Privilege and Perspective


This is a hot topic in the FIRE community, and it’s something that we have explicitly tried our best to avoid on this blog.  Not for any reason other than it’s a touchy topic. We like to keep it fairly light around here.  Unfortunately this post isn’t going to be one of those, it might be a little tough to read, so be fair warned.

Alas, I threw myself under the bus last time.  I started complaining about how we aren’t amassing large amounts of wealth nearly fast enough for my liking.

C’mon Man… Really?!?!

In that very article I called myself Veruca Salt, the spoiled brat from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Fitting.

As soon as I hit the publish button, I started to feel the pangs of regret and this post started writing itself.

So, who is privileged?

In almost every way you can look at it, we are privileged:

Both of us grew up in middle class homes, both sets of our parents are still married.

We both went to good colleges, and both have a master’s degree.  I still have some loans from that.  Manageable balances, but I have them.  The Mrs. has none.

We both have very well paying professions that are in high demand.

We rent a house on the west side of Los Angeles, some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

We own two cars and a motorcycle.

We are both healthy, and we’re in a happy marriage.

We are well on our way to saving a huge sum of money.  Enough to allow us to stop working before we are 40.

I could go on, but yeah, we’re privileged.

Maybe you can’t check off all of those boxes, but my guess is you are fairly privileged as well.  I know what you are thinking:

How can you know that?  You don’t know me!  You don’t know what I’ve been through!!  I worked hard for what I have!

My awakening

We just returned from Cape Town, South Africa.  We were lucky enough to meet some of the locals.  After several drinks, we started asking about how much life has changed over the course of the last 20 years.  Most of the folks we met are what they call “born free” or born after apartheid officially ended.

Apartheid in South Africa is a sore spot in the history of the country.  It officially ended in 1991, but it’s still prevalent today and the effects are going to take generations to filter out of society.

The basics are this: society is segmented by race.  If you were not of a favorable race, you were delegated to the ghettos and unable to get employment and thrown in prison for various offenses such as being on the wrong side of the street, or sitting on the wrong park bench.

The lime quary Mandela did hard labor in for 18 years as a political prisoner.

How was your race determined?  They put a pencil in your hair and you shook your head, if the pencil fell out you’re good to go!

In the process of this, the government rounded up all the people from a vibrant area of Cape Town known as district 6.  They forced them out of their homes and into shanty towns or “townships”.  Upon completion of the move, the government promptly bulldozed that entire area of town.  Today, it’s being rebuilt, but it’s still mostly a grass field in the middle of the city.

Our new friend told us of how she grew up in one of these “townships”.  Her parents knew the value of education, and since the official Apartheid had ended, the schools were now integrated.  They lied to the government about their address and their family background to get their children into better schools.

She laughed, “My entire life is a lie.  I’m here with you now, because of that.”  Even today, she can’t use her real name when calling to look at an apartment, or applying for a job.  Simply because the legacy of apartheid still exists.

Now, let me ask you, are you privileged?


In January, we traveled to Cambodia as part of a medical mission.  I had the esteemed honor of being a box carrier and managing crowd control, while the variety of medical professionals worked their magic.

We were provided lunch every day and every day it was chicken soup and rice.  It didn’t take long for people to start complaining and then stop eating the lunch that was provided.

On our last day, myself and one of the other volunteers were grabbing the final boxes before leaving the hospital.  As I was walking out with the last box, a flurry of people came out of the woodwork and started scavenging through everything we had left behind.

These folks looked at me as I walked away, they spoke no English, but I knew what they were asking:

Can we have this food?

I nodded at them, and they began to pull all the scraps and left overs off the tables and out of the trash cans.

You see these were the janitors and the cleaning crew from the local hospital we were stationed at.  They lived in cardboard boxes and other makeshift dwellings behind the buildings, out of sight, and were only allowed to come out once we had left.

Most people on the mission were none the wiser to this.  But, our scraps, what we had discarded and left to rot, was going to feed them for a week.

As I mounted the bus, the emotion of it hit me, and I started to tear up, much like I am now just thinking about it.

