Let’s take a punter on an American football team. Special teams player, maybe only partakes in a few plays a game. His team is good though, championship caliber. They go all the way that year, out-competing all opponents, rising to the top. In the end, they win the championship, the Super Bowl.
So did the punter win the Super Bowl? Sure, he may have only contributed a little, but he enjoys the benefits of the group, of being “on the team”.
Teamwork is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, it is something we teach our children the value of.
Yet if we applied the social justice notion of “privilege” to a football punter, then arguably we would strip him of his super bowl ring. Because he didn’t really win it himself, and it is “unfair” for him to enjoy the benefits simply for being the winning team.
In the same sense, the “privilege” that a white person may have in the United States is equivalent to the punter story I told above. Privilege is simply the result of good parenting … or more broadly having ancestors who made good choices, outcompeted other groups, and thus passed down their success to their descendents.
Many of those white people may have had ancestors who only peripherally contributed to that success, much like the punter above, but they were “on the team”.
We would of course be remiss to not point out though that who was on and off the “white” team has varied over history. Moreover, other groups, such as Jews have benefited from similar ancestral success, e.g. the Jews are the richest ethnic group of whites in the United States as defined by the U.S. census, and by a large margin.
But that is beside the point, because the concept of “privilege” is really a cleverly disguised rejection of value creation by one generation for the next. It is a moral argument that such value creation is inherently evil.
The concept of privilege ignores some very basic components of human nature, along with the basic underpinnings of evolutionary success in primates: teamwork. Those who argue some don’t deserve such benefits simply for being “on the team” fail to understand the mechanics of teamwork.
Selfishness is part of human nature.
There is, however, a deeper question here: What value is there in a society rejecting the fundamental driver of its own success? Is it simply the machinations of morality imposing its will upon our nature, without concern for the value of what we choose to do or not to do. A modern form of moral absolutism masquerading as social justice.
For those who follow the path down into such absolutism, whether an individual or a group of people, what lies ahead? We can see from human history glaring examples of such a path: the way of cults. Take for instance Jim Jones and the mass suicide Peoples Temple. Or the Jewish Frankist cult and all their bizarre sex orgies. Or further back to the cults of the Roman Empire or ancient China. Moral absolutism and the rejection of value norms have a long history in human history, and the results have often not been pretty. In the end, it is the value we create in the world that matters, not how we wish the world to be.
Because aspirations wishing the world to be a different way really come down to one fundamental desire: to take value from the world, rather than give it.