Tecumseth Free Press Online
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'You have no control over any of the other factors'
Posted June 17, 2019
The biggest lottery of all, like every lottery, is pure chance. No amount of talent, or knowledge, or skill will swing the odds in your favour. And those odds are steep. Many of us lose out. Yet, all of us have taken our chances and made the big gamble in some mysterious way.
Everything in your life depends on this lottery. Whether you will grow into an emotionally stable adult, whether you will be able to build on the education you receive and lay the foundation for a secure and prosperous life, whether you can form mature and emotionally satisfying attachments, whether you can live your life in dignity and enjoy the respect of others, whether you have a house to live in, whether you can raise a family, whether you can live your life in peace, all of these depend entirely on winning big in the lottery.
Of course I'm talking about who your parents are. That is the number one determining factor in the quality of your own life. Other contributing factors include when you were born, where you were born as well as your race, religion and gender. With the exception of religion, which you can opt out of when you mature, you have no control over any of the other factors, though of course religion will play a hand in influencing your views. These factors are crucial to a successful and happy life.
There is no denying the force and importance of individual effort. But I often observe that many people born into wealth and privilege seem completely insulated from the struggles ordinary people face. They often congratulate themselves for being wealthy, smugly imagining that their wealth is a result of their own efforts alone. Some believe no social programs should address the problems of those who are less fortunate, their firm conviction being, "This country offers many opportunities for everyone. Why should I have to pay for shiftless people who made bad choices? I work my butt off every day." Basically they believe if you're poor it's your own fault.
Wealth shields them, insulates them and blinds them. They were born into prosperous and stable families yet they are oblivious to the extent to which their own success arose out of their origins. Born into wealth they know no struggle, no worries about paying the bills, putting food on the table or being housed in good neighbourhoods with every advantage and amenity wealth can provide. They never had to endure the hardship, loss of dignity and self-respect that poverty brings. They never knew what life is like when your parents are afflicted with drug addictions. They have not lived with a disability or were abused or neglected. They are unaware of the many, many barriers that block the disadvantaged from the good life.
It is a failure of imagination combined with oversized egos that lead people who were lucky in life's lottery to reach the cruel, heartless and smug conclusion that they bear no responsibility for the welfare of the whole community. Social programs create a civilization in which people can thrive and prosper. That is a goal worth our collective effort. Our conscience and our recognition of injustice compel us to look out for those who did not win the biggest lottery of all.
Barbara Delargy is a retired English teacher currently living near Everett. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org