The Paradox of Privilege image

The Paradox of Privilege

In 2007, the Gallup organisation asked people around the world whether they felt they were leading meaningful lives. It turns out that Liberia was the country where the most people felt a sense of meaning and purpose, while the Netherlands was the place where the lowest percentage of people did.

This is not because life was necessarily sweeter in Liberia. On the contrary. But Liberians possessed what Paul Froese calls “existential urgency.” In the turmoil of their lives, they were compelled to make fierce commitments to one another merely to survive. They were willing to risk their lives for one another. And these fierce commitments gave their lives a sense of meaning.

That’s the paradox of privilege. When we are well-off we chase the temporary pleasures that actually draw us apart. We use our wealth to buy big houses with big yards that separate us and make us lonely. But in crisis we are compelled to hold closely to one another in ways that actually meet our deepest needs.

- David Brooks, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life

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