Shameless Privilege

It appears that William H. Macy’s character from ‘Shameless,’ Frank Gallagher, is in the shadow of the actions of his wife, Felicity Huffman and others including actress Lori Laughlin from “Full House” fame, arrested for bribes concerning university placements for their kids.

Come on people; you can do better than that. You have the resources to reach out to Jared Kushner’s dad as to how this is done. He pledged $2.5 million at Harvard in 1998 for a placement for his son who is not a rocket scientist. The money spent on this criminal activity could have been invested in tutors and teaching aids to empower these kids. Discovering where their interests, strengths and weaknesses lay but common sense and integrity is absent from this equation. Buying the rights so one can promote their offspring as attending an Ivey League school is embarrassing. It’s how you apply what you learn that matters, not where you go. But like the character Stuart from “MADtv” screaming “look at me, look at me,” the press is doing exactly that, but not through the lens these folks had hoped. This type of action isn’t power; it’s a new kind of stupid. Perhaps the parents that participated should consider going back to school themselves to get their compass on life adjusted as it’s pointing due south at the moment. To quote Thich Nhat Hanh, “My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand. Add to that Mark Twain, “Everyone has a right to be stupid; some people just abuse the privilege.”

Privileged kids have no exemption when it comes to working toward opportunities. While many apply themselves, others are busy banking ‘likes.’ Entitlement does not serve as immunity on one’s journey of life. The idea of paying to be connected and having doors open has been around forever, but that doesn’t make it right. Kids need to learn that by applying themselves they get to grow into who they can become and that journey is a rich experience with an outcome that can exceed their wildest dreams. It’s their parent’s job to teach them that. The same people who would benefit from learning that this type of behaviour demonstrates shameless privilege. Something they get to wear alongside their designer threads. You have to be detached from reality to believe that actions initiated on the grounds of privilege, appearance and ego are okay. Further, it’s not a bad idea that these folks are reminded to put some stock into character as it has a far greater return especially since death is the great equalizer.

Universities can’t point fingers either. Before they are bastions of education, they are businesses. Move over Coke, Pepsi and Doritos. After having three kids go through the process, I have experienced first hand that these establishments focus is on maintaining their brand and money speaks directly to that. Some of these institutions alongside these parents could stand to have a refresher course, reviewing the subject that character, achievement and ethics are valuable investments. The silver lining in this sham is the attention it has brought to the kids that have no resources, who are genuinely committed to academic excellence. They are truly deserving of these opportunities. Their dedication to their success are the qualities of tomorrow’s leaders.

In contrast to this fiasco of deception exists a 15-year-old girl with Aspergers Syndrome, named Greta Thunberg from Sweden. She isn’t entitled nor privileged and possesses character, achievement and ethics. She doesn’t care one iota what other people think, neither do her parents.  She’s on a mission and knows how to declare herself. Her calling is to change the world when it comes to climate change, hugely empathic for humanity calling it like it is. Brave, candid, with no apologies. She cares only to bring to task, the politician’s climate change agendas from around the world. One teenager, void of privilege, who knows who she is: no illusion, prestige, or yachts, just reality, aligned with the essential things in life. She is poised in dignity while declaring a state of emergency for the planet. She is Grace and grit and currently being recognized for the Nobel Peace Prize. There are others like her coming up through the ranks working a hundred times harder, void of glamour and ‘likes’ infused only with a purpose. These are our future stakeholders that the universities should be seeking out. Greta and kids like her give me promise for the future. Kushner and those like him, make me lose sleep.

My dad told me a tree bends easier when it’s younger than when it’s older. When you watch your little angel screw up, and you give them the room to experience their consequences, contrast is born. That experience becomes a teachable moment for them. It’s easier to fall as a kid, then as an adult. Teach them at a young age that it’s okay to fall and don’t judge it. Focus instead on showing them how to get back up. Resiliency is an empowering life skill as is common sense and integrity. To miss that chapter in one’s formative years is to deny them critical life experiences. Encourage your kids, but remember you can’t live their lives.  We didn’t subscribe to the Tiger mom philosophy and were the anthesis of helicopter parents. Our kids were raised on cause and effect. We instilled in them that their currency was their marks and that an exemplary standing is earned not bought. They were responsible for the penalty or reward of their choices. Welcome to life.

Now, adults, our kids are aware that what others think of them is none of their business. When they fall, they know how to get back up and they have no stock in ‘likes.’ Starting from the basement in their careers they are learning on every level as they excel while tasting their success incrementally and consistently. Should they choose to take significant risks on any of the floors, they arrive at in their life, and fall, they’ll know how to return to where they once were because of their resiliency.

As parents, we have the privilege of being blessed with kids that we get to guide into adulthood. From there they belong to Life who is a blessing and a bitch. She has kicked all our asses around the block and has also had us fall to our knees in gratitude. Life does not bow down or acknowledge the ego. She has no favourites and nor does she play into the privileged psyche.  She does not believe in the separation of ‘us and them’ but stands firmly in ‘we.’ Life does not care about appearances. Illusion governs actions that are out of integrity. And Karma is the biggest bitch of all. Leaning in the doorway, taking one last drag of her cigarette as she flicks it, decimating it with her black stiletto heel and unmercifully whispering, “I saw that.”

Growing up, it was ‘sink or swim’ for our generation. A script many of us experienced first hand. Our luxuries came packaged as Lola’s and Mr. Freezies void of yachts. Formal education was a dream that one had to earn by applying themselves.

Life is a journey. If you have the means, it can be even more demanding with the goalpost higher because you have the resources in which to reach it, and when you do, what a reward. You just have to work for it. Resiliency, balance and motivation are empowering. Illusion and deception are not reality. Some of the greatest scholars, innovators and writers are born out of conquering adversity, possessing curiosity, imagination and fascination for the myriad of aspects that life offers. Life’s experiential lessons serve as their contrast.  It is where their ideas, insights and brilliance radiates — finding the joy in the pain and the light in the darkness — fully experiencing life’s diverse dimensions while striving for excellence. Our advancement as humanity has no room for entitlement and self-admiration, only Grace and grit.

As this unfolds, what will be interesting to witness is whether or not anyone is incarcerated because it will prove that if you have enough money, then you can get away with anything. And that would also be a crime.

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