On privilege, powerlessness, and self-help

If you are in a position to deride self-help, you were probably born into privilege and access to power and take it completely for granted. Of such elites, James Hamilton writes:

So much of what they do is pure Tony Robbins. But they don’t know that, because actually, it’s just what people at their level in society do. Not overtly, or even knowingly: there’s no need. They’ll never be as self-conscious about it as people like me who have had to get it all out of a book (if not that one) because there was nowhere else for it to come from.

The only thing these people find more horrifying than self-help books is actual psychotherapy.

And here’s something to remember when pondering what kind of world you want to live in:

…I wonder if they have quite realized how unusual they are in British life. That their luck and fortune might lie – not in the results of their decisions, but in their assumption that they can make their decisions at all.

I want to live in a world where every person believes at their core that she can make her own decisions. We’re not going to get there by abdicating more power to hierarchies and subjugating individuals “for their own good.” Because “for their own good” always ends up being “for your own good.”

Link via Brian Micklethwait, who has helped me so much to make sense of the world and is someone I miss very much from my old life in London.


2 thoughts on “On privilege, powerlessness, and self-help

  1. I’ve lived what I’d call a liminal life–on the edge between multiple worlds. I grew up in a financially comfortable family (my Dad is a research scientist, not a hedge fund manager or night watchman) so I had a very secure upbringing.

    On the other hand, for many of my childhood years, I went to a very expensive private school (my dad actually had to leave NASA’s JPL and join a for-profit company for the family to afford to send me there) which was filled with the children of the truly wealthy, and even a number of celebrities.

    What seems to be the result is a fundamental sense of security that’s balanced with an understanding of being an outsider. In many ways, I feel like it’s the best of both worlds.

    1. Chris, the details of my story are (as you know) very different, but with a similar result. I’m just as comfortable in a redneck bar as I am in a five-star hotel. (Well, the hotel is probably more comfortable by virtue of its luxury, but you know what I mean.) I agree that this is the best of both worlds: to be able to move between echelons without being truly “of” any of them. It’s a vastly more interesting life, with maximum randomness without chaos. More possibilities, minimal doom.

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