Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Privilege is a Struggle

You are living the struggle.

No, seriously.

You are in your own version of the struggle.

Maybe you have to work to live, instead of lazing about reading and writing all whilst being famous and broody and thin.

Maybe you have to get up at 5:00 in the dark morning just to get yourself anywhere near ready to go to your hateful job before you start waking and readying small children.
By yourself.
In the cold.
With a cold.

Maybe you can only dream of having a hateful job.

Whatever your daily grind or worry or strain, it is the struggle. Your struggle.

I have mine too.

I often straddle a very thin and uncomfortable line... It balances between two vastly different worlds:

One in which I am grateful for all that I have; my health, my family, the love of a wonderful husband, the chance to be part of raising an incredible, talented, beautiful, sweet child. The companionship of quirky, fun pets. Amazing people that I get to call friends. The ability to earn a living. An education. Freedom of speech. Feminism. 

In this world, I live in a nation that thinks I am good because my skin is light. Because I am a woman married to a man. The awareness to even realize what a huge stack of gifts I have been granted. The sick feeling in my gut that I deserve none of it. That I have earned what I have only on the basis of what I had to work with from the start. 

The other world is one in which I am bitter and angry that I am not free of the constraints of meaningless work, able to be having fun and meaningful conversations with people, choosing what to do with my time and making important changes to improve the lives of everyone on earth. The only thing that really separates the worlds is choice. A choice  I actually have.

I know how good I have it. I do. It's just that I want it to be different. And that makes me like everyone else. The things that connect us are so often the conflicts we share. If you are reading this, you have it good. You may or may not agree with my definition of good. you may not even realize how large your stack of gifts really is. You live in a developed nation. You have likely never known the oppression of a dictatorship. Or the hell of war. You are literate. You have either sight or hearing or both. You most likely have a bed to sleep in tonight.

You almost certainly want to improve your life.

I want even more than that. The act of wanting in itself is privilege.

What I want is monumental. So large I cannot see the edges of it, only some spot in the middle that I fix my eyes on when I feel brave enough to even look. It is in the background all the time, like a mountain when you live in the foothills. It is nothing, when I want to hide in the anonymity of a mediocre life. It is everything when I look up for a moment and see the sun hidden by the sheer size of it.

I want to take my privilege to its logical conclusion. I want to make others aware, to show them how things are framed to make them believe that they live in a white male world where everyone is middle class. Where products and services will make you clean and shiny and fulfill your every need. I want to strip down the edges of the blue sky and show you the machine that runs underneath.

Most of all I want you to look. I want to see you lift your hand to cover your mouth, to stifle your screams, to hide your absolute horror. I want you to feel your pulse quicken, your anger rise, and your hands get sweaty. I want you to know.

The privilege I often joke about is the result of money and class. Of capitalism and education. Now I want to pull back the entire curtain. I want to show you the ugly face of imperialism and religious dogma that controls your every single day. That determines who is right, good, worthy, and yes- alive.

Look around you- you live in a mansion. One built of ideas and social constructs that keep you sheltered, warm, safe. You can't even see the mountain. Go for a drive sometime. Get far enough away from your reality that you can turn and see the edges. Know that what you think you know was taught to you by people who have never seen it either.

Then you can struggle with your privilege. If you win your struggle, maybe you can help me with mine.

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