Originally published in the Albany Student Press, 4/17/06
There is a “meme” floating around the blogosphere. I’m not quite sure of the purpose, other than to make the middle class feel bad for being, well, middle class.
For those of you that don’t know what a “meme” is, urbandictionary.com defines it as “in blogspeak, an idea that is spread from blog to blog; an internet information generator, especially of random or contentless information.” So, this “meme,” I guess you could call it the “spoiled” meme, or the “privilege” meme, is essentially a quiz. A bunch of different statements are listed, and you are supposed to check what ones are true. Post it on Blogger (!!!), on MySpace, on Facebook, etc., and pass it along.
It irritated me. It’s a silly meme. Perhaps it irritated me because I felt it was trying to make me feel guilty for living a, in a manner of speaking, privileged white American existence. However, I read the news daily. I’m aware of my surroundings. I do not take my existence for granted.
Although, and some may think this sounds snobbish, there are some things that “privileged” life demands of us. Things that would not be necessities if we were not privileged, but become necessities. Make sense?
No? Allow me to explain.
I am “privileged” enough to better myself and get a Masters in Public Administration (MPA). A professional program. Because I chose a professional program and not an academic one, I have a 20 hour per week internship requirement on top of a full class load. For this internship, I need to dress professionally. In other words, because I am in this program, I have a $50 a month dry cleaning bill.
Is dry cleaning a “need?” Hardly. However, it is more practical than buying a new suit every time the old ones get dirty, and certainly smarter than ruining my suits in the wash.
I live with my boyfriend, who bought a house in Brunswick in 2004. Because we live in the suburbs, it is impractical to not both have our own cars. Because I am in school, I need a computer to do work. We have a broadband phone, because it is cheaper than a hard line, and as a result, we have a broadband internet connection. Getting a hard line phone with long distance and paying for dialup that we would have to share between three people would be more trouble than just doing what we are doing.
And, even if that was not true, his job requires that he be near a ready broadband connection at all times, so we are reimbursed for part of the expense. And, since they need to be able to contact him at all times, they provide him with a BlackBerry.
So, yes. We have cars, computers, and I have a dry cleaning bill that – believe me – I wish I could find a way to shrink, if not eliminate altogether. I still have extra at the end of the month to indulge in the occasional Starbucks. Does this make me privileged? To some, perhaps, yes it does. But maybe it is not the implication that I am privileged that bothered me, but the implication that those who are privileged do not work hard, or do not deserve what they earn.
In some cases it is true. In most cases, it is not. It is not a shameful thing to want to do well, to want to graduate with a good degree, and be able to get a good job. And it certainly does not mean you walk into a corner office and play on AIM all day long. You work. You earn the salary that enables you to buy the cars, the computers, the Internet connections. Sometimes, in fact, it demands more of an expense from you.
Are we complaining? No, of course not. But the next time you see somebody driving a nice car or wearing a nice suit, perhaps you should ask yourself what he is doing to earn that status, not sniffing that he is “privileged.”
Privileged is a relative term.