We have become obese on privilege and have forgotten what moral fitness looks and feels like.
Entitlement: I didn't see it for a long time. Then I saw it and framed it as a part of a status worth aspiring to. Increasingly I sense it as a symptom of moral blindness.
It is true that democratic capitalism has facilitated extraordinary social progress and has been the catalyst for hundreds of millions of people escaping the indignity of poverty. But that does not mean that its shadow sides, the cons, the risks associated with it, should be brushed aside, or worse, blamed on the character of those who for no fault of their own find themselves marginalised from the benefits of civil society. Just because it has served us well (arguably) does not mean that as its excesses start to crack the very foundations of the society it has facilitated, we shouldn't turn up the volume on the voices of skepticism so we can begin to build a more equitable community. So ...
Let's leap out of the slowing boiling pot for a minute to think about it. Why are we sooo incapable of a living standard below what our income allows? Why do we covert social status so insatiably? As a friend said last night, "I realised when trying to choose decor for our (self) renovation, I don't have a personal preferences, I'm simply a market." (read that again, it is incredibly sobering.)
When we win in this system, we win because of opportunity and privilege. We inherit a platform for living that includes access to not only the foundational elements of Maslow's hierarchy of needs but the higher levels as well. Even more fundamentally, we had no say in our own DNA, or the environment in which we we were born. And yet we believe we are entitled. We would never say out loud that we belong to a high(er) class, but we act like we do when we walk into the airport lounge, park our new cars in the private car parks, or walk out of the branded clothes shop with our latest 'uniform'.
It's not the privilege itself that is the problem. A society that is devoid of well designed quality products and services would be achingly diminished. It is the refusal to acknowledge the pathways of access to them. Or, more to the point that I come to believe I am entitled to these privileges as part of my identity and am, frankly, careless about the implications of my over consumption on anyone else. This blindspot (kindly) or character flaw (less kind) for leaders in civil society, government and business is, in my view, a major obstacle to any effort to build a more equitable society.
I find this particularly difficult with regard to government spending / tax payer funded services. Why, for example, is it OK us to pay for parliamentarians $392 for their overnight travel allowance (Melbourne) when we pay job seekers $282/week (single no kids) to sustain them while they try to find work. It can only be OK if we say that people deserve what they get, and the only people I know that actually say that are completely and perhaps wilfully blind to the way systems work. They are stuck in a single dimensional cause and effect mindset that is woefully ignorant of how the real world rewards and incentivises. Those with power invariably do not have lived experience of marginalisation, and worse, resent the encouragement to give 'a seat at the table' to those for whom services, products (including policies and regulations) are supposedly designed to serve. Our institutional decision-making systems and processes are fundamentally unable to deliver what they aspire to while those in power are blind to the inherited nature of their privilege.
But we find our place in society and that place includes entitled privilege and power, so we gorge ourselves and become used to the moral obesity that ensues. Of course we can dress ourselves up with progressive ideas so we look good in public, but there is no hiding our inability to practice how we say we want the world to be. What does it really mean to 'be the change'?