Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Self-Determination and Privilege

I wanted to write a post elucidating my thoughts on the interaction between Nihilism and Socialism, but I think I need to write about the concept of self-determination as I see it first.
To me, self-determination means having the ability to shape your course in life. I have this in excess, and am extremely privileged to have it (if it can be described as an it?). As a teenager I was encouraged by my family to explore my passions and interests, so I did. I got really into music, played in several bands, and eventually decided to go and study Jazz at university. I later decided that being a professional Jazz musician was not for me, so switched degrees and started studying biology and statistics instead, and was supported through this transition. On top of this, I live in a country where, assuming you have sufficient support (government assistance really isn't enough) you can do this. I'll get more to this point in the next post I have planned about Nihilism and Socialism.

A while back a friend asked me what the relationship was between atheism and privilege, and I had to think about it for a while. The capacity to form independent opinions on metaphysical issues at odds with your instilled cultural values seems to me to be largely contingent on education and socio-economic privilege. So it could be said that Atheism in the modern western sense, particularly the odious brand of it dubbed 'New Atheism' is a first world phenomenon. Most people struggling to get by in third-world countries don't have the luxury to set time aside to study philosophy and contemplate the existence or non-existence of gods and their place in the universe. So while I don't think there is any 'privilege' associated with atheism itself, there does seem to be a correlation between socio-economic privilege and 'New Atheism' at the very least.

Following from this, self-determination in your direction in life is also contingent on privilege. People in poverty typically have greatly diminished options in life, often being forced out of economic desperation to go straight into work if they can find it straight after high school or even drop out early to support their family. This happens in so-called first-world countries. So it follows from this that the distribution of privilege in the capacity that it allows an individual to meaningfully determine their own course in life is not equal. In a capitalist system, those with more wealth are accorded more freedom to do whatever they want in life, to the point where in some capitalist societies *cough* America *cough* they apparently have the freedom to buy politicians, and rig the political system in their favour.

To be continued soon, hopefully.

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