Again, allow me to ask, are you privileged?

The Makeshift Hospital in Cambodia


During that same mission, a lady hobbled through the gate.  She looked weathered, but not as old as some of the other folks that we had seen, but she needed as much, if not more, assistance to reach the triage tent.  Her hands were mangled, her legs were crooked and bent in a way that made walking very difficult.

I talked to the doctor that finally saw her to get her story:

She was 53 years old.  When she was in her teens, the Khmer Rouge tied her to a tree and broke both of her arms and legs as punishment, then she was thrown back into the rice patty to work.  While she was tied to the tree, she witnessed the brutal murder of her father and brother.  Their crime?  Not having callused hands, they weren’t working hard enough.  Her arms and legs were never given the proper chance to heal, so the bones solidified in a way that makes it excruciating to function in daily life.   She’s been dealing with it for 35 years.

So, one last time, are you privileged?

Are you privileged?

I’m going to argue that you are.

How do I know this?

Judging by the stats on our traffic, 99% of you are coming from the US, Canada or Europe.  I could stop here, but I’ll continue.

You’re interested in this blog, which means you at least have the financial wherewithal to save a significant amount of your income and make progress toward a huge unattainable goal for most of the population.

You’re reading this on either a smart phone, or computer.  Which means you have access one or both of those.

You have access to electricity and internet service to get this data.

Quite frankly, you’re reading this, which means you have your eye-sight and you’ve had access to an education.

Privilege isn’t bad, just acknowledge it.  Accept it.  Remember to help those that might not have the same advantages.


Last time we talked about perspective, and how that can frame your way of thinking.  How looking at a situation from a different point of view can change your perception of it.

This is still true.  It’s just different.  We all have problems.  Sometimes it may seem like our world is going to end.  It happens, it happens to the best of us.  It happens to me all the time, but, when it does, try to keep life in perspective.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a recent article I read in The Atlantic, it’s well worth the 30 minutes or so to read:

“Human beings of the 9.9 percent variety also routinely conflate the stress of status competition with the stress of survival. No, failing to get your kid into Stanford is not a life-altering calamity.”

Perspective… It’s a wonderful thing.


  • Jay @ 5to9 Living June 13, 2018 at 6:21 am

    Great post. I would agree that perspective is important with anything, not just lifestyle assessment. Reading these stories reminded me that even in my hard times, I still had priveleges others did not. Thank you for sharing.

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:39 pm

      You are welcome. I fully agree with you. Perspective is important in everything. And it’s so easy to get caught up in your day to day life and feel sorry for yourself. We all need to take a step back and realize how good we have it.

  • Dads Dollars Debts June 13, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Cambodia remains my favorite country to visit. The people were so nice and after such a horrific recent history. I am not sure if you visited the killing fields, but it was tough and eye-opening.

    We are privileged, particularly in this country. Even despite all the stupid stuff, we do as a society and how we mistreat each other, we are still privileged. Thanks for the post. Great quote at the top.

    • Dr. McFrugal June 13, 2018 at 7:52 pm

      Oh man. I went to the killing fields and it was very depressing. Especially the “baby tree”.

      • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 10:08 pm

        We went as well. We went on the second day, and it kind of set the mood for the trip.

        That tree will haunt me forever. I’ve never seen so many grown adults crying in front of a tree.

        I have a great picture of a young kid, maybe 3yo, playing with the bracelets that are hanging from that tree. The innocence of the child, just playing with the random toys he found vs the history of it, I couldn’t shake it. The dichotomy of the image is pretty moving.

        • Onthepath June 19, 2018 at 1:12 pm

          It’s hard to see how truly privileged we are until you travel to a third world country and see what those people have to live through day in and day out.

          I too went to the killing fields. There were so many images that stuck with me and will be with me for a long time. The “baby tree” and the museum with skulls dozens of feet high will probably be images I never forget.

          Thanks for posting Mr Wow. It’s good to keep things in perspective.

          • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:29 pm

            You’re welcome, it’s just something that has been weighing on me since we have recently returned from seeing these things first hand.

