Sunday, April 20, 2014

Literally checking your privilege, for points

You can do it by means of this handy checklist of advantages you might have which others are denied. As Phoebe points out, "It's the Charles Murray "bubble" quiz for a different set." This quiz contains great wisdom, however: it knows just how good you have it and even what is good (not working as a barista or waitress, apparently, even as a temp job). However, the goal is not to have it good, but to justify checking off as few boxes as possible so that you might acquire coveted "under-privileged" status. And given the subjectivity of circumstances and especially of feelings, I'll bet that anyone can achieve such valuable misery if they just make a good faith effort to put everything that's ever happened to them in the worst possible light. I found that I could be anything from not privileged to very privileged, depending on how pathetically I decided to construe my life. I would like to think this extreme flexibility and adaptability to individual circumstance and momentary moods is what the internet likes to call "a feature, not a bug" of the document.

In addition to its other useful qualities, by far the best suggestion this privilege-check makes is that "using prescription drugs recreationally" is a form of privilege. Apparently, being able to engage in self-destructive behavior is one of the unfair advantages which result in an unequal playing field for all. Not just anyone can use prescription drugs recreationally. Many there are who have to settle for such indignities as sniffing glue. This seems like an as-yet-unexplored vista of privilege, whereby those to whom the greatest advantages of self-destruction have accrued must ask themselves searching questions about how they attained their current misery and how they can redistribute it to others. In an effort to further this self-examination and rectification of injustice, I would like to offer the creators of this quiz some further checklist options. You might be privileged if:
- You were kidnapped by terrorists in a war zone. (Most people are not permitted to enter them.)
- You successfully committed a felony. (Many people botch them.)
- You are a cocaine addict. (High-roller.)
- You are an alcoholic. (Mid-roller.)
- You have injured or killed yourself or someone else with a firearm. (The very poor must settle for knives.)
- You have injured or killed yourself or someone else with your own arm. (Not everyone has an arm.)*
Now, if you checked off any of these possibilities, remember: "You are quite privileged. This is not a bad thing, nor is it something to be ashamed of. But you should be aware of your advantages and work to help others who don’t have them." Get on it, prescription drug abusers.

* Lest you think I'm making light of serious matters here, I assure you that is not the case and encourage you to examine the comments to this quiz, which include the following exchange:
"If you can read this you're privileged"
"Yes, you are. The privilege of attending a school where you are taught to read or having parents who have the time and ability to teach such a skill is a privilege denied to many people, young and old, all around the world."
"Yes, some people do not have eye sight at all." 
Please keep that in mind, dear blog readers, especially when you're feeling peeved at me. It is a privilege to be able to read my missives to you. Would that all the world were so fortunate.


Ben A said...

The very poor must settle for knives

Superb. And nothing is more privileged than excellence.

Miss Self-Important said...

Oh no, the last thing we want is static privilege. I will claim excellence when it helps me, and lack of it where being a sadsack is the operative currency.

Ben A said...

Excellence at moping is a kind of privilege, for certain.