The broad collective of 'the left' has appropriated the idea of privilege, it is a shame they are misusing a valid principle so badly.
Privilege is simply the idea that our experiences, upbringing, circumstances and sometimes, the gender or race we’re born with, mean that we cannot fully understand what someone else with a different set of circumstances goes through.
This makes some sense. After all, I as a male cannot fully understand what it’s like to be a woman and when a woman speaks of her own personal experience, I need to listen and to be conscious that it might differ markedly from my own. This ultimately benefits me because I can develop a more informed and nuanced understanding.
Unfortunately, phrases like ‘male privilege’ or ‘white privilege’ take on far more liberal usage in practice. They serve as convenient refrains called upon by so-called ‘social justice’ groups to shut down debates on issues ranging from racial discrimination laws to the family court system to abortions.
As a man, you are not allowed to hold opinions on certain issues impacting women, or if you do, they are illegitimate. As a white person, you are not allowed to hold opinions on certain issues impacting ‘people of colour’. Think that January 26 should remain Australia day? How dare you – you are not indigenous. Check your privilege.
Poor and from a broken family? Sorry, you could still be benefiting from white privilege and male privilege. Sit down and keep quiet. Is it any wonder that the left has lost touch with its traditional working class, salt-of-the-Earth base?
It’s clear that these examples of ‘privilege’ are attempts to taint and misuse the word.
Thankfully, we do have many examples of real-world privilege.
When pixie-haired Singer Katy Perry responds to terrorism by preaching that we all need to simply ‘co-exist’ with ‘no borders’ while she herself benefits from 24/7 private security, lives in a luxury gated compound and jets around the world earning millions, completely unaffected by the fallout effects of terrorism and unchecked illegal immigration – that is privilege.
When wealthy celebrity chef Jamie Oliver preaches that we need to impose a ‘sugar tax’ on the public to make them healthy, even though this tax would disproportionately hurt the poorest households by cutting a slice out of their budgets – that is privilege.
When inner-city based environmentalist groups take hard-line stances on how regional Australians should access and manage their water and other resources, despite failing to understand or sympathise with the impact this could have on their livelihoods and businesses and being far removed from the site of the issue – that is privilege.
When Yassmin Abdel-Magied uses ANZAC day as a vehicle for preaching her political agenda, despite never having served in the armed forces and never being personally affected by wars involving Australia or by the poor human rights and women’s rights records of the countries she has spoken at on DFAT-funded tours – that is privilege.
When Gillian Triggs earns a high six-figure salary and claims scant responsibility for her shameful handling of the Queensland University of Technology frivolous racial discrimination complaint, one which resulted in ordinary students from modest families suffering a three-year court battle for justice that effectively uprooted their lives – that is privilege.
Privilege is a very real thing. Perhaps just not in the way the elitists who preach ‘social justice’ understand it...
Satya Marar is Director of Policy at the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
[This article first appeared in The Spectator Australia]