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Checking Your Privilege: An Exercise in Not Lying to Yourself About How You Got to Where You Are Now.

· 5 min read
Ron Amosa
Platform Security Engineer @ Salesforce U.S.

I read this brilliantly written piece by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff called "The Privileged Have Entered Their Escape Pods".

And it made me think about privilege. My privilege.

In the current state of the world of businesses closing, rising unemployment and increased social welfare you could be forgiven for thinking we're all headed south- and for a large part of our society that is the reality. Meanwhile, we're seeing Amazon, Tesla and Microsoft post record-breaking profits despite the world sliding into recession.

It's pretty clear the stressful, anxiety-ridden, unemployment, redundancy-facing pandemic world is a very real thing for a large part of society, while another part is enjoying off-the-charts "success" during these times. And somewhere in the middle, is me, and I dare say a lot of you.

Thinking about my own privilege- and not even the obvious, surface-level things anyone can point to like a car, house and a good job, but deeper and further back than what I have today. Which is an interesting thing to think about when I'm a Samoan, son of Immigrant parents who came here from Samoa with no money and a few family connections to bunk with and score factory jobs to end up sending money back to the Islands.

Sure, statistically I'm up against plenty when it comes education, housing, health, systemic & institutiional issues that spell out whatever the opposite of "privilege" is. But those are topics for people far more knowledgable and educated than me, so maybe visit e-tagata for those lessons.

This post is more about seeing that, despite all the issues, I can find a lot of privilege in my life that I should not only be aware of, but be grateful for and never take that for granted.

Growing up in a single-income household with 5 boys to look after, my Mum, while not perfect, did a great job raising me and my brothers. From teaching the five of us how to cook, clean and iron, to pushing us to do well at school, music and sports. She was always around to encourage us when we were down, and to "correct" us when we went down the wrong path. She taught us the value of integrity, hard work and looking after your family.

I've met plenty of people who didn't have a great childhood, who were brought up with some pretty crap experiences from the people who were meant to love them and develop them into healthy human beings.

And this is the thing-

Did I have a say in this? Did I put in any effort to get this outcome of having good parents?

No. You don't get to pick what family you're born into, so equally you can't take any credit for this obvious advantage of good-upbringing.

Sure some people can just be purebred assholes, with great parents, I'm just grateful I had the privilege of being raised by a strong, hard-working and principled woman.


I could write a whole book on how awesome my Mum is.

After leaving the family home I would go onto such feats of accomplishment as: Enrolling, attending, failing and eventually dropping out of University, living in debt and working to to pay off a useless student loan; Randomly deciding to fly off to the UK for a couple of years, failing and coming back home to crash at Mum & Dad's while I was "finding myself"; Going back to Uni (graduated this time), saved enough money (cos still @ Mum & Dads) to eventually get married and buy my own place - in Auckland.

How was this possible?

To be able to fail so many times, but have my family network around me to catch me, and give me another chance at life and education and work- that's privilege.

I've now worked in IT for 15+ years. The area of IT that I specialise in is in high demand, and commands a really good rate. I get several recruiters contacting me repeatedly for roles that are available. And, for the moment anyway, I can pick and choose the roles and command pre-pandemic rates. I work from home 4 out of 5 days (at Level 1), and in the not too distant futre I will be a 100% remote worker. I never have to leave the house, its warm and I can stock it with food and entertainment to wait out any lockdown.

This is a privileged position to be in, I'm not entitled to this. I didn't get here by myself. I didn't "earn" everything I have, I had the privilege of getting it from my family even when I was useless; a failure.

And this is the point- how many of us have similar stories; grew up similar family situations and had similar "fail friendly" networks that could absorb the financial and psychological strain of our uselessness at various stages of life? You don't have to be Besoz, or Zuckerburg levels to recognize that relative to a lot of people, you had a lot of privilege and a lot of help in your life.

Feeling "attacked"? Dont.

This isn't to guilt trip anyone into feeling bad that your parents were in positions of privilege and, like any caring family member, wanted to help you out, or "see you right". This is to recognize the bullshit "sell made" stories and see how the same privilege that let you get where you are today, is the part missing from someone else's story, and the only difference between you and them is you "got lucky".

So, have a read of "The Privileged Have Entered Their Escape Pods". Have a think about your own privilege, and hopefully this makes us all have a bit more empathy for other peoples stories. And some more gratitude for the things in our own lives.