I've been thinking about financial privilege recently since it became clear how disengaged my older sister is from politics and has been her whole life. We have different fathers and hers had more money than mine. She's had an easier financial ride than me and her father was right-wing, whereas I was brought up in a poorer household with less cool stuff and a far-left political journalist for a father. I knew about socialism early doors and went on protests and picket lines since I was in my pushchair.
My sister recently got riled up on a family video call and suddenly wanted me to prove that our Prime Minister Boris Johnson isn't doing a good job, insisting I name one thing he's done that isn't great (incidentally the 'name one thing' tactic is popular among people who have no intention of genuine discussion).
I told her that she would have to want to listen and want to hear the answer. She interrupted and talked over me repeatedly, loudly insisting at length that she just didn't understand and each time I explained that I was willing to talk to her about it BUT that she would have to actually stop talking and listen with genuine curiosity. Eventually I snapped and screamed at her to shut up and listen. I then quickly gave specific examples of Boris's current failings, excluding all of his pre-lockdown decisions that are massively impacting us now to fulfil her unnecessarily strict requirement of what she would accept as a valid argument. She then doubted everything I said and said perhaps people would be more likely to listen to me if I wasn't so angry and if I said things more nicely. Then she decided to leave the call, because she said it wasn't very nice for her. I told her to enjoy her privilege and we have not spoken since because I don't know how to connect if we have to ignore everything that's happening or have her bring it up just to shut it down so she can feel less guilty. Perhaps this is similar to some POC's experience of white people.
By never paying attention, she's missed a hoard of information, the opportunity to evolve her reasoning skills and not make everything about her, hasn't paid close enough attention to decipher any subtleties, so it's all got to be massively and erroneously oversimplified for her and we can't have a quality conversation because she can afford not to, and doesn't want to do the work.
I get it - I've had plenty of 'head in the sand' time myself. After all, what's the point in paying attention when you feel powerless and can't trust the media anyway?
It was through this experience that I started to feel aware that our privilege to get by without really caring that the government is deliberately targeting black people, foreigners, the poor, the disabled, etc. was never truly ours, because it belongs to those disenfranchised people. We only have privilege because they don't. It's an imbalance where we've got more than we should have to the detriment of others. You know you've got more than you should have when it's more than you need and particularly when others literally cannot live due to our having it. That's when I realised our privilege is equal to our obligation to others.
If you use your privilege to look away, pretend nothing is happening and have a nice time, or worse still - to engage in disingenuous debate because you feel attacked by the people your privilege victimises, that is how you are spending other people's suffering. We must pay our privilege back in kind by leveraging it to make essential changes to the structures and attitudes that currently work to maintain an inhumane imbalance. It's not ours to keep. It never was. It's a debt we owe and must pay back, whether we like it or not. It's just a fact.