Trickle-down Privilege

bulldozer-1357600_960_720By Dhanya Nair

As I turned around a corner, I saw a lone seagull landing momentarily in the middle of an empty road, poised to take flight again. I also noticed a speeding car through the corner of my eye, and hoped the driver would slow down, as there was no traffic. But, to my immense horror, the driver crushed the bird and sped on. I paused and looked at that poor creature, it had no inkling its life would be snuffed out quite so suddenly. Roadkill is so common that we don’t spare a second thought for it. However, the dead seagull got me thinking about hierarchies in the world. As a mere bird, the poor gull had no moral authority over a human driving purposefully to some end. Its life was disposable and the motorist had exercised her/his human privilege by killing it.

Our ascendancy as humans over other species in this world is also a mark of our collective arrogance. The firm, unflinching belief that we matter the most. “Survival of the fittest” explains why we became the most dominant species, and we have used that theory to justify pseudo-meritocracies, colonialism, slavery, and pretty much any kind of exploitation and manipulation. As humans, we have decided who among our own gets the most and least amount of privilege; for instance, a citizen of a “First World” nation should have more privilege than a citizen of “Third World” nation. To me, it seems like the unwritten rule is for privilege to be trickle-down in nature. As humans, we are trained to conceptualize the world around us in the form of hierarchies and structures. It probably helps us navigate this immensely complex world in a relatively simple manner. Hence, the driver who killed the seagull was able to get to her/his destination without pausing to spare the bird’s life as she/he was secure in the knowledge that her/his moral right as a human was superior to the bird’s. The consequences of such automatic thinking make me shudder. Are we as humans condemned to bulldoze our way through the lives of some or the other creature or our fellow human beings?

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