I wonder if there could be scientific research done that could come up with a way to measure how much privilege an individual possesses and then create a scale that tells us that this amount of privilege will lead to this amount of life.
Presuming that more privilege equals more life.
And visa versa, I suppose.
By all accounts I should be dead: leukemia in 2009, a year later a lung disease as a result of the bone marrow transplant and of which was to knock me off within five years, heart failure in 2014 as a result of my prophylactic chemo pills, forever more a decimated immune system as a result of all the above, and most recently this summer, also as a result of all the above, pneumonia, of which my oncologist said if I ever contracted it would be game over.
But the game continues…
I guess I’m kind of like a cockroach that there ain’t no gettin’ rid of.
Who knows for sure why I’m still here.
But my guess is that my off the chart privilege score has a heck of a lot to do with it.
Some of the points you can add up by site: white, male, tall, all my limbs and digits intact.
Some points can only be determined by knowing a bit about me.
For instance, by knowing that my ultimate privilege has to be that there never has been a moment in my life that I have not felt loved. That’s got to be worth beaucoup points, oui?
Or that there has never been a moment in my life that I have been without good health insurance.
Good medical coverage + lotsa love as medicine = one long-living cockroach.
And another big privilege of mine is that for the most part I could walk into just about any room of my choosing and feel accepted, or at least unthreatened.
Even without understanding that the ability to do something like that is a privilege, it’s gotta be good for one’s well-being, no?
But it goes the other way, too.
I’ve also had the privilege of self-induced estrangement without having to worried about being labeled as strange… or as a threat.
I used to love being in a foreign country, especially in Asia where I look completely different from most, and riding a bus or a train by myself and not understanding a single word being said around me. Everything just hummed in the background and I could be surrounded by masses of people crammed into the subway car with me and yet be completely apart from them… at peace, without fear.
It was almost spiritual.
A privileged feeling like that’s gotta be worth a few points.
I wonder how many of those from other parts of the world coming to my country today, the less than United States, can ride alone in a crowded subway car not understanding what’s being said around them and feel at peace and without fear.
There is a beautiful piece in the New York Times by Elisa Gonzalez titled How Alienation Became My Superpower…
In 2016, I moved to Poland to study and write poetry on a Fulbright arts fellowship. Doing so required stripping myself of fluency and the cloak of native understanding. With each failure of action or speech, I squelched around in touristic self-pity. “I live on Smutna Street,” I told someone, momentarily forgetting “Smolna” was my street’s actual name; her laughter reminded me that smutna means “sad.” I was often sad during that first, dark autumn, dealing with a disintegrating marriage and the parched loneliness of the unlanguaged.
Fortunately, later in the piece we learn that Ms. Gonzalez was eventually able to find peace with her alienation.
But I don’t suppose everyone who feels alienated and alone because they look different, or speak different, or love different, can find such peace.
But I wish they could.
My work in progress is a story about alienation and estrangement. The main character, white, male, old, kind of like yours truly, gets so fed up with the state of humanity that he decides to no longer identify as a human and disassociates himself completely from society.
But instead of becoming estranged from humanity, he, or it as it prefers to be referred to, creates a kind of a cult around itself in the process.
Privilege is a powerful thing and its worth can never be accurately tallied I suppose.
But we know, or at least I do, that it is so powerful it can fulfill and extend lives.
Now that’s not just power, that is a true superpower…
One that, unfortunately, not everyone has the privilege to enjoy.