The idea of how the lottery of birth determines our life outcomes is something I discovered only at the age of 18. I remember my legal methods prof walking into our first ever class at NLUD, where 80 kids with inflated egos had stepped in, assuming that having topped a national level entrance exam meant all of us were geniuses and ‘deserved’ our place, much to the exclusion of thousands of other kids.
I vividly remember the look of horror on our faces, when this really cool prof walked in to class, told us we were there not because of innate abilities, not because we were towering over our peers, but because our parents could afford expensive schools and exam preparation, because we had a huge set of privileges, and pure luck. None of us would pay heed to what he said, but over time, the truth of his lecture dawned upon many of us.
However, when we (or I) think of privilege, we think mainly of opportunities that one gets because of one’s social standing. Rich parents, upper caste upper class social networks, established family pedigrees which make one a shoo-in for most prestigious opportunities. All of this is true, but it is not the complete picture.
I am a firm believer that more than social skills or hard skills, confidence contributes most to success. And perhaps confidence is the biggest difference that privilege makes to one’s life. Think about it, the greatest benefit of privilege is not just that one has access to opportunities, but that one thinks that many things in life are achievable. It is far more easier for you to want to write a book or take up hard tasks, if you have seen your parents do it. After all, if the man who makes your morning coffee or the woman who read books to you as you slept could become a bestselling author, the whole act of writing a book is demystified and made palatable and achievable to your mind.
On the other hand, for someone sans privilege, hailing from a marginalised community, the only successful authors are those from ‘illustrious’ families, the idea of taking up a task as hard as writing a book proposal (let alone a full book) is daunting and intimidating. And this makes a huge difference.
In most success stories we hear, success is attributable to taking huge risks, risks which ex ante seem crazy. A privileged person has 2 legs up to taking risks. Knowing that the outcome is not unattainable means you are likelier to take the risk and having family support (read money and social connections) means that even if you ‘fail’, you can always pick yourself up. So aren’t you far more likelier to take that risk and succeed?