One thing I want to be cautious of – by which I really mean refuse – are the ways we sometimes consider, for instance, gardening (or health, or healthcare, or potable water or clean air or pleasant and stable housing or decent jobs or good schools or libraries or living relatives or being unabused or having ‘free time’ or not being imprisoned or not living near a power plant or incinerator or a landfill of a million acres of corn or soybeans sprayed with toxins) a privilege, which actually obscures the fact that to be without a garden, or to be without green space, or to be without access to a park or clean water or the forest or fruit trees or birdsong or shade or a deep and abiding relationship with a tree, or to be without healthcare, and so often to be without health, is violence, it is abnormal (even if it is the norm) and it is an imposition of precarity that is not natural. All these comorbidities, all these communities more exposed to toxins, all this absence of sick pay or good pay, every day, is not simply an affliction, (Oh too bad! You landed in Cancer Alley! Or, Oh, bummer about those opioid deaths! Or, So unlucky about the lead in your water!) but an infliction. It is on purpose. And the withholding from some of the means of life, of which means there are plenty to go around, is a disprivilege. Which is to say; life, though it is a gift, is not a privilege.
And rather than indulging in the virtue signalling that simply reifies or maybe even enjoys the guilt – guilt can be titillating, let’s admit that; bathing in it oneself or dumping it on others – of so-called privilege, rather than wading around in that little impotent cess-pool of hand-wringing regret, how about instead we figure out how to get rid of disprivilege, which we could do.
Part of which includes acknowledging that, baseline, we should all be able to get into a garden or a forest or an orchard if we want. It includes acknowledging that we should all have clean drinking water and good schools and excellent healthcare and safe housing. What would happen if we acknowledged that none of this is privilege, but rather it is as it should and could be? And what if we figured out, together, in a million different ways how to make it so? Or to say it another way: rather than cursing the darkness, what if we planted some seeds?
~ Ross Gay, Inciting Joy
Continue reading “So much for resolutions (and a throwback Thursday)”