My (biological) mother died from colon cancer a couple of days ago. Her mother and aunt died from the same cause. I am alive today and she is not. Should I feel guilty for the privilege of living? Should I lament that in a world of perfectly equal healthcare her cancer would have been detected sooner and she would have almost certainly survived?
No and no. I should enjoy the unearned privilege of living and be encouraged, if needed, to do it better; and access to the comforts can never be made equal. In fact, some struggle to attain the benefits of social living is good for the person and the society. The obstacles that we face, avoid, and overcome or not shape our identity.
At least as often as not, we do not choose our obstacles. They are given to us by genes, culture, and history. Nor do we mostly choose our disposition for dealing with them, as these are likewise provided by genes, experiences, social expectations, and available role models.
Our parents provide us with genes, comforts, and struggles in varying degrees. Some parents provide no genes. Some provide little comfort. But we are mostly the product of our parents manifest in a particular bio-cultural setting. Each of us are the dissipating remnants of those who came before us, including the dead, who continue, subsist, through us. Those who are gone have dissipated, poured themselves into things: the soil, a home, children, community, television, social media, novels, education, self-development, self-sacrifice, self-loathing, celebrations of life. Life and organization is consumed, assimilated, accommodated, avoided, challenged, enjoyed until we our consumed by particular things in the world, or, in the case of cancer, by our own bodies.