Sunday, November 8, 2015

Rant on privilege bubbles

Privilege is not having to deal with shit.

This is a radical and comprehensive way of defining it. Radical in that it goes to the root of the matter, and comprehensive in that it can be applied across the board. No matter how privileged you are, there's always someone else who doesn't have to deal with the shit you have to deal with, and thus they are more privileged than you. In the grand scheme of things, there's always a bigger fish.

Thing is. The human condition is dealing with shit. Both literally and figuratively. There's always uncomfortable things to be done, and the more you are called upon to deal with it, the less privileged you are.

Which makes sense intuitively. Some people never catch a break, and always have to deal. They have to constantly struggle to fulfill even the most basic of life demands, and when they try to go home after a hard day of Maslowing they remember that they do not have a home, and have to deal with being outside all night. Or seek fleeting refuge in warm places where they are not welcome, but that are sometimes less guarded than usual.

Some temporary heat is better than no heat at all, given enough cold.

In reverse, some people have dealt so little with it that it literally never crosses their mind that they might have to. Or that others have to on a daily basis. It is so completely removed from their minds that they, for all intents and purposes, live in another world. Not having to deal with it is the same thing as not knowing about it, as knowledge is gained from the experience of dealing. No experience, no knowledge.

Approaching privilege from this angle, the notion of a privilege bubble is completely understandable. That is to say, privileged lives are so shielded from the experience of having to deal with certain aspects of human suffering that they are free to devote themselves to arcane and frivolous things. All that energy that otherwise would have been spent on avoiding cold and hunger are channeled into concept interior decoration, and suddenly it makes sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on creating the perfect kitchen/living room experience. Inside the bubble, priorities are free to roam in the darnedest directions.

Which is not to say that those inside the bubble do not have to deal. But they have to deal with different things. The bursting of the housing bubble and the rampant foreclosures following it is a brutal example of this; the rampant tendency of working oneself to death in order to afford said kitchen/living room experience is another. Which doesn't lessen the effect of living inside the bubble - it only points to the fact that there are those who do not have to deal with those things.

Which, to be sure, makes the male experience privileged by default, no matter how poor it might be. No matter how dire and hungry the straits, it's a plus to not have to deal with being constantly sexually harassed on top of everything else. And if you do not understand what this means, then that is an imperative to checking your privilege bubble - no experience, no knowledge, and so forth.

The universal human condition is to worry about things, and taking measures to alleviate this worry. Being in a privilege bubble does not change this - it only changes what you worry about. Some worry about starving to death, and take measures to find food, so be it if it happens to be out of a trashcan. Others worry about not being seen as a worthy member of their social group, and invest millions in a yacht just to be one of the crowd. The impulse is the same, but the measures taken to deal with it differ brutally. And the means available to do so.

Do not mistake this rant as a plea for sympathy for the privileged. There are plenty of privileged people who know so little about those without that they literally wish they'd just die and disappear - for real, and not just in their lived experience. This needs to be called out and acted upon. Understanding is not automagically the same as sympathy, though, and understanding privilege bubbles is the first step towards dismantling them in a way that actually works.

Or towards getting out of them, as the case might be. -

No comments:

Post a Comment