Are some people in society more privileged than others? And if so, should we do something about it?

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Emma: Hi, Brittany.

Brittany: Hi, Emma.

Emma: The word privilege feels like something that I cannot go a day without hearing anything and I thought it would be an interesting one to talk about on this podcast because it’s just, it’s everywhere. And I feel like, especially over the last couple of years, ever since, race has really become a really hot topic, and sort of the BLM riots, protests and everything was all about, race for a while, and a lot of people were talking about this concept of privilege, but it’s not just something that’s used in the context of race. I hear this brought up all the time when we’re talking about our economic policies and what they should be. How much should we tax people? What kinds of people should get special treatment from the government? And it’s a tricky one because I think it’s a lot of times you hear people talk about privilege and privileged people who maybe have had a quote-unquote easier go in life, and you think, well, that kind of makes sense. You know, why not ask more of those people? Or, you know, I’ve had an easy life, why should I not be willing to pay more in taxes or, or whatever it may be? But I think that that’s kind of a dangerous road to go down. So I wanted to break this down a bit with you, Brittany. And I think one thing to note is that there’s sort of like different levels that this plays out on. They’re sort of the personal level and you know, when you hear the word privilege, basically what that means is, you know what have you inherently had in life that makes life easier for you? That’s sort of like the working definition that I hear most people use. And it’s certainly true that everyone has different advantages and disadvantages. Maybe it’s your physical strength or your health. It could be your looks. It could be how much money did your family have that you were born into? It could be your talent. Maybe you’re naturally talented at something and you learn it and pick it up easier than other people. And that’s certainly real. You know, we all have different hands that we’re dealt in life and it kind of just comes down to your luck sometimes. But at the end of the day, that’s not the all end all of who we are as people. And I think as we know, we’ve talked about self-improvement quite a bit on this podcast. I know we’re both very into talking about that. There are always ways that you can improve your life and that you can get better at things that maybe you weren’t naturally gifted at when you were born. And there’s always stuff you can do. You know, you talk about money in America, we have so much upward mobility, which means the ability for people who were not born wealthy to become wealthy. But we also have downward mobility, which is, you know, the ability to lose your money. So if you’re for a millionaire, it’s pretty darn easy to not be a millionaire at the end of your life. You have to be good with your resources. So I think, there definitely is, you know, the question of this podcast is, is privilege real? I think at the end of the day, yes, privilege is real, but what does that mean? It seems like a lot of people, you know, sort of interpret that truth to be like, you know, privilege is real. Therefore we need the government to redistribute resources to people and help those who are quote-unquote less fortunate or who are not as privileged. And that to me is such a dangerous road to go down because when you look at a lot of people whose communities have been harmed, you know through unfair policies or those sorts of things, it’s the government that was the one doing it. The government was the aggressor. So, Brittany, I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that. I know that we’ve talked about criminal justice reform quite a bit on this podcast and sort of ways that the government has held people down. But do you have any thoughts on the way people use the word privilege right now?

Brittany: Oh, I mean, it’s terrible. It’s funny when I thought of it growing up, I was always threatened. ’cause I was a little bit, I was always a little sassy to my parents, always been. But they’d always say, stop, you’re gonna lose your privileges. I remember when I, so that’s always what I think of, and I’m like, what was my privileges using the phone? I don’t even remember what my privileges were at that age. But, you know, privileges used to mean yeah, just like something extra you got. And I hate the way it’s turned into like, oh, you have privilege, so you don’t understand my life experience. You don’t have, you know, you don’t, you’ll never understand what it’s like to be me. But the thing about that is, that’s true, but it’s not about a group. It’s about every single person. No one on this earth is ever gonna understand exactly what it means to be you, Emma, or to be me. And it’s not because, you know, the color of our skin or our gender, it’s because they don’t know our life. They don’t, you can’t do that. So it’s silly to me that it became not only about not privilege, it becomes just about like, oh, you had more than I had. It’s your group has more than I have, which I really don’t like. But it’s just been so funny because it’s also, to me, one of those straw men arguments and we talked about that in a different episode. But where somebody doesn’t have a good argument for what you’re saying. And so they just say, well, you have the privilege. You don’t understand. Like, it’s just so silly to me. And it doesn’t, I don’t know why this became, I feel like this is something that I’ve only seen in the last decade, but not even for most of the decade. And it’s so weird to me that people have been demonized, one for having things that used to be, you know, when I saw somebody who had a nice house, it was like, what can I do to get to that part of my life? Right? Like, what can I do to be that well off and afford that? And now instead of doing that, people look at people and say, why do you have what I don’t have? That’s unfair. I shouldn’t have to work for it. I just want it. And so that’s just nuts to me.

