Social Privilege and NVC

I sim­ply intend to share my sub­jec­ti­ve truth and I am open and curious about your sub­jec­ti­ve truth. Please let me know how you hold the con­cept of social pri­vi­le­ge in the comments section.

In my Nonviolent Communication we want social chan­ge only if all par­ties con­cer­ned do it with an ener­gy of joy.
We do not want peop­le to chan­ge, if they do things moti­va­ted from guilt, fear, obli­ga­ti­on or shame.

So, we do not want to for­get the second ques­ti­on, as Marshall so con­cise­ly put it.
1) What do I want someo­ne to do dif­fer­ent­ly?
2) For what rea­sons do I want the other per­son to do as I wish?

So, how about the con­cept of social privilege?

Some prac­ti­tio­ners of non­vio­lent com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on have intro­du­ced the con­cept of “pri­vi­le­ge” as a hel­pful tool to fos­ter more social jus­ti­ce, more equal access to some of the mate­ri­al resour­ces such as housing, job oppor­tu­ni­ty or per­so­nal wealth in gene­ral. They see pri­vi­le­ge as an “obser­va­ti­on” — may­be as a term, that brings tog­e­ther many fac­tu­al obser­va­tions about many peop­le. In social sci­en­ces such sta­tis­tics can be used to make state­ments about cer­tain social groups as a who­le. (For examp­le: The average sala­ry of women is X per­cent less then the sala­ry of men, all other things being equal. — or — Since the second world war white fami­lies have been able built wealth 10 times fas­ter than black fami­lies in the United States.) So the­re is “white pri­vi­le­ge” and the­re is “male pri­vi­le­ge” — and the­re is “Northern pri­vi­le­ge” or “white color pri­vi­le­ge” and many more groups of peop­le could be pri­vi­le­ged in com­pa­ri­son to other groups. “Heterosexual pri­vi­le­ge” … “Old age privilege”

The idea is perhaps that if we beco­me awa­re of pri­vi­le­ge as the other side of an injus­ti­ce, we might be more wil­ling to see our power to con­tri­bu­te to change. 

I per­so­nal­ly feel com­pa­ra­ti­ve thin­king is an expres­si­on of unmet needs. If I say to mys­elf: “I am pri­vi­le­ged, becau­se as I per­son from a white fami­ly, I have 8 times more wealth than an average black per­son.” how would I feel? Guilty, angry, irri­ta­ted? Grateful, joy­ous, satis­fied? I am not in the USA — but if I were a black per­son, I can check for mys­elf how rela­te to the fact that the average US citi­zen is X times more weal­ty than the average Russian citi­zen. How do I rela­te to that thought?

A very inte­res­ting twist on that appears when I look at the idea of “wil­ling­ness to ack­now­le­ge a pri­vi­le­ge peop­le bene­fit from.” Here it gets real­ly uncomfortable.

A) Nobody can obser­ve the wil­ling­ness of someo­ne else. Willingness is inter­nal in each per­son. Even if someo­ne says: “I am wil­ling.” I can not expe­ri­ence his or her will direct­ly. It could be untrue.

B) To make state­ments from out­side about the wil­ling­ness of someo­ne is over­step­ping a bor­der of pri­va­cy. It can lead to a loss of trust, that we are being respec­ted and may lead to esca­la­ting dis­con­nec­tion bet­ween peop­le. We can see the dyna­mic bet­ween coun­tries and bet­ween people.

A quo­te from the per­son, that hel­ped make social pri­vi­le­ge gain cur­ren­cy, Peggy McIntosh:
Some aca­de­mics, such as Peggy McIntosh, high­light a pat­tern whe­re tho­se who bene­fit from a type of pri­vi­le­ge are unwil­ling to ack­now­ledge it. The argu­ment may fol­low that such a deni­al con­sti­tu­tes a fur­ther injus­ti­ce against tho­se who do not bene­fit from the same form of pri­vi­le­ge. (From Wikipedia, arti­cle “Social privilege”)

This to me sounds like a demand on pri­vi­le­ged peop­le to admit that they bene­fit from unde­ser­ved pri­vi­le­ge and, if not ack­now­led­ging it, they com­mit a fur­ther injus­ti­ce com­pa­red to others.

A num­ber of vio­lent lan­guage ele­ments (jack­al) from the tea­ching of Marshall B. Rosenberg com­bi­ne in “social pri­vi­le­ge” as I see it. 

  • Generalizing
  • Comparative thin­king — Marshall says: “Never encou­ra­ge com­pa­ra­ti­ve thinking.”
  • Deserving — one of the most vio­lent concepts
  • Indirect request
  • Guilt trip­ping

Since jack­al expres­si­on of needs leads to tra­gic results, social pri­vi­le­ge most likely will add to injustice.

