Privilege used to have a general meaning, that you had achieved a right by education, promotion, or sheer hard work. There was a clear pathway, others could see how you got there, and it generally revolved around integrity. But privilege was also connected to a process through community of some description. To be a leader meant that others knew you, knew you had integrity, knew you were for real. In education, especially tertiary, one must be constantly in dialogue and in research and writing, peer reviewed, and of those who worked hard it was that they had rubbed shoulders with many and got their hands dirty in the area or topic they were passionate about.
I’m not American, but I’m concerned that America has descended to privilege those not entitled to be. Take the case of the current president of the U.S. Donald Trump, a business celebrity who appears to be incapable of being a state-like leader. Of course there are a number of theories as to how he got elected:
- Tough talk in a time of weak talk.
- Promises to the disappearing middle-class.
- Playing the race fear card.
- Tough talk on defence.
- Rhetoric: Make America Great Again
- Crass talk: playing up the larikin male.
- Religious manipulation: playing up to conservative Christians.
- Not being Hilary: the backlash on privilege factor.
- Voter participation was low.
And they’re just a few. I think tick all would apply. It says to me that, irrespective of who he is, Trump didn’t get there by hard work, education, or promotion. In my view, he has no integrity because he is clearly manipulative rather than consistent or open. Part of his getting there was his public persona, so he has traded on his celebrity status (if you’re thinking about Ronald Reagan, no matter your view of him, at least he got involved in state politics and worked at it).
Then comes the #Me Too campaign, an important step forward for victims of sexual abuse (and shameful for leaders, entertainers and others privileged by power). And up pops Oprah Winfrey. Now I quite like some of her interviews and some of her book recommendations, however, I really wonder if her Golden Globe moment (and I loved her speech) wasn’t with a view to self privilege, I have questioned if this was a deleiberate act (and maybe it was selfless). And I wonder that those Democrats who decried the nomination of Trump as shallow because he was a celebrity, are now being hyocritical by suggesting the nomination of Oprah to run for president.
My own view is that both Trump and Oprah are being privileged by status, power and money, neither are really political nor really connected to the real process of legislative leadership.
And it is my view that Trump and Oprah are constructs in the public mind, they are who the public want (need?) them to be, when more than likely, they are not anything like that nor capable of being like that (who is?). In the hands of poltical parties they are a product that can be marketed and thus consumed. My fave actor is Juliette Binoche, but while I love her work and some of her opinions, I wouldn’t want her to be president or prime minister simply based on my fascination for her as an actor. Same goes for the really wealthy, for example; Bill Gates, Warren Buffet. It leaves me thinking that celebrity is privileged not just by status and wealth, but also by liminance – that they evoke in us a warmth, a fondness, a feeling not unlike falling in love.
Privileging a leader is also about gain, those who privilege want to be privileged, a never ending sychophantic cycle.
So where is the integrity in leadership? And who will speak for those not privileged (including our friends – nature)? Who will set aside privilege in order to lead?