Non-automatic Perfection

“Covenantal privileges by no means automatically confer moral perfection.” Rober Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative.

A privilege, in any way adjectivized, is a privilege. No matter how it is characterized, it is blood and bone related to every other sense of privilege.

Since I carry multiple privileges where’re I go, it is easy for me to project a presumption of moral perfection onto everyone else—redoubling my desire to assert my own perfection through a comparison to someone deemed less so. Who it is that we are privileged above makes little difference. We may claim superiority over a whole shithole country, an entire class of political deplorables, a mailroom clerk, janitor, or delivery person. We may even be adept enough to claim a privileged position within our own life’s timeline, forgetting we arrived from a less experienced past and denying a coming decrepitude. If we lived in Oceania, our privileged position would be in regard to ever-changing enemies (and thus “friends”).

Given the difficulty we have in the practice in and practice of humility, it might be said that privilege is another name for a common or un-original sin that precedes pride by a country mile (4-times longer than a city mile).

Like the song, Greed, by Sweet Honey in the Rock, if you have to ask if you have privilege, “this song you really need.”

To build a society (as measured by its leadership) based on winners and losers is to build in tribal feuds all the way through. The unprivileged fight to see who is least privileged and the privileged fight to see who is most privileged. Both attempts—to avoid being labeled unprivileged and to triumph over all other privileged—leave the whole body-politic weakened for to do either requires a multitude of lies to prop itself up. Both require a denial of basic interconnection, a willingness to be part of a fallible series of self-constructed values, and a suspicion of empathic compassion or kindness. With such denial is lost the only long-term process with a reasonable chance of effectiveness—honest thinking and a shared expectation of difference being catalysts that will draw each further on, together.

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