Puzzling privileges to deal with
When we pay more attention to other people’s privilege, you only end up looking down on yourself. Yet, ignoring society’s inequity does not help either to find the right tracks for your journey.
I am convinced of this: Privileges can divide people. To presevere, it is very important for one to focus on what makes you happy. Envying other people’s privilege will only cost you the happiness one deserves. I believe one must be content with what they possess and thrive to get what they want in order to live the life they had hoped for.
At this very same time, there is an individual struggling for just a meal while another one is stressed because they are unable to purchase a car or a house. But the stress mentioned here is not to be confused with enduring misery. The second person is still way more privileged than the first.
For sure, having privilege is advantageous. It helps individuals as well as groups grow and have easy access to certain opportunities or services. Not having privileges is a great disadvantage. One will not only have to work hard, but rather struggle in order to receive things that other people get in a blink of an eye. And what is more painful than not being able to enjoy certain chances, even rights or not being able to access possibilities that are exercised by others?
We are all born exposed to different kinds of privileges. It’s just the way it is. You will only disagree with me if you do not know what it feels like to not have certain entitlements. And, be sure that it is as important to talk about privilege as to talk about bodily or mental health among other issues.
Self-talk is easy regarding topics such as reflecting on one’s errors, but hard when it has to do with privileges. Existing natural disparity and therefore distribution of skills and talents has been turned into questionable social decision-making and torn mankind apart. Most people have lost hope in life when they think of privileges that others profit from. Also here in Malawi, East Africa.
Being valued differently
If you have been in Africa and used public transportation, you will surely relate. In my experience, I have never boarded a public minibus (called “Matola” in Malawi) that reached the destination without being stopped – by traffic officers who suspect travellers in the vehicle with unauthorized papers. But it’s not for the exercise of law, but rather to get lucky when someone wants to bribe them.
Yet, people driving expensive cars are barely stopped or bothered. Why? The officers‘ assumption is that no one would drive such a car without complete paperwork. Which is not always true… The important finding here is: If you are wealthy and driving expensive cars, you could even break the law and no one will question you. Here, in Malawi and probably nowhere else in the world.
Possessing some sort of privilege is a door opener and not having them a total door shutter. Privileges have classified mankind in three categories: the poor, the middle class and the rich. Being considered poor, you are rarely respected or valued. I once visited a big store in Dzaleka to buy a packet of sugar. After I had paid for the item, a man drove by and parked his Range Rover right behind me. It was me and the guy in the car seeking services from the same shopkeeper. Surprisingly: He kept me standing outside only to prioritize the man in the car.
Privileges that changed my life
Every time I look at myself, I see great changes, people see them and my family, too. As a 26-year-old one, I have had the honor to meet with celebrated Malawi poets like Q Malewezi and Robert Chiwamba. These are people many youngs poets like me wished to meet for mentorship.
I have come across people that admire my work and my contribution to the community through the “The Branches Art” which promotes young talented artists by giving them exposure. The journey to the person I am today is a result of both hard work and privilege. (But let hard work be a topic for another day.)
How did I get to where I am, an established poet and a change agent in my community? Did I get all this far myself? The fact is that I have had privileges myself. But let me be clear here. This isn’t a confession. It’s more: stating the obvious. It is up to every individual to be even more ambitious in order to achieve what they envy from other people. I had to excavate my key privileges and live up to them. They are: my education, my open mind, my networking skills and, most importantly, my personality.
In the end, being privileged might provide a certain point of view. Mine is to focus on my development and not let others stops me for too long.
(Eine deutsche Übersetzung dieses Beitrags findet sich hier.)