Privilege Grievance

I am privileged in a number of ways, unearned and some perhaps a little earned.

First, I had the great good fortune to be born in New Zealand.  In the lottery of life, that’s a winning ticket just there. It’s not a guarantee of happiness, but it’s a huge leg up compared to billions of others.

More, I was born into a family that got the basics right. Food on the table, attention to education, vaccinations, vacations. Not perfect, no.  But way more right than wrong, and I know that not everybody gets that break, so thanks Mum and Dad.

I do not have a significant disability.  Eyesight is dodgy, but I can afford glasses.  Had a range of health problems, spells in hospital, I creak and groan in the morning.  But did I mention that I live in New Zealand?  Which means basic public health services (again not perfect, but hey, better than 95 percent of the world’s population, and we can keep working to make them better for everyone.)  Oh, and ACC, which we grumble and moan about but actually is light years ahead of any other country’s personal injury system.

But not a significant disability, so I don’t have that extra effort in daily living, and I don’t have to put up with numpties’ every day attitudes towards those who do.

Did I earn any of that? No. Life’s lottery, and it could all change tomorrow.

Other privileges.

Male, growing up in a world where the expectations of what men and women could and should do was massively different because something something rubbish.

Heterosexual, born when homosexuality was literally a crime.

Married to a strong woman who puts up with me while I sort out my stupid. Not earned, not deserved. A gift of grace.

English as my first language. Okay, my only language, because I expect everyone else to speak it, which is pretty much the gold-standard in how to spot privilege.

I present as ‘white’, although I am in fact Māori. (And don’t fucking @ me with ‘what percentage’ because the fucking answer is ‘from my head to my toes’, you numpty.)  And yes, that has kept me safe in a lot of situations, when people of a different hue were not safe.

Tall and ‘big-boned’ enough to look like a tough target on first look, even though I have always instinctively recoiled from physical violence.

I also have certain personal characteristics that have helped me in the particular world I was born into. A brain that can absorb and regurgitate exam knowledge.  Enough social skills to navigate corporate cultures.

And yes, I have worked hard.  Always, and sometimes at the expense of attending to the people closest to me.

So in my mid-fifties I find myself in a place of great privilege: relatively affluent, basically healthy, loved, doing the things I choose to do.

And I tell myself every day that nothing I have done entitles me to any of that continuing.  It’s something I give thanks for, and then I turn to trying to use it for others.

So when I think about the inadequate man who killed 50 people for the only reason that they were Muslim, I start from an awareness that my accidents of privilege have kept me safe.  I was not his target.

And I understand that, when we come to consider what should be done about the attack, a few people have and will continue to plead that they should bear no incovenience.

That they should not have to give up certain weapons.

That they should not have to change any attitude, or reconsider any words or any ideas.

That they should not give just a little bit more public space to people who are different.

Because those few people see their privilege as zero-sum, and they’re scared they’re going to lose some of it.

And they’re not entirely wrong, even if the big focus should be on expanding opportunity for everyone.  If there are only ten seats at the top table, and we reckon that maybe not all ten should be occupied by straight, white, able-bodied men, then, yeah, your chances of getting a seat are going to go down if you’re a straight, white, able-bodied man.

Suck it up, and recognise that you never deserved all of those seats at the table in the first place.  That some of you got there because you were, in fact, only the tenth best straight, white, able-bodied male in the room. And that there are any number of queers, women, black and brown and disabled people who have greater merit. Suck it up, because if you’re actually one of the top three or four straight, white, able-bodied men you’re still going to make it to the table, and then I’ll be able to say wholeheartedly “Well done.”

And before anyone – anyone – tries to say what we should not do in the coming days and weeks and months, make sure they answer just one question: what are you willing to change as a consequence of 15 March 2019?

And if the answer is ‘nothing’, then you will know that they are just peddling ‘privilege grievance’, that weird and twisted complaint that actually it’s some combination of straight and white and able-bodied and male who are ‘really’ at risk because something something rubbish.

So ups to all the gun owners and gun organisations and farmers who swiftly said that no New Zealander needs an AR-15 semi-automatic weapon, and have started handing them in . And ups to those media people who have apologised for their previous words.

And, especially, ups to the people who are different.

You can have some of my public space because I don’t need it all.

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