Is being born poor a privilege?

6 min readApr 11, 2022


Photo by Riya Kumari from Pexels

After previously discussing more about ourselves, about how we think and feel, this time let’s discuss something different. A situation outside the self that can greatly affect our lives and create a lot of differences between everyone. We call it privilege. In my country Indonesia, the discussion about this has been heated and has caused various kinds of debates in the past few months. The trigger is when one of the influencers who was labeled as crazy rich here, said that being poor is a privilege. Recently, the one who gave the statement was arrested for allegedly committing fraud by becoming an affiliate in an illegal trading application.

I don’t mean to judge him, by something I don’t know much about either. Everyone has been in a phase where they made a pretty big mistake, and this person is in that phase just like everyone else. Besides, I don’t want to talk about him, I want to talk about what he said. Poor is a privilege. What do I think about it?

I do understand what it means about “being poor is a privilege” based on his point of view, that being born poor — in a situation of poverty — triggers a person’s willpower to be higher. What I don’t understand is, that what is meant by willpower here is to survive, or to reverse the situation to become rich? Because they are two different things. If it is to survive, then of course the willpower of people who are born in a poverty situation is higher than people who have never been struggling with it, poverty. People who were raised on survival tend to be tougher than people who were raised on stability, that’s what I think.

In another case, if what is meant is to turn things up, I think there are so many terms and conditions to go through it, which in other words, lives can be at stake. Am I exaggerating in narrating it? I don’t think so, because the cycle of poverty is indeed very difficult to break, although it may happen. A person who is born in a situation of poverty will be raised in that situation until adulthood and then marry someone who is in the same situation, and finally give birth and raise children in poverty as well. It is a circle whose pattern will continue to be so, that is what is called structural poverty. Except, there is one who is born in that circle and is very open-minded and reckless (in a positive way), to then break the chain. But again, it puts lives at stake (physically and mentally).

For someone born into poverty, being open-minded and reckless is not enough. Usually, that open-mindedness is also obtained from education, where access to education is also not easy. Not to mention access to capital, environmental access that can trigger establishment is also not easy, access to basic needs, and all other forms of access that people born in poverty do not have. Those accesses are called privileges, and if they are called poor as a privilege. What kind of privilege is that?

I call poverty as a vicious circle that we can’t choose to reject when we are born into that situation. Struggling to get out of the situation is like struggling to live in all situations that seem to ask us to die. Most people don’t get through it without the intervention of luck or privilege, but some do. Those people should be responsible for taking part in creating a system that can provide access to people who were born without that privilege. Because in my opinion, people who really feel the pain of poverty, will understand more and be able to give understanding to people who have never experienced such struggles in their lives. So that a system can be created that is able to break the chain of poverty.

Based on all that, it clearly breaks the statement that poverty is a privilege. Moreover, the notion that poverty is a privilege, in my opinion, is often used to fool people who were born into poverty situations. The goal is to be able to take advantage of their struggle, making it seem as if it can bring them to the financially established, when in fact it is to enrich people who are already rich in the privilege of wealth.

In my country, since childhood, we are all familiar with the motto such as “diligence is the mother of wealth” and it is quite firmly entrenched in the people's mentality here. So many people believe that with work very hard they will get rich. I’m not saying that it’s wrong, just behind it, our health, sanity, harmony, and happiness have been sacrificed a lot based on that motto, and the result is nothing.

What I’m trying to say is, that working so hard until we cross our limits as human beings is a legacy of colonialism, and it was made by the invaders which we know how it ends, death. Unfortunately, it was justified and continued until now, and it is proven by many examples of fate, where people are so diligent in their work, with more time and energy spent than it should be, then end up still poor, starving, or be burn out. My country indeed continues to develop, but there are still many such realities that have not been handled properly and even worse with the assumption that being poor is privileged or diligence is the mother of wealth.

I’m not saying it’s just based on personal assumptions. A young motivator in my country, someone who managed to gain financial freedom at a young age at that time, the name is Bong Chandra. He often says in his seminars, and in his books, he has written that “The rich are lazy people who think how money works for me.” The first time I heard those words, it instantly changed my mind before. At the same time, it is the same as breaking the motto about diligence is the mother of wealth, and being poor is a privilege as mentioned earlier. Because those mottos and assumptions tend to lead us to the “how can I keep working for money” mindset.

It doesn’t mean that diligence is bad, diligent still has a very good meaning and contains values ​​such as perseverance, discipline, and consistency. It’s just the interpretation that has been wrong so far and tends to be used to deceive people who do not have access to capital. The point is about who is the master here, money or us? Work for money, or money work for us?

That’s it. Privilege and the secret mindset, that’s what actually make a person can easily become rich. In terms of privilege, for people who were not born with it, of course, they still have a chance, just not as big as people who have certain privileges. So it takes time and a lot of energy to get to it, but it’s possible still.

I hope telling this can give more understanding to close-minded people who like to say “oh poor people are stupid and lazy, that’s why they deserve it.” All I can respond is a big NO. There are different starting lines, there are accesses that not everyone can reach, there are inequalities that are very contrasting, there are injustices everywhere, and there are so many things at stake to be able to change the situation. And without communal understanding, it becomes more difficult for the people who are in the vicious circle called poverty it was.

Last but not the least, if we are rich and we have some privileges since we were born, just admit it. Don’t say we work very hard to get rich just because we want to be called rich and great at the same time, to get people's attention. Especially to the point of underestimating the struggles of others who do not have privileges like us for example. We have no idea about the damage that we will cause because of that behavior. The sure thing is it’s not fair to compare each other fate and be proud of our luck above others' struggles.




Have you ever explored your mind? If so, how did it feel? Is it weird, scary, confusing, exciting or happy? For me it’s liberating.