Sunday, October 23, 2016

life with and without privilege

Bob Dylan's "Third Base Coach."
One of the zippy barbs sometimes thrown at those born to a life of privilege or quasi-privilege is, "He was born on third base and imagines he hit a triple." These are people whose circumstances seem normal to them and they have a hard if not impossible time imagining that someone in dire straits could possibly be in dire straits. For better or worse, they lead their lives as it spreads out before them from an advantaged starting point... which simply does not occur to them as being "advantaged" at all.

Those struggling to open yet another can of Dinty Moore beef stew or make a decision between medications and rent money don't really have time or wherewithal for the privileges to which the entitled assume (and frequently ignore). It's just hard staying alive and living in a world or constant anxiety about the next mouthful.

Within this flimsy tableau, I seem to find the memory-person of "Jesus," a fellow much revered for many attributes but also frequently swaddled in the raiment of poverty. Was he really poor? I doubt it based on an only half-remembered news article about anthropologists' speculations that really he was probably a middle-class guy ... not exactly born on third base but neither eating his time period's version of Dinty Moore. Why? The half-remembered argument -- and one I found convincing -- was that in order to be a carpenter in his time, Jesus would have had to speak three languages in order to hawk his wares: Greek, Latin and Etruscan, if memory serves. A poor man has no time for other languages. Only someone with some leisure and comfort can employ such a privilege.

And all of this half-baked noodling takes me back to the silver-spoon crowd -- to those who have privileges they seldom see in contrast to wont. These are people with time ... time for good or evil, but in any event time to make things happen.

And what then might be the greatest privilege? I suspect the greatest privilege would be the time and inclination to reflect on the self -- that gob in the bathroom mirror. To have such a luxury does not mean that it would or will be exercised. It just means the potential is there in ways it is unlikely to be among the poverty-stricken. Many do not exercise it. But among those who do, there seems frequently to be a second step: 1. reflect on the self and then 2. try to sell others on the sagacity of the findings.

Think Jesus. A middle-class millennial with three languages and a creativity that only the privileged might be party to. Climb the mountain -- utter the Beatitudes ... like that.

I wonder if it is not enough. Winkle out a bit of sagacity and then get to work. Sagacity to one is not sagacity to all and, more important, sagacity that someone does not work out on his or her own is just TED talk. I know Gautama chewed on whether to preach or not, but how many people like Gautama are there ... people who might come up with the perfectly plausible mirror image of his answer that preaching was right up his alley?

Born on third? Keep home plate in your sights ... said the TED talk.