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Our trip to Cambodia was life changing to put it mildly. For those people to have gone through what they did, and then still to be so generous and giving and happy, is truly a testament to the human spirit.

      We do need to understand that we truly are blessed, even as nasty and bad as things can seem to be sometimes.

      That quote just felt so right to put at the top of this post. What a great guy… RIP!

      • Dads Dollars Debts June 13, 2018 at 9:54 pm

        If by sometimes you mean now…

        Cambodia is all time favorite people so far…so much warmth among everyone.

        • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 10:56 pm

          Yeah, some could argue things are a little uneasy now.

          The warmth of the people there is definitely something that will carry with me for a long, long time. People would give you the shirt off their back… when it’s their only shirt.

    • NZ Muse June 14, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      I found it verrrrrry difficult in Cambodia. Didn’t even visit the killing fields. But seeing the everyday poverty was a gut punch.

      • Mr WoW June 14, 2018 at 7:50 pm

        I feel like our trip was difficult at first, but once we got into the swing of things, it settled in a little bit. Everywhere we go, people are pretty much the same. They want to provide the best life they can for their families and spend time with their family and friends.

        I try to not look at them as poor or disadvantaged. Just a different way of life. Not worse, just different.

  • wendy June 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

    I am definitely privileged – I have so called ‘first world’ problems.
    The shear fact I have time to bitch&moan on fancy electronic devices means I’m privileged…
    With that being said, everyone’s journey and pain are different… so we have to try to stay aware of our privilege, yet maintain empathy for the people around us, regardless of their circumstances… not an easy task, at least for me… I feel like I’m continually yanking my attention away from superfluous annoyances and back to the glaring light of reality & perspective…

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      You have a very valid point. I wasn’t try to say, “Oh get over it, your life doesn’t suck as much as these people.” I think you need to have empathy for other people and how they are feeling.

      I was writing this more for me and you personally to come to that realization. I don’t want to demean folks that think their world is collapsing around them, because maybe it is. Maybe they need help. Again, it’s all perspective. Really it’s just about the individual being thankful, and realizing how good they have it, hopefully.

      • wendy June 16, 2018 at 8:06 am

        Agreed – I didn’t think you were telling us that we should get over it, sorry if it sounded that way.
        I just personally struggle to maintain perspective of how relatively small my & others problems seem compared to many in the world… but still be a good coworker/neighbor/friend and practice that empathy consistently.

        • Mr WoW June 17, 2018 at 11:03 am

          Empathy is so very important. This is something that has just been weighing on my recently and I wanted to let it out, especially since I happened to write a whiny article, immediately before without realizing how whiny it truly sounded.

          For us, we try our best to maintain that level of gratitude for what we have, and we try our best to have empathy for the other folks around us as much as we can. That doesn’t mean we are perfect, far from it actually. But we make an attempt to maintain that perspective as much as possible.

  • Tonya@Budget and the Beach June 13, 2018 at 7:02 am

    I was reading somewhere that that fact that “kids today” or anyone in recent generations are almost at a little bit of a disservice that they haven’t gone through anything very difficult relative to the rest of the world, because that almost makes them too soft and unequipped to handle any difficulties. And when they/we do, they/we turn to easy crutches like medication or other destructive methods to cope because we have easy access to those things. Now, I’m not arguing that that’s true, but I can kind of see that a little bit. It’s almost like we haven’t built any resilience whatsoever! I remember being in a Starbucks once, and this lady was having an absolute fit that she only wanted 2 ice cubes but they gave her more…or it was something like that. That was beyond a privilege moment. It does seem kind of “crappy” out there right now with everything in the news an in my opinion, the leader of this country, but in the grand scheme of things we have it pretty darn good! Even to be able to oppose something like our ass clown of a president, ya know?
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted…Gratitude for My Roots

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:47 pm

      I think you’re on to something. Life is so good now, we hardly know how to press through something and fight through any adversity. I find myself in that predicament regularly. I tell myself to fight through, it’s partially the reason I’m developing an interesting in stoicism.

