On privilege and responsibility

close up of spiderman

So what is this year about? I’ve been awarded a Clore Fellowship for 2011/12, which means time and opportunity to work in a different way; a chance to learn new skills, gain new experiences and meet new people. For me, it’s an opportunity to scan the horizon, get my hands dirty, see the bigger picture, stretch myself, get out of my comfort zone, reflect, grow, clock my values,  build relationships, become more flexible, make choices and many other clichés (which are no less true for being such).

It was Peter Parker’s Uncle in Spider Man who said ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ (apparently he was quoting Voltaire). I also think that sense of responsibility is linked to great privilege. I am privileged to be a Clore Fellow and I don’t take that privilege lightly.

It’s a competitive process – but not everyone I know who would deserve and benefit from a place on the programme would be able to apply or be able to attend. What does that mean for me? Should I have not taken up my place? Should I have boycotted the opportunity out of a sense of injustice for others? Or should I relish the opportunity and spend my year campaigning and challenging, provoking and pushing for change?

Alternatively I could make the most of my year – sucking in all the new learning I can and making sure that I pass it on as widely and thoroughly as possible to anyone who is interested. Or I could dig myself in deep, seek to embed myself in the fabric of the programme and try to work from within, tweaking and changing as I go…

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t an access gripe. The world isn’t equally accessible to all people full stop, irrespective of disability. This is about access in the greater sense – it’s about confidence, experience, a sense of entitlement. It about the fact that pretty much everything we do has boundaries and barriers that could be seen to stop some people. How do navigate this?

So where does that leave me? To be honest, I’m not yet sure.

I know I’m on the programme. And I’m not taking it lightly.

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