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Fighting a useless fight?

November 12, 2007

I realize that I’m fighting a useless fight that keeps me suspended
between two worlds, to one of which I actually belong and to the other
of which I don’t.  The one I belong to is the world of privilege,
no matter how uncomfortable I may be with that fact. 

I cannot deny that because of my background, because of my education,
and because of my contacts in this world, I will always have something
to fall back on no matter how hard times get.  I will never be
without food, shelter, or clothing, unless I become caught in
extenuating circumstances such as a natural catastrophe or war. 

I find myself fighting constantly against this classification of
myself.  I downplay my social and financial security and want to
feel as if I, too, experience hardship.  I do, but none that even
approaches the magnitude of hardship experienced by an overwhelming
majority of the world’s people; I can empathize, but only
limitedly. 

Why do I fight so much against this classification?  Because it
deeply disturbs me that our world is so imbalanced, that wealth and
education and opportunity are spread so inequitably.  I don’t like
thinking that I’m part of a class of people who can’t even begin to
comprehend what life is like for the 3+ billion people who don’t have
what we have. 

I recognize that this privilege is more a gift than a curse because it
means that I am in a position to influence the distribution of wealth
and power that I so despise–but it doesn’t take away the guilt that I
feel for being so priveleged. 

Is it enough to say that it would be useless to give up what I have in order not
to be a part of the systems I despise–that it would be useless to
renounce my privilege as some sort of political act, as a rejection of
the status quo?  That by giving up my privilege, I would have
little noticeable impact on the way the world runs–that I could have
much more of an impact if I
held onto my privilege and used it to advance better means and
ends?   I don’t know.  I believe strongly that no matter
how small an overall impact individual actions have, they are
nonetheless important because cumulatively, they stand the potential to
have a very big impact if only people would stop saying, “What’s the
use, I’m just one person?”

But I’m one person with a whole lifetime within which to make a
difference–and each person I influence can in turn influence others
both in the present and in the future.  So my actions
matter.  Your actions matter.  They matter deeply, and that’s
why I struggle so much with my lifestyle choices.  Every decision
has a consequence, no matter how small, and those consequences are
worth considering.

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