      Things might not be going the way you are hoping in this country at the moment… but we can still openly talk about ways to change it. Without fear of imprisonment or worse. We can express our displeasure without living in terror. That is something that is taken for granted here, yet something that really needs to be cherished.

  • Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies June 13, 2018 at 7:13 am

    Oh, yes. We are privileged. I think it’s strange that people balk at the notion of privilege. That doesn’t diminish people’s hard work. It simply acknowledges that we are all in different places working with different tools. If anything, I think acknowledging your privilege is powerful because you know what you can leverage to help others. How could that be a bad thing?

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm

      There’s a saying that I’ve heard several times…

      A guy walks by a fish tank, looks at the fish and says, “How’s the water?” The fish replies, “What water?”

      If you can’t understand and see what you have been provided, how can you understand how to help, or what other people might need.

      “I think acknowledging your privilege is powerful because you know what you can leverage to help others” This is brilliant, and it’s something that I keep trying to tell myself. We can spend all the time that people spend scavenging for food or finding potable water, so help others. Again it comes back to gaining more time.

    • Mr. Groovy June 22, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Hey, Penny. I think people, myself included, balk at the notion of privilege because it’s rarely invoked in education and the media to enlighten. It’s mostly invoked by the progressive elite to put down or delegitimize the people they don’t like. Case in point. Black applicants don’t have to score nearly as high as white and Asian applicants on standardized tests to get into Ivy League schools. Have you ever heard a progressive lament about this example of black privilege? But progressives will harangue some white kid about his “privilege” because he grew up in a two-parent household in the suburbs. Again, I hope I’m wrong about all of this. But I cringe at the word privilege because I don’t see our education and media elites using it the same way Mr. WoW is using it.

      • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:41 pm

        This is such a touchy topic. There are ways to manipulate the system. Say, the best schools you only want certain type of people to go. And since those certain type of tend to be richer, you make the price expensive, so no they aren’t “discriminating” because anyone can go IF they have the money.

        That goes for previous experiences, it goes for all sorts of things. So, yes, it most certainly should be a meritocracy, but what happens when those merits are only available to a few.

        Yes, we could go on and on about this, and I believe we have 😉 and most certainly should again soon!!

        • Mr. Groovy June 24, 2018 at 5:14 am

          You got an exquisite mind, Mr. WoW. And your question, “what happens when those merits are only available to a few?” is very sobering. But let me throw something at you, and I’m not being snarky. In the age of the internet, are merits really only available to a few? In other words, what is Choate charging $59K a year for that the Khan Academy isn’t giving away for free? Barriers and excuses are toppling before our eyes. Anyone with an internet connection can master anything taught in high school by him- or herself, providing he or she is cognitively sharp and motivated. Haha, this is no joke. Lately, I’ve been watching a bunch of YouTube videos on how to solve quadratic equations. Yes, my life is pathetic. But this is just one example of how the merits have been democratised by the digital revolution. Hope all is well in beautiful LA. Thanks for pointing out the weaknesses of my arguments and making me think. Cheers.

          • Mr WoW June 24, 2018 at 10:11 am

            The age of the internet, and easy cheap access to information is truly trans-formative. But, this has only been around in it’s current state for maybe 10 years? And, what about the majority of the world that has no access to the internet?

            Going forward there is change a foot, but there is a long way to go when the credibility of on-line education becomes acceptable and mainstream. And yes, these barriers are falling right before our eyes. A lot of things are, but unfortunately in our current state a lot of walls are being built up as well.

            Regardless, quadratic equations???? HUH? Don’t you have a house to build??? LOL.

            You truly know how to kill a conversation at a cocktail party…
            So what have you been up to, Mr Groovy?

            Oh just writing SQL queries and watching youtube videos on quadratic equations, you?

            *Turns around and walks away*.

  • Mr. SSC June 13, 2018 at 8:59 am

    We had a Cambodian refugee stay with us during the mid-80’s while she was getting setup with permanent housing. It was only about 6 months, but eye-opening for me at the time. I was still in 3rd grade but man, I still remembered the stories she told of their escape, and life in their village. She would freak out (in US) when it rained and gather us into a room, running around closing the blinds so we wouldn’t see the bodies float up to the surface from their shallow graves, like she had grown up with… There was a LOT of stuff like that we learned about that still stuck with me to this day.

