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Privilege Does Not Mean Success in U.S.

Just because a person is successful, that is financially successful, does not mean they were privileged. Privilege can have the negative meaning of today, receipt of something not earned, or the positive meaning of yesterday, a responsibility towards those less well-off. Success creates privilege, not vice versa. Success creates an obligation to help others be successful, but not to provide hand-outs implying the recipients can't make it on their own.


Nor does financial success or privilege make a person good or bad, materialistic or not. Any combination is possible, and like all humans, it's typically a mix. A financially successful person, just as a less well-off person, can be good or bad; most are a mix. And a financially successful person, just as a less well-off person, can be more or less materialistic. Likewise, a privileged person, in the sense of having more resources from whatever source, can be a good or bad person, and more or less materialistic; again, most are a mix.


Certainly success hinges on several factors, some in our control, some not. If not born in a democratic country, statistically that person is less likely to be successful. Without good physical and mental health, success may be less likely, but not impossible. If fortunate enough to be born, or living, in a democratic country, success still requires individual hard work, discipline and persistence.


Talent and intelligence are lower on this list because without the work, neither talent and intelligence, alone or together, promise success. And luck matters even less, unless it is the luck created by hard work as in, the harder I work, the luckier I get. Nor is it merely being in the right place at the right time since it's often our choices that land us in the right place at the right time, or allow us to see and seize an opportunity that arises.


While coming from a family with more means, regardless of race or ethnicity, may be an advantage, it's no guarantee of success. Conversely, while coming from a family of less means, again regardless of race or ethnicity, may be a disadvantage, it doesn't always result in failure. Neither outcome is a foregone conclusion. If either were true, everyone from means would be successful, and everyone from less means would be a failure. Success is not automatic or predestined, nor is failure. Ultimately, success is up to each individual - their goals, their drive, their work ethic.


Success usually takes time, often involves some boring work, compliance with rules, completion of administrative tasks. Rarely the stuff of instant gratification, sound bytes, fleeting appearances, flashiness. A goal, a decision, a commitment, follow thru. None of these can be bought or given. They must be chosen and earned, to last.


To view individuals as not responsible for their success or failure is to send the message that neither is within the power of the individual - that success is only given, not earned, that failure is unavoidable. This is the opposite of hope, the opposite of democracy, the opposite of free markets, the opposite of the American Dream.

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