Luck of the Draw

Given the proportion of our species living in poverty
Relative to that which lives comfortably
Given the sheer scale of deprivation across the globe
It was as likely, if not more so
That I would be born in a place
Where I would go through life
Wallowing in my own faecal matter
In a shack constructed from waste metal or cardboard
Than be born where I was
And grow up in the comfortable way that I have

I am lucky
I am lucky to have access to high-quality infrastructure
The collective underpinning of individual productivity
I am lucky to live in a place without extreme weather events
To have been born into a family that values education
With parents who have had stability in their employment
Not loaded, but never having to go without
Who balance borrowing, saving and spending
In a fairly sensible manner
I have never had to worry about food
I have time for recreation
Hell, I am sitting here, in an airport
Waiting for a flight, writing a bunch of crap on the internet
Surrounded by relatively prosperous families and individuals
Who are understandably anxious to make the most of their leisure time
While billions of people either go hungry
Live in constant fear of arbitrary violence
Work themselves to death for a pittance
Or all of the above

Through no fault of my own
And, unlike the majority of the population of this planet
I have grown up under more or less the right conditions
For a human being to prosper
I don’t have harrowing debts
And I don’t have a criminal record
I have never seen a firearm being used to commit violence
Nor have I been scarred
By the loss of a family member to conflict
But this is largely because of the time and place at which I was born
Right now, I am wearing warm clothes
Likely made by people who work under near-slave conditions
I’ve used more clean water to mop my bathroom floor
Than some infants get a chance to drink before they die
I’ve eaten more calories today
Than many people around the world eat in a month
I am very, very lucky

And I deserve little, if any, in the way of credit for my position
I deserve no credit for staying out of trouble
Because it is what I was taught to do
I deserve no credit for doing well in school
Because it is what I was taught to do
I have indeed made bad decisions, same as everybody else
But I would like to think
That many of the decisions I make strike the right balance
Of benefit to myself and benefit to others
Yet again, though, my ability to do this is a product of circumstance
Not solely, of course
But, to a significant degree
I am who I am because of my education
At school and at university
At home and among my peers
How could I take credit for working hard
When I likely would not do so had I not been taught to?
How can I take credit for thinking in the long-term
When I likely would not do so
Were I not been so expediently and repeatedly made aware
Of the advantages associated with delaying gratification?

If I had been born elsewhere
My life could have been a constant struggle
Like it is for so many people, even in rich countries
But how could my fictitious parents in this case be to blame
For giving me a difficult, if fictitious, life
When they would likely have been victims of the same upbringing
That this other me would then inherit?

Yes, I make my own decisions
Yes, I can make any choice I want at any time
But the way that I think about these choices
The weight that I attach to the relative advantages
Of the variety of opportunities that I have been presented with
Is as much a product of my circumstances
As it is of my free will
So much of the world is open to me
But this is because the resources that I have had
And continue to have at my disposal
The economic and social capital
Limited though they may be
They still put me at an advantage over the majority of the world
Even over the majority of people in this, an affluent nation
Where not everybody has been as lucky as me

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