Emma: Yeah, it is. I think you bring up a great point too, because up until fairly recently and there have always been, you know, socialist kind of minded people where it’s like, I deserve what you have, and you’re just gonna give it to me. Like that’s not super new, that’s actually been around for a couple of hundred years with Karl Marx, and we’ve talked all about that history, but it does seem like it’s gotten way more popular over the last few years to say things like, you know, eat the rich and tax the rich. And there’s all these things that people just throw out and they’re like, you’re privileged. I deserve what you have. I don’t care how you got it. I don’t care how hard you had to work to get to where you are, you know, I deserve what you have or rather, it’s not even that. It’s not even, I wanna get on your level. It’s, you shouldn’t be up that high. And that’s the thing that’s really crazy to me, and we’re gonna do another episode soon about why the whole tax, the rich thing is not as great as it sounds, but it’s a really strange thing to me when we are no longer aspiring to get to a level of something that maybe we’re a little envious of. Or maybe we wanna get there someday, like, have the nice house or drive the nice car, but instead, it’s, well, they shouldn’t have that. And it, to me seems like it really comes from this place of envy and of bitterness towards other people and their successes. And again, that’s not to say that people who have these nice houses, nice cars, huge companies, like a lot of them did start out in an advantaged place in life, but not all of them. We’ve talked so much about different entrepreneurs who started out with absolutely nothing and became some of the most successful people in history, in human history with no handouts and with no privilege. So it’s, you know, it’s easy to look at other people and say, you know, well, they just, they got lucky. They were just born in the right place and have the right family. And maybe for some people that’s true. But I like what you said, Brittany, it’s not so much about, you know, people group versus people group, right? Everyone has different experiences and from individual to individual, you could ask people all about their life and try to figure out what their privileges are, and from person to person, it would be different. And that’s what I really fear with the way that privilege is discussed today is that people are more concerned with, you know, what group do you come from? What type of oppression have you experienced based on what you look like, instead of what has your personal life experience been? And I just, I find that to be a really dangerous place to go as a society. And I was listening to this Jordan Peterson clip the other day, and he was talking about something called class-based guilt. And this comes from Marxism, which comes from the same guy that came up with communism. So, you know, it’s gonna be crazy. But basically, it’s this idea that if your people group did something wrong in your history, that you need to feel inherently guilty and basically find your identity in either being the oppressed person in that scenario or the oppressor. And he pushes that idea because he basically wants people to engage in conflict based on, you know, their socioeconomic status, basically how much money do you, how well connected are you? And, he talks about something literally called class warfare, which is where people fight with each other based on, you know, how much you have and who are you and how powerful are you. And that’s basically the exact same idea that’s taught in critical race theory is that you know, you’re either the oppressed or you’re the oppressor. And you know, you can’t have friends that look differently than you because you’re an oppressor and they’re the oppressed. So it’s, to me, it’s really scary and dangerous. I don’t know, Brittany, if you have any other thoughts on like, critical race theory and like kind of where that all is headed before we wrap up here today.

Brittany: Oh, I don’t think we have enough time for me to give all my thoughts on that, but no, I think, this is just another thing that serves to divide people and it serves to divide them by the groups they belong toward, that they think they belong to and not the individuals. And we saw this a decade ago with what was called Occupy Wall Street, and it was this big, you know, we are the 99% basically saying like, 99% of us aren’t as powerful as the big elites. And you know, we have the power and now Occupy Wall Street was actually rooted in some truth in that there was the housing crisis that was definitely, you know, the upper class, the elites benefited while everybody else suffered. But the answer was not more government. The answer is not to let’s use the government to make things right. And that’s the biggest problem with privilege is people want something called equity, which is basically the government stepping in to say, okay, instead of giving, instead of giving everyone the level playing field, we’re gonna give somebody a leg up because they have historically been oppressed by whatever group they wanna do. So that’s the real solution to all of this is for everybody to start at the same level and, see where you can go. And I do believe that if you, I do believe you were strong enough history it so that you’re strong enough that anybody can do anything. So, those are my final thoughts.

Emma: Yes. Amen. It comes down to the individual and to fighting your way through your problems on your own, and not calling on the government to do it for you, because newsflash, the government is really bad at doing that. So we’ll wrap it up here today, guys. Thank you so much for listening, and we’ll talk to you all again soon.

Brittany: Talk to you soon.