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Too Many Blessings?

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Sometimes I find it enjoyable to read advice columns and try to predict the answer. I’d like to share a portion of a question that was published on Tuesday in the New York Times Magazine’s “The Ethicist,” and I invite you to listen and think about how you might respond.

“When my father died,” the questioner writes, “I inherited a large trust fund and sole ownership of a family business. I was young and woefully unprepared, so I put my inheritance on the back burner and lived my life as if I was financially “normal.” However, since the pandemic, my portfolio has hit a new high. I am utterly distraught. I feel that I should have never gotten so wealthy when people are suffering so much.”

The person goes on to ask how much money it is ethical to keep.

Depicting privilege (Seattle Times)

Many of us may find it challenging to empathize with someone whose distress literally comes from having more money than they know what to do with. But actually, there is something notable about this questioner, something positive which can’t be said of most people — this person knows how lucky they are, and they don’t attribute their good fortune to their own capabilities, or believe that they have earned it or deserved it.

Many of us in recent years have become familiar with the use of the word privilege to mean an advantage that a person or group may have that others don’t, by virtue of something that they don’t control. People may have privilege by virtue of being white, or male, or wealthy, or able-bodied, or conventionally attractive, or by any number of other features. These things help the person get ahead in ways that they didn’t “earn,” but which they don’t necessarily have control over. And most people have some things about them that give them privilege, and some things that don’t.

The person who wrote this question recognizes that they did not earn this wealth, and that this wealth allows them to do things that other people cannot. Many of us who have recognized the privileges that we have, whether because of our race, or our gender, or our sexual orientation, or our socioeconomic status, may still be coming to terms with what it means........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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