Here is what I find on Wikipedia on “social privilege”:

Social pri­vi­le­ge is a theo­ry of spe­cial advan­ta­ge or enti­t­le­ment, used to one’s own bene­fit and/or to the detri­ment of others. Privileged groups can be advan­ta­ged based on social class, cas­te, age, height, natio­na­li­ty, disa­bi­li­ty, eth­nic or racial cate­go­ry, gen­der, gen­der iden­ti­ty, neu­ro­lo­gy, sexu­al ori­en­ta­ti­on, phy­si­cal attrac­ti­ve­ness, and reli­gi­on. It is gene­ral­ly con­si­de­red to be a theo­re­ti­cal con­cept used in a varie­ty of sub­jects and often lin­ked to social inequality.Privilege is also lin­ked to social and cul­tu­ral forms of power. It began as an aca­de­mic con­cept, but has sin­ce been invo­ked more wide­ly, out­side of academia.

This sub­ject is based on the inter­ac­tions of dif­fe­rent forms of pri­vi­le­ge wit­hin cer­tain situa­tions. Furthermore, it must be unders­tood as the inver­se of social ine­qua­li­ty, in that it focu­ses on how power struc­tures in socie­ty aid socie­tal­ly pri­vi­le­ged peop­le, as oppo­sed to how tho­se struc­tures opp­ress others.

In the con­text of the theo­ry, pri­vi­le­ged peop­le are con­si­de­red to be “the norm”, and, as such, gain invi­si­bi­li­ty and ease in socie­ty, with others being cast as infe­ri­or variants

This theo­ry has been and is invo­ked out­side of aca­de­mia and its mea­ning has chan­ged from its ori­gi­nal mea­ning. It has led to an atmo­s­phe­re and prac­ti­ce of “can­cel cul­tu­re” whe­re anyo­ne who is found guil­ty of some lack of awa­reness about pri­vi­le­ge can be cal­led out for it — “Check your pri­vi­le­ge” has beco­me a way of shut­ting up peop­le from cer­tain groups — espe­cial­ly white males — who are at the lowest moral rank in the world, becau­se they have access to the most resour­ces — on “average”. So, in the name of social chan­ge, we are now see­ing a world of sepa­ra­ti­on, whe­re a black poet can only be trans­la­ted by a black trans­la­tor (Germany), becau­se a mem­ber of non-black com­mu­ni­ty can­not know what if feels like to be born in a black body and to live in a black body. 


I feel sad see­ing the avalan­ce of misun­derstan­dings with the ori­gnal tea­ching of Marshall Rosenberg, who attemp­ted to con­nect with anyo­ne and espe­cial­ly enemies through needs, through trans­la­ti­on of any kind of judgment into needs and awa­reness of any jug­men­tal concepts. 

I see sys­tems as attempts of our human intel­lect to make sen­se of the world. I shi­ver see­ing the impact of the Bolchevik revo­lu­ti­on, attemp­t­ing to address some real social injus­ti­ce under the old “sys­tem” of tsarist Russia and estab­li­shing a new sys­tems, that cost mil­li­ons of peop­le to suf­fer and to die. So any sys­tem is a stra­te­gy and I would like to under­stand my needs and obser­va­tions that com­bi­ne into this request of a “sys­tem” and not fall for the sys­tem to be a rea­li­ty and decla­re tho­se who do not share tho­se views/strategies to be unwil­ling and make them wrong for that. The cur­rent black lives mat­ter move­ment comes from an out­cry of pain and — at the same time — it is put­ting oil onto the fla­mes of dis­con­nec­tion by using jack­al struc­tures in lan­guage and expres­si­on of needs. For as long as our fight for social chan­ge inclu­des vio­lent means, it keeps the sys­tem of right and wrong in place and vio­lence will continue.

Marshall Rosenberg said: “How do we want to crea­te a peace­ful world, if we can­not crea­te peace insi­de of us.” He also said that for us to con­tri­bu­te to social chan­ge we need to do a) des­pair work (work with our inten­se emo­ti­ons in the face of over­whel­ming injus­ti­ce) and b) learn how to love Hitler (huma­ni­ze tho­se who opp­ress us or others, we love). 

Never do anything that isn’t play.

The two prac­ti­ces Marshall Rosenberg recom­mends — work with our own inten­se emo­ti­ons and our enemy image thin­king — cer­tain­ly can lead to ama­zing results. Marshall inspi­red a mul­ti­tu­de of other peop­le to fol­low him and to car­ry his ener­gy of love and peace fur­ther. That was the result of his own prac­ti­ce of tho­se two steps.

Also bud­dhist prac­ti­ces of mind­ful medi­ta­ti­on can sup­port us. Hear bro­ther Phap Dung talk about this and bro­ther Phap Luu too. (link soon to come) Social chan­ge from an ener­gy of figh­t­ing can actual­ly lead to the oppo­si­te of the inten­ded results. So, if we take care of our­sel­ves, we take care of the world. We do not need to save the world, we can trust that we will find the place whe­re we can do our work — every step mat­ters. With gra­ti­tu­de and awa­reness of our inter­being, we will make every step when it is the time for this step.

I would like to hear from you, what hel­ps you to enga­ge in dif­fi­cult situa­tions and stay con­nec­ted to a loving and peace­ful ener­gy, not to fall into hat­red and revengefullness?

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