Sunday, February 18, 2007

Privileged Behaviors

At a faculty meeting the other day, a professor got up and reported that one professor had slapped another one. It was a way of criticizing the Dean for not punishing the alleged aggressor. The actual event had occurred several weeks ago, the Dean knew about it, undertook an investigation, and evidently decided the “slap” was something far less serious and that at some level both parties had left much to be desired with respect to their behavior.

But “the slap” is not the point of this post. Instead is that when the faculty member arose to repeat his version of the event there were people in the meeting who knew all that I have written here and remained utterly silent. That is, they permitted a person to state facts that they knew were inaccurate and harmful to others but there they sat. Not a word.

Increasingly, I think this is yet another characteristic of the privileged. Far more than those less privileged they are likely to remain silent, allow others to suffer, and avoid controversy.

If you believe in cost benefit analysis, what is the cost to the privileged of sticking their necks out from time to time? First, they never miss a free riding opportunity. The wise course of action for these folks is to wait and see if someone else will take the plunge. Second, for the privileged, controversy itself is a cost. It does not matter what the cause is. If there is any chance of a “fight” they disappear.

When you think about it, this is the essence of being privileged. Being privileged means having a sense of entitlement. If you are entitled it is unseemly to try too hard, stick your neck out, or appear to want something too much. The status quo is that you deserve what ever you want. If they ever slip up it is to complain that you have encroached on their scope of entitlement. Thus, their response to confrontation is that you have insulted them or distrusted them or behaved inappropriately. In other words the issue is your treatment of them – not the real issue.

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