Privilege of Pain v.s. Privilege of Power

An Idea that keeps bouncing around my head these days: there is a collision between the Privilege of Power (the “Haves”) and the Privilege of Pain (the “Have Nots”). Different ways of protesting, speaking, behaving, etc.

Both sides use their privilege to gain advantage, protect their interests, the right the wrongs carried out against them, and maybe even to get revenge. Both sides have “justification” for their privilege — it is something they inherited, something they won, something they earned. Both privileges dictate their own language and story. And I put “justification” in quotes because these privileges seem to follow a law that goes beyond an official legal code, something closer to the Code of Hammurabi (eye for an eye) or the Code of Victor Hugo (ok to steal bread when you’re poor).

Borrowed from

It’s one thing when these Privileges stay in their box, when they have their own jurisdictions that don’t overlap, or when they overlap but they compromise. Isn’t that the “contract” between government and the governed? Isn’t that the bargain we strike with the Leviathan? Isn’t that what Law and Order is about?

The boxes rarely stay closed these days and the balance is more uneasy. Asymmetric warfare, civil movements, the rainbow revolutions (Green, Orange, etc.).

Maybe there is an awareness that these privileges have more cost than benefit, awareness that too much power or pain can take us over. I would like to think we are learning.


Crying out in the pain of suffering or dying. If you’ve ever heard this, then you know what I’m talking about. The sound haunts you forever. And it sounds the same from every mouth. Every. Mouth.

Right now, someone close to you is vulnerable and hurt. It doesn’t matter who you voted for (and it might not even have a damn thing to do with the election. Maybe that someone is you. You want to do anything you can to relieve that pain and fear.

So target the pain and fear — not the wounded and afraid. If you can’t handle that — if we can’t handle that as a community — then we need people who can. Because otherwise we are poison.

If we beat on someone for being “hateful,” “aggressive,” “ignorant,” “racist,” “misogynist,” “bigoted,” etc. then we are beating those toxic concepts *into* them: not out of them. You want a lesson from 1930’s Germany, make a meme out of that one.

Pain and fear are real. There is no such thing as a “racist” or “bigot” — those are monster masks for a real person who we know will hurt us.

But those masks are signs of real pain and real concern. Negative experience. Trauma. Extreme stress. Death. Disease. Helplessness. Loneliness. A feeling of losing control over everything that matters in life.

These are real pains and pain always grows. It’s more cancerous than cancer. It’s the fastest and most reliable stock in the world. It’s more socially communicable than Ebola and the flu combined.

You don’t have to compare someone else’s pain against yours. There is no math to calculate how hurt you are. There is no “Best In Show” for greatest suffering. This isn’t a contest.

The world is changing fast and hard, and everyone feels like they are losing something valuable. Losing safety. Losing freedom. Losing identity. Losing the past. Losing money. Losing health. Losing hope. Losing jobs. Losing power to improve their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

We need to accept that this is real. We are hurting each other and we cannot “fix” this. We cannot pretend that our pain and our loved one’s pain doesn’t matter more to us then that of a stranger. We have to see that what we do to ease our own pain often moves that pain to someone else.

We have to acknowledge this is all true. This is the reality we build off of. This is the reality our words and deeds and buildings and behavior and laws and culture need to accommodate.

I don’t expect we’ll stop hurting each other anytime soon. I know I won’t. Every dollar and every possession I keep for myself is something that could someone somewhere in a time of need, and by keeping them for my own use I am leaving them in their pain.