job I can suddenly think of a million things that I can do right now. Some of these acts of resistance are strikingly obvious – I certainly should not be typing on this computer. I certainly should not be powering my computer with hydro electricity which has been extorted in both sneaky and destructive ways out of Indigenous communities in the Manitoba north. I should not be sitting in this warm apartment when hundreds of people in Winnipeg and around the world do not have their own place of shelter.

It is a snowy -12 degrees outside and I suddenly feel sorely uncommitted to this challenge.


Why am I doing this challenge of privilege? Click here to find out.

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  1. It’s such a challenge to face our wealth, partly because it means facing the ideology of our times that wealth is packaged in. I’m a church going Anglican and make a habit out of tithing, but know that I’m the exception in a church that is not know for being generous givers (the Baptists have us beat on that score). I tithe because I believe that I commanded to, to support my earthly Church in its mission, and for the sake of humility. In many ways it’s a token gesture compared to have much I have, but then I think if we took all the token gestures out of the world how much more cruel would it look? I applaud your exploration into humility, resisting your wealth, and hope that you shall continue to be haunted by it.

    Matthew Cook Victoria November 22nd, 2011 9:46am

  2. Am I a shitty Christian for thinking this article is a drippy superficial self-imposed guilt trip? I’m just saying. Way to walk by that fair trade coffee station.

    Shepard Iowa November 22nd, 2011 10:15am

  3. I can see of no reason why a person ought to resist one’s privilege, rather than using that privilege (however it is defined) to honour and glorify God. You have what you have because He designed it to be that way, in order that you use what He’s given you to bring people to a saving knowledge of the Gospel. Paul says to the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as though you did not?”

    I guess my point here is that instead of eschewing the gifts you have been given, use them all to point people directly to the Giver, whose Gospel is the solution to culture, who is the only thing worthy of being our treasure by His nature. Be thankful for what you have, recognising your responsibility to use it for His glory.

    CH Winnipeg November 23rd, 2011 5:09am

  4. CH… so, if I am interpreting your words correctly, God designs some for our definition of ‘privilege’, but since the reality is there are poor and marginalized and exploited among us, He hasn’t blessed them? I’m really trying to understand here. Yes, I do believe God sometimes blesses us with material things with the expectation that we are stewards. However, He blesses us far more with character, hope, perseverance, the cross we pick up everyday — even pain. Rarely do we thank God for those things.

    Furthermore, the reality is: we ‘have’ because our society has built ourselves in such a way that certain of us have, and others do not. We are born with privilege that wasn’t God-mandated, but man-mandated. God can use it, sure. But unless we recognize that the pattern of thinking of: “God blessed ME with it, thus it’s my lot life”, knowing money will disappear like dry grass (James 1), we will continue to take what is not ours, give a little to help the “have nots” but not really address the deeper issues at hand, and perpetuate the status quo.

    Yes, we thank God in ALL things — riches, poverty, famine, feast. I agree there. My point is: not all material wealth given are gifts from God. They are elite privileges built on the backs of others who perhaps were “blessed” with poverty. So we turn around and reach out to the ones we continue to take from. Somewhere, the cycle needs to be broken.

    Erin Lac La Biche November 26th, 2011 2:03am

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