    She also taught us how to use chopsticks. When she asked if we had any we said, “Oh, we can buy some at the store later.” She looked at us like we were crazy and walked over to our rebud tree, snapped a few branches off, broke them to “chopstick length” and then got a kitchen knife and whittled them down some more. Voila, free chopsticks! We had those chopsticks for years after that. 🙂
    Yeah, we’re definitely privileged. The worst stuff I went thru as a kid pales in comparison to other parts of the world.
    Mr. SSC recently posted…You’re Promoted! Thanks, But I’m Quitting…

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:53 pm

      That is an insane story, and I’m sure something that seemed so foreign to you as a child. Probably hard to comprehend.

      I’m it sticks with you, as these things are going to stick with me… maybe not every day, and maybe not all the time. But it will, it already has changed the way I view a lot of things.

      But, on the bright side… you know how to make chopsticks!!

  • FIRECracker June 13, 2018 at 9:48 am

    Perspective is so important. I think travel definitely gives you that perspective. Living in the western world tends to give us rose-colored glasses.

    When I read this sentence:
    “How was your race determined? They put a pencil in your hair and you shook your head, if the pencil fell out you’re good to go!”

    It reminded me of what my parents went through during the Chinese cultural revolution. If you wore glasses, didn’t have enough calluses on your hands, and/or your parents were landlords or people who worked for the opposition party, you were immediately sent to off to a labour camp for 10 years.

    We are so lucky that none of us ever had to go through that. It’s always good to gain perspective and realize what the rest of the world has to go through. Thanks for writing this post!
    FIRECracker recently posted…The Fuck-over-ability Index

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 9:56 pm

      Travel most definitely has an impact on you, granted you get out of the resorts and mingle with the folks. Unfortunately, too many are afraid to make that happen.

      You are certainly a lot more intimate with that type of experience than we are. It’s hard for us to even imagine that type of thing. That’s exactly why the travel and exposure is so important.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life June 13, 2018 at 10:43 am

    I’m glad you wrote this.

    There’s a reason I talk to my indoor plumbing, and thank it for working, – it’s one of the many MANY ways we’re privileged. You’re right, just about anyone reading this is already highly privileged in all the ways you mention, and in having that perspective, we can both be more grateful for that which we do have (electricity, solid roof over our head, good food to CHOOSE from and eat, the luxury of having hobbies, the luxury of having more than one vehicle to every ten or hundred people) and we can find room in our hearts to do something to try and help others who aren’t nearly as fortunate.

    We’re living in bad times here in the US for a lot of reasons but a lot of us also have the tremendous privilege of working for a better nation. As your travels have revealed, plenty of people have lost their lives or been crippled for life just for looking like they didn’t agree with the current regime, or having the wrong skin color or the wrong hair type as decided by the party in charge.

    My uncle spent 20 years in a dirt prison, fed only by what his wife could bring him daily, for having served as an officer in an army that lost the war before he could immigrate to the US. My parents nearly died several times coming here. Just the sheer privilege of being born here is astounding. And we are better people for seeing that.
    Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life recently posted…The fun we had: Spring 2018

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 10:01 pm

      We really are blessed in ways that we all tend to take for granted. We are definitely trying to add more gratitude into our lives as we go through our days.

      We might be going through some “bad times” here in the US. But, they fact that we can both type those words without having them censored, or living in fear of being hunted down and jailed or worse is another thing we tend to take for granted.

      You have a lot more first hand experience with these types of things that we do. We are trying our best to understand. And hopefully help where we can.

  • freddy smidlap June 13, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    i read that whole article in the atlantic. it was very enlightening. i think we’re right on the edge of the 9.9 but don’t participate in those same ways. i hope to practice gratitude rather than self flagellate. like, i turned on a tap and clean potable water came out, lot’s of world citizens don’t have that.
    freddy smidlap recently posted…Good Eats for Cheap #1 – Artisan Bread and Grilled Turkey

    • Mr WoW June 13, 2018 at 10:04 pm

      Whether or not we are actually a part of 9.9, I don’t know. But I thought it was very enlightening, and thought provoking. I figured it would be good for a discussion.

