How Privilege Touches Everything (including the blogs that make us feeling fuzzy inside)

Alright members of the jury, let the record show that A) I am a community organizer who for the past year and half have been focusing on the issue of affordable housing in the US, particularly Arlington B) I listen to a lot of radio and C) I have been known to have anti-capitalist critiques if not outright leanings. It is within that context that I share this thought-journey.

A few days ago I “shared” a blogpost entitled “The Thief of Intimacy, Business” which spoke to me in its reminder that business for the sake of business is of no value and that even business for the sake of increased work production is often still a losing game when compared to being present with the people we love. Here’s a quote:

“All too often, I’m home, but I am not fully there with her [the author’s daughter], because I am tending to other business…I am a good baba, I know I am. … It’s not about how much I love her …  It’s about the time that she has my undivided attention.”   Omid Safi, The Thief of Intimacy, Business

For the past six months I have been carefully tracking my hours and self-monitoring my work and personal life balance closely. As a community organizer that could work around the clock  and could probably just as easily slack off and work 20 hrs a week setting a clear goal and limit to work-time is crucial to both being a good organizer and being a sane and whole person. This post is a reminder to me when I get home from meetings at 9 or 10pm not to get back on email; a reminder to schedule social time and leave my phone at home, and a future warning about carefully guarding family time as my responsibilities inevitably grow in all areas of life, both professional and personal.

And then, ladies and gentleman of the jury, I sat in my car the same day and happily sang along to Pitbull’s “Time of our lives” and Lunchmoney Lewis’ “Bills”. Here are the choruses, but if you don’t know them by heart already you should go ahead and click on the links now to listen:

“I got Bills I gotta pay
So I’m gonn’ work, work, work every day
I got mouths I gotta feed
So I’m gonn’ make sure everybody eats
I got Bills” – Lunchmoney Lewis, Bills

“I knew my rent was gon’ be late about a week ago
I worked my ass off, but I still can’t pay it though
But I just got just enough
To get up in this club
Have me a good time, before my time is up
Hey, let’s get it now” -Pitbull, Time of our lives

Let’s take these one by one. Bills– so first of all my self-monitoring and the “work, work, work everyday” line conflict in my mind. “No,”, I think “I’m not JUST going to work everyday! I’m going to paint! And go on runs! And try out for a choir! And plan a hiking trip!” You know, because I get paid a fixed salary. In the case of my friends getting paid hourly it’s true that if you don’t put in X hours that pay for Y bill, you have no guarantee at the end of the month. So yeah, the responsible thing to do is to work more! We don’t read a lot of blogs urging servers, teachers’ aids or cashiers’ to be more attentive to spending time on their intimate relationships, or to minimize the number of hours they work a day, right? Is that just me?

And then there’s “Time of Our Lives” which I remember distinctly hearing for the first time and thinking “What an irresponsible idiot!”. Right! Dude can’t make rent but he’s going to use the money he does have to go clubbing of all things! What the hell, right? He should have just “work, work, work(ed) everyday”!  Pitbull doesn’t tell us how many hours a week this guy actually put in without being able to make rent. Maybe he’s a lazy bones and worked 20 hrs when he could have worked 40, or maybe he worked 50 or 60, we have no way of knowing. I do know that my tendency, as all-of-the-things-I-am (white, young, liberal, private-schooled, slightly-self-righteous, etc) is to judge this guy. After all, his bridge is “Everybody going through something/I said, everybody going through something/ So you might as well you roll it up/ Pour it up, drink it up, throw it up tonight” Hardly an inspiring tale of overcoming adversity and proving the value of hard work, amiright?

So Lewis looks more like the good guy (because he’s workin’ hard to put food on the table) and Pitbull looks like an irresponsible jerk, not to mention a womanizer (because he’s using would-be-rent-money for clubbing). What’s ironic though is that while Pitbull certainly isn’t investing his free time in building a meaningful relationship with a daughter, he is at least deciding to say “to hell with it” with work for right now, I’m gonna take some “me” time and enjoy a break, whereas Lewis is doing the “right” thing and plowing through but ends up being what sounds like a workaholic.

Do you see my conundrum? This is just a roundabout way to say STRUCTURAL WEALTH INEQUALITY, DOUBLE STANDARDS, PRIVILEGE, EDUCATION GAP, CULTURAL IMPACT OF GLASS CEILINGS…etc. I think somewhere in there is my point. I guess what I want to say is that after posting a sort of “woe-are-we-overly-busy-folks” blog post and then reflecting on how little that post would speak to someone making less than 20$ an hour in the DC area, I felt once again struck by my own privilege and how even good ideas and sentiments (like work/life balance and intimacy with your family) can be markers of being from a certain privileged position, one that can get judgmental of others not emphasizing those ideas without acknowledging why that might be so.

Also, and I say this in all seriousness folks: THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH!

There’s another blog in here somewhere about how lack of access to stable wealth breeds a culture of fast-money and seemingly ill-advised decisions..but I don’t have it in my tonight. Plus I feel like I’m already walking on eggshells. I don’t know, what do you think?

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About Magelette

I use too many parentheticals, tend towards run-on sentences, and am a terrible self-editor. That being said I'm honest to a fault and fairly easily enchanted, so if you're into that, read on.
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