Those of us who critique the current status quo also benefit from that same status quo, which then turns our critique onto ourselves. I grew up in a bourgeois household, comfortably middle-class. As i was enjoying those comforts, i was learning to critique “the bourgeoisie” for their comforts, exploitations, and destruction of the planet. They were doing all the wrong things, i saw clearly, and they must change! What i did not admit – and often still don’t – was that there isn’t a thick dividing line: They are just as much me as anything.
Maybe it’s our blindness to privilege that gets us into this situation. Probably, actually. I am more interested in exploring, though, what it does to us. Clearly, if i critique and judge “those people” and am really part of that club, i end up judging myself. I am guessing now that a lot of my habitual self-hatred stems from this: Somewhere i know that i am “holier than thou” – that i really, at bottom, am just as much a part, and more importantly a benefactor, of the systems as the people i am pointing my fingers at.
Maybe our “sins” are different. Certainly, the scale is different. Someone who is part of the US plutocracy has way more influence on the status quo than i do. Yet, if i let go of my place & my stuff and travel, for example, i would have at least the following privileges: At very first, it would be a choice. I didn’t loose my place. I gave it up. That is a very different experience from the average homeless person. Then, i remain white, which will open doors that i often don’t even admit are opened by my skin color. And i would always have the option – as much as i don’t want to use it – of leveraging the safety net of my family. I could move in with someone. Sure, it would at least be embarrassing and not very convenient but it’s not like my family lives in the slums with 30 people in a tiny hut. Not even close. Many have a guest room.
My point here is not to make us feel more ashamed about not doing enough. My point is that this very shame is a direct result of our unwillingness to admit our privilege, own it, and embrace interconnectedness. Once we realize that we’re just as much of the problem as “they” are, maybe completely different solutions will emerge. Of course, it might also be way more depressing because the extent of the mess we’re facing is far bigger than we want to admit. Halting the destruction of this planet will require all of us to give up the comforts we’ve gotten used to. And then some. We probably don’t even realize just how privileged we are.
The poem and this exploration was published in Turning Wheel Media.