      The fact that we are here, and when you think about some of the places we have been the average salary for a family of 4 is somewhere around $1,700. It’s shocking. You know the weird part is we think it’s bad. They don’t seem to mind, because they don’t know any different… they just don’t have doors on their houses, or don’t own a car. But the thing is, everyone is like that. So, there’s no jealousy, and no animosity.

      • freddy smidlap June 14, 2018 at 5:55 am

        absolutely. it’s a perspective thing. everybody was a shi*kicker where i grew up in the country and i didn’t even know i was one until going 800 miles away to a city for college.
        freddy smidlap recently posted…Good Eats for Cheap #1 – Artisan Bread and Grilled Turkey

        • Mr WoW June 14, 2018 at 7:56 pm

          And thus the importance of traveling outside your bubble. Even to the next town or city. Just being exposed to other people, other value systems and ways of life is an invaluable experience that can’t be replicated in books or movies.

  • Aparna @ Elementum Money June 14, 2018 at 2:26 am

    Wow! This was such a thought provoking article. I agree with you. We are all absolutely privileged and that is a fact we often tend to forget in our daily routines and wanting more from my life or even in comparing it peers who we believe have it better.

    It’s a good reminder to keep things in perspective. Made for a great read.

    • Mr WoW June 14, 2018 at 7:58 pm

      I’m hopeful that this post doesn’t aggravate anyone into thinking that we are apathetic to people’s plight. I don’t want anyone to take away that they need to “Buck up, it’s not that bad” That bad is a threshold that everyone has to define for themselves. But for us, we try to make it a point to understand that we truly are blessed and we truly are privileged.

      Perspective truly is powerful! And thanks for the compliments.

  • NWA-non June 14, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    Point on, potent, and necessary post.

    We constantly say how lucky we are to be so privileged. A lot of people around us take umbrage at the word privilege and try to insert a cute anecdote about oh-how-not-so-privileged they are. Most don’t even begin to understand their position in the ladder, as the Atlantic article put it. Either not realize or “figured out how to use the pretense of being part of the middle as one of our strategies for remaining on top”.

    Thank for putting in words what I’ve thought in my head.

    • Mr WoW June 14, 2018 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks. It’s great to hear that it’s resonating with some folks. We truly are lucky. We make it a point to tell ourselves that when things don’t seem to be going our way. It’s good to have a team mate (spouse) that can help remind you that life really isn’t all that bad, even on our worst days.

      Nice Acronym by the way… Straight outta Compton!

  • Physician on FIRE June 14, 2018 at 8:25 pm


    Yeah. We’re privileged AF.

    • Mr WoW June 15, 2018 at 8:14 am

      Makes you think a little, huh? It’s something that I have been grappling with through this whole journey. It’s a privilege to even have it be a possibility.

  • Ms. Fiology June 15, 2018 at 4:37 am

    Really good post. I am totally privileged. My favorite lines, “Privilege isn’t bad, just acknowledge it. Accept it. Remember to help those that might not have the same advantages.” Yeah, it’s what we do with all the privilege we’ve been given that truly matters. Those are some heart-wrenching stories that inspire action.

    Nice work.
    Ms. Fiology recently posted…My Experience On The Dave Ramsey Show

    • Mr WoW June 15, 2018 at 7:02 am

      I hope it inspires some action. I think that old saying out of sight out of mind is true. When you compare yourself to all the people around you that have more, you feel left behind. But if you change your perspective, you understand how truly good life is.

      I heard somewhere, today the average person’s life is better than all the kings of history. No imagine that… Julius Ceaser couldn’t turn on a tap and get clean drinkable water. Nuts.

      • Ms. Fiology June 15, 2018 at 9:26 am

        You are exactly right, out of sight out of mind. This is why it is so good to travel and see the world. However, there are no shortage of opportunities to serve those less fortunate in our own cities.
        Ms. Fiology recently posted…My Experience On The Dave Ramsey Show

        • Mr WoW June 16, 2018 at 7:43 am

          This is quite true as well. There is no shortage of people in need in this world, regardless of the country. It’s a matter of acknowledging the issue and doing something about it, or at least helping out in some way.

