Years ago OH and I tried to make a series of these jokes, such as ‘Pretentious – moi? Pedantic – I? Repetitive – me myself personally? and so on. It was necessarily quite a short series but it amused us for about five minutes.
Then this morning I was wondering what it must be like to be privileged; to have doors open for you, taxis waiting, queues jumped, money always available and waiters jumping to attention. I can’t imagine it. And then I thought, what about the kinds of privilege I have – like education, race, class and so on? And I guess the answer is that when you have privilege you don’t notice it. I don’t notice that I’m driving and NOT being stopped by the police, or walking down the street and not being abused, or not being being able to access certain classes or join in certain discussions; not being able to climb steps or negotiate kerbs. When you have privilege it’s like the air you breathe; you don’t notice it till it’s not there.
From time to time there are people – usually journalists, sometimes politicians – who deliberately put themselves in the place of the less privileged; sometimes to make a point, sometimes just to find out what it’s like. George Orwell did this when down and out, doing some of the worst jobs and living in the filthiest holes in London and Paris; Polly Toynbee (in Hard Work in Low-Pay Britain) did some of the worst women’s jobs in the country and from time to time politicians have tried to live on the dole for short periods; the one I remember most is Matthew Parris who thought he was going to save £3 a week and ended up sitting in the dark for three days because the meter had run out. But noble as these efforts are, they are transient; at the end of it you know you’re going back to your old life and even if you don’t, you generally have the safety-net of family, friends, contacts etc who are all likely to be well-off and able to help. You have hope; more than that, you have a time-limit when you know you’re getting out. You may be in purgatory but you’re not in hell.
I don’t really know where I’m going with all this, except that when people like Lawrence Fox say there’s no such thing as male privilege, I think ‘how would you know?’ Because basically unless you’ve had your oxygen taken away, you don’t know what it’s like not to breathe.
One privilege I shall definitely enjoy soon is Wimbledon. It’s late this year, presumably because of Covid, not starting till June 28th but I’m looking forward to it. Andy Murray has a wild card so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do.
Have a good weekend. We’ll be doing the non-Sabbath thing tonight and tomorrow so I’ll be incommunicado for that period.
3 thoughts on “Privileged? Moi?”
Can’t remember who said it [or even if it’s apocryphal] but being able to see ourselves as others [in this case, meaning those outside our circle, however defined] see us, instead of how we think of ourselves, is a very useful facility to cultivate. Cheers, Jon.
I believe it was Burns who said that. Frankly the concept terrifies me…
I always knew I was lucky to have a good education, supportive friends and family, and to work in socially responsible jobs even if they didn’t pay that well. I never thought I was better than anyone else, and knew it could all so easily have been different. I think the difference with people like Fox, Rees-Mogg, and others is that their background made them believe they are better than others, and more important.
As for sport, save me from a summer of nothing on TV (except C4) besides football, tennis, and olympics. Sport should have its own separate channels on the mainstream networks, then they could show it 24/7 to those who want to watch it. 🙂
Best wishes, Pete.