Thursday, October 13, 2005

Learning What's Important

Some time ago some one told me to be white and male was to be among the privledged of the world. Not only was I told, but the teller of this supposed truth more or less insisted I was privledged.
I railled against this for a long time.
I was at the time working part-time, struggling to make ends meet, I had recently had a boss fire me because I was 'living in sin' and expecting to be a father very soon. If nothing else I was not feeling very privledged, that is for sure.

There was something else though. It came to mind today watching 'Bread and Roses' by Ken Loach. It has been coming for a long time, disasters in New Orleans and Pakistan brought it home quicker to my mind.
While I sympathise with those who have lost a lot, who have never had what I have had, who have never been privledged like me, I have become aware of an inverted snobbery.

Because I am not black or hispanic or Indian I must be priveledged.
It's a thesis propagated by white educated westerners who feel guilty and it's a load of crap. Let me say it again, it is a load of crap. CRAP

So try telling the white guy from the inner city, who is hooked on crack, who's brother is in prision, who mother is or was at one time a prostitute, and his father??? well down the pub drunk if he is around, try telling this teenager that he is privledged........well you start to get the picture. But what of it?

Some white people in the world don't know what it means to be white, just as many living in the third world don't identify with the notion of third world. The only world we know, no matter what our colour, or creed, is the one immediately around us. Too often it is the sum of our experience that limits us. Those of us who are limited are those of us who piss me off, myself included. If I wasn't so scared half the time I would stand up and shout out, I was wrong, God forgive me I am so sorry. But I don't. No one does. Show the person who when corrected, by a peer or, buddah forbid, a subordinate, who can say 'yep you're so right, I am so wrong, thanks for pointing it out to me.'............ am I dreaming here, all of us mature adults are afraid of being wrong? How dumb and under privledged is that?

Yes it's true growing up in Dublin I was never likely to experience an earthquake or tornado. While often there was talk of 'the war' it was never really a threat in Dublin. There was little chance of disease or pestilence. Now perhaps my ancestors were brighter about where they would put down sticks but that's not really it either, besides there are warmer drier places in the world. So is it where you come from that makes you privledged? I don't think so.

What is important? What is it that makes someone privledged, position? No certainly not. A sense of place? or of belonging? Not even.
I watch strikers from Corsica throw a loaded truck into the sea, their claims for better conditions and anger at the French government for selling out, confused with Nationalism and identity.

I see people struggle to make a living from schools that exploit them and charge their clients a fortune for bad service, even if the teacher is good.
I have watched and oberved my Algerian Friends, who incidently never talk about the civil war in their home, and insist they are French, experience racism often with a shrug or even a smile. I have watched my great white American types who feel ill at ease when the subject of their home comes up, and I have wondered.
A stunningly beautiful, striking blonde, who's boss makes her life a misery, Men who are capable technically who abuse those under them, Women who simply because of their age feel washed up, childness and useless. Others who clearly have negative relationships and take it out on all around them while singing the virtues of their marriage.

I have decided watching all of this what is important, especially when I look at my son.

A sense of self. A positive sense of self. A feeling that you are worth something. It comes from a sense of purpose. No matter how often you are shit on you are someone. You are a human being. And yes you have been shit on, and you have done your share of shitting so get over it. You are worth as much as any other person who you care to name. So if you live in Nice or New Orleans, Pakistan or Monaco, if you are Iraqi or Irish, American or Argentinan, if you have a lot of money or none at all, Stop what you are doing.

Get up and stand in front of the mirror and realise the only thing stopping you from being happy, is you.
No you are not the cause of all your misery, but you can be the cause of all your happiness.
Now that is the first step.

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