  • TheHappyPhilosopher June 15, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Seeing our own privilege is a difficult thing to do unless we are exposed to the contrast. Even then, it fades over time. Great post.

    • Mr WoW June 15, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Adaptation is what people are good at. They get used to where they are. So unless you are exposed to something to give you perspective, it’s hard to see where you actually stand.

      Like anything you need to measure. You have to have a comparison, to give you a perspective of where you stand. Things in isolation do give you any frame of reference.

  • The Sunday Best (6/17/2018) - Physician on FIRE June 17, 2018 at 12:56 am

    […] I am privileged, and so are you, as you will learn in this next post. Anthony Bourdain, medical mission work, apartheid and more are weaved into this excellent piece from Waffles on Wednesday. Privilege and Perspective. […]

  • Solitary Diner June 17, 2018 at 10:21 am

    This is a great article, but one thing I would add is the concept of intersectionality ( While many people in North America/UK are very privileged, there are many who greatly lack privilege due to factors such as race/income/health/geography/etc, with many of Canada’s Indigenous people coming to mind in particular. Many of the Canadian reserves have conditions similar to those in developing countries due to decades of government abuse and deprivation.

    • Mr WoW June 17, 2018 at 11:00 am

      You bring up a great point. Simply because you are from a highly developed country, you may not have the same advantages of people with the same borders.

      There are marginalized people everywhere. And while my specific eye opening experience has to do with international traveling, the same experience could be had right here, in our own backyard. Sobering to think about.

      Thanks for bringing that up.

    • SightseeMD June 17, 2018 at 1:29 pm

      Great point! I often find that the medicaid children my wife cares for and operates on in our generic small Midwest town USA are as in need of care as the ones she cares for in small Yucatán villages in Mexico, etc. They are raised by poor grandparents because mom and dad are high on heroin and lost custody. They are often brought by an aunt or grandmother (the lucky ones, foster parents the others), are wearing dirty clothes, and eating only what is provided by school lunch program. It’s certainly not as “cool” to care for these kids as the ones in Mexico, Kenya, etc but I admire her all the more for her devotion to her patients.
      SightseeMD recently posted…A World Apart…

      • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:35 pm

        This is amazing!! It’s important to realize that just because we are advantaged, so many people within the same country are not. And yes, it’s trendy and even cool to go to some of these places and do these things, while there are so many things going on in our own country that need help. It’s important to not lose sight of that as well.

  • SightseeMD June 17, 2018 at 11:15 am

    One hell of a post. Thanks for sharing. Provides some much needed perspective.

  • Bob June 17, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    I remember a professor of mine in grad school saying there were no poor people in America by world standards. People tried to argue, but he cut their arguments to pieces. It’s even illegal for a hospital here to kick you out of the ER. They will spend a hundred thousand to save you even if you are here illegally, let alone just poor. The older I get, the more I realize he was right. Even the food scraps in the dumpster in back of macdonalds is safer to eat than most of the food in third world countries.

    Finally, I think the word privilege has gotten a bad rap because of the association with ”white privilege” , a social justice argument that many whites find, ironically, racist, and at the very least has become a punchline.

    • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:36 pm

      Perspective. That’s a great way to teach perspective. I just feel it’s important to be aware of these things and understand that simply by luck we have access to a lot of things that some people will never see or get a chance to experience.

  • Joel June 18, 2018 at 6:17 am

    You nailed it. We have all won the life lottery.

    When I was growing up my parents made me sponsor a child in Africa. We wrote and received letters back and forth from these kids and quickly learned how privileged we were. I will never forget it, and will make my kids do the same.

    Great post!
    Joel recently posted…Ready… Set… STRESS!

    • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:33 pm

      That’s great. I think it’s good to sit down and reflect every so often, because we do lose sight of these things as we go about our day to day lives.

