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You've often heard the word 'privileged' used to describe the people who have more than you do. But have you ever wondered what exactly it means to be privileged? Are you privileged if you can afford the best dining in Toronto? If your kids go to private school? If you are given everything you ask for? This article will explore the concept of privilege, especially as it relates to politics, and help you understand who in our world is privileged and why.
A privilege is a reward granted to you by a person or entity who has power over you as a reward for good behavior or for services performed. Don't confuse it with a right, which is ability to do or have something that can never or should never be taken away from you. For instance, as child has a right to be fed by her parents, but if she wants to play with her dolls after supper, she will have to earn the privilege by doing chores or earning good grades on her school work.
Just like parents can grant privileges to their children, governments can also grand privileges to their citizens. Here in Canada, we have a right to receive health care. However, if we want a contract with the government or diplomatic immunity, that is a privilege we will have to earn. In most cases, this means proving we are honest, trustworthy, capable of doing the job, and that we have the best qualifications and experience for the job. Friction can sometimes be caused, however, when privileges are granted based on who you know (i.e. a politician) rather than what you can do.
Government representatives, such as senators, are granted extra privileges by the governments they work for because of their service to that government. However, when these privileges are abused, such as using public funds to pay for date night or skipping out on debates to go on vacation, then the people who are not privileged begin to resent those who do have privilege, regardless of whether they are abusing their privilege or not. In this case, the offending parties will generally have their privileges revoked.
The important thing to remember is that even if you have a paying job but are barely managing to pay your kids' sports lesson fees, you are still considered privileged. Why? Because privilege is relative. You have been allowed to live and work in a country like Canada or the United States, to send your kids to school, to spend your money as you see fit. There are many countries in the world where people are not permitted to do this. Compared to them, you are privileged.