unequal_soup_business_desk

Once upon a time a friend posted this article — which I like but I have issues with.

In order to talk about some things I have loosely planned o talk about, I need to reference this article, and explain my issues with it. I think the author had a number of very good points but misses the grander point (in my mind).

Inner vs. Outer Resources

Consider these two lists (not exhaustive, just for the sake of illustration):
Inner Resources

  • Creativity
  • Self-Discipline
  • Confidence
  • Intelligence
  • Determination
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitude
  • Passion
  • Awareness

Outer Resources

  • Money
  • Assets
  • People
  • Technology
  • Food
  • Land
  • Electricity

Its telling to me that the author did not include: “safe shelter” in their list of outer resources. It tells me that the author has probably not lived in unsafe shelter before.

That there are differences in the resources we have access to is something we are all aware of. Currently I feel our societal dialogue about privilege has too wide a scope and includes discrimination of many kinds lumped in with disporportionate access to outer resources. This is not beneficial for us because discrimination can affect our access to resources, but the lack equal access to outer resources for some participants is a societal necessity for us to continue as we do.

Our North American society and financial system DOES NOT WORK without unemployment. A class of people out of work is necessary to keep wages down so that companies can make money and keep employees compliant.

What this means is that when we are talking about privilege everything gets really emotional, and terribly confused. People seem to feel personally attacked as if I am telling them they should not have had access to resources that helped them because I did not have access to those… its a hard thing to get around.

What else is privilege but an unequal access to resources?

Because of their strong advantages, I think it’s more important to build inner resources than outer resources, especially during your 20s. If you find yourself at age 30 to be someone who’s driven, disciplined, ambitious, and skillful but completely broke, you’ll be in far better shape to lead a fulfilling life than someone who’s wealthy but lazy and unfocused.

When you build your inner resources, even at the expense of your outer resources, you’ll enjoy more freedom in the long run. But if you do the opposite and focus on building outer resources first, you’ll create a cage for yourself, becoming dependent on unstable assets.

If forced to make a choice, I’d rather give up all my outer resources than my inner ones.

The article author seems to have written this article to illustrate his points and glorify inner resources as a shining beacon of light that allows people to overcome a lack of outer resources… indeed, the author engages in a really strange thought experiment and decides he would rather lose all his outer resources than his inner resources.

Why do these need to be pitted against each other? … is… the author saying I am deficient in the inner resources I have in abundance because I am still lacking in outer resources?  It feels that way.

I disagree most strongly with the conclusions the author draws from his personal invesitgation into resources.

  • Depletion. Inner resources aren’t depleted when spent. In fact, the more you exercise them, the stronger they become. Outer resources are usually diminished from use, or there’s an additional resource drain to use them. For example, to use technology, you need electricity, which you can pay for with money, and the value of the technology depreciates while you use it, eventually becoming obsolete.
  • Conversion. It’s easier to use inner resources to create outer resources than vice versa. If you’re very disciplined, you can earn plenty of money, but if you’re rich, you can’t readily buy a more disciplined mind.
  • Security. Inner resources are more secure than outer resources. It’s more likely you’ll lose your money than your knowledge. Outer resources are subject to greater risk of loss.
  • Transferability. Outer resources can be transferred from one person to another. Inner resources are tied to the individual.
  • Depletion: Inner resources aren’t depleted when spent, and are strengthened by being used. But do not make up for a persistant lack of outer resources. A consistent lack of outer resources like money, safe housing and friends can and does induce depression and mental illness in many people. Depression kills creativity better than anything I’ve ever found. The very act of constantly existing on your cleverness, resourcefulness (despite having no resources) and NEVER getting ahead is in itself a depleting act.
  • Conversion: This offended me most. Because if you’re rich you can pay someone who has an organized mind and needs those external resources. I will agree that inner resources do not necessarily convert well to outer resources and outer resources do not convert well to inner. But that wasn’t the point that was made.
  • Security: I agree. But what the author misses is that a lack of outer resources can detrimentally affect your personal safety and a traumatic lack of personal safety might easily affect your ability to refine your inner resources.
  • Transferability: Yes. Outer resources can be transferred. So can inner resources. Where else did I learn my determination, reasoning and empathy if not my mother? I disaggree MOST with this. I think that we can help our friends and family with their inner resources and doing so helps us with our inner resources.
  • I argue that the author missed the most important point: Mobilization. Without being properly mobilized, resources cannot help us. The ability to allocate our resources and time effectively is one of the best skills to have and it is impossible to foster in a society that REFUSES to talk about resources let alone differential access to them.

I don’t know what kind of life the author expects they’d lead without “all their external resources” but I can’t see a situation where it would be helpful having to chose between a living on the street and living in drug house and people stealing their limited belongings which they might need to attempt to continue trying to build up their internal or external resources. Perhaps the author figures that their surplus of inner resources would prevent them from ever being in that situation.

Perhaps they’re right.

Perhaps they’re not.

Sometimes we have a surplus of resources because we are capitalizing on privilege. Sometimes we have privilege because we have a surplus of resources. Sometimes we have privilege because we are able to get by without resources.

But I think the next step in our discourse about privilege is talking about resources and resource mobilization in a realistic way.

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