      It just good to have some perspective, and to help out where we can.

  • Abdul Aouwal June 19, 2018 at 3:19 am

    Again Another Great Post Thank . Simply WOW MR WOW 🙂

    • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the positive enforcement!

  • Luis June 19, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Typical” spoilt brat “ writing: i began reading the article, but did not finish. Being from a third world country I can tell you things are much more complex. Why the black leaders od South Africa today steal the money of the country and don’t invest in the progress.Is very convenient to blame the Apartheid .

    • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:31 pm

      I’m for certain that things are always more complex than they seem, especially from an outsider’s perspective, having not lived through any thing even remotely close to the two situations described.

      I appreciate that there are many things that are still causing issues today, and the point was to really be thankful for how good most of us actually have it.

  • Mr. Groovy June 22, 2018 at 10:42 am

    Great post, Mr. WoW. The way you describe privilege is legit. I prefer, however, to use the word fortunate instead. To me, privilege means the government or some authority gives something to you but denies it to others for capricious reasons. Case in point. In order to join the marines, male recruits need to do three pull ups. Female recruits need to hang for twenty seconds. Now that’s privilege. Female recruits don’t have to meet the same standards as male recruits. Now let’s swing back to you. You mentioned that both you and Mrs. WoW were both raised in two-parent households. Is that privilege? Did either of your parents do something that other heterosexual couples weren’t allowed to do (i.e., get married)? When was the last time the government denied a marriage license to a heterosexual couple? Sorry to be a dick***d. I normally don’t quibble over semantics. I just think the word privilege should be used for government coerced advantages. But advantages that come from nature (good looks, great athletic ability, high IQ, etc.) or result from decisions that everyone is free to make (taking school seriously, delaying child-bearing until married, being nice, etc.) should be understood as good fortune. Okay, Mr. WoW, sorry for the blather. I’ll shut up now.

    • Mr WoW June 23, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      I looked up privilege and found this definition, “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”

      I think you are right in that there is a specific difference between institutional rights bestowed to certain groups, and the idea that certain advantages exist simply because of who you are.

      While I think definitions or terms are important, I think the point is that there are certain things we take for granted, and we just need to be aware and recognize these things.

      In terms of the marriage thing, no our parents didn’t do anything that other hetero couples weren’t allowed to do, but if you broaden the scope, the decidedly did some something other couples weren’t allowed to do, eg. mixed-race, homosexual, etc. So to answer your question… laws prohibiting mixed-race heterosexual marriages were struck down in the US in 1967: That is not all that long ago.

  • Mr. Groovy June 24, 2018 at 4:41 am

    Excellent points, Mr. WoW. And thank you for the refresher on our miscegenation laws. I knew interracial marriage was illegal in some states up until a couple of generations ago. Just wasn’t sure when those laws were finally struck down. Now I’m curious. How many children grew up in single-parent households because of those laws? There’s probably a surprising amount. Do you know any inspiring young documentarians? This is an interesting story.
    Mr. Groovy recently posted…How Can You Feel Good about Investing in Evil Corporations?

    • Mr WoW June 24, 2018 at 10:17 am

      I know it’s not in the US, but Trevor Noah (the current host of the Daily Show) was born of a mixed race couple in South Africa and was basically hidden. I haven’t read his book, but I hear it’s worth the read:

      I’m sure there are plenty of families that were broken apart by those laws, and maybe we could find a film maker. Or maybe that’s a new project?

      These things take generations to filter through society. So we still have a way to go!

      • Mr. Groovy June 25, 2018 at 4:18 am

        Didn’t know that about Trevor. Very interesting. And you’re right, wrongs take many generations to become neutralized.

  • Minimizing our “Out’s” (Where we choose to spend less money)—Part I – B.C. Krygowski July 27, 2018 at 2:07 am

    […] to me. Yet there’s a tension inside me because I know what true poverty is and that I am privileged, even in my frugality. I’ve volunteered overseas and lived in villages with houses made out of […]

  • Tamara Alexandre December 16, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Great POST. Thanks a lot for sharing it.

    • Mr WoW December 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm

      sure thing!


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