My Problem with Privilege

Disclaimer: This is my opinion and perspective only. I am not trying to tell other people what to think and I am not looking for a debate/argument. I’m actually doing pretty bad lately and really don’t want to deal with a giant backlash. I’m not trying to speak badly about anyone and honestly I’m pretty scared of potential backlash but I wanted to publish this to reference. Please, don’t hurt me.

Opression by Narnia • http://flic.kr/p/bn92FL

Opression by Narnia • http://flic.kr/p/bn92FL

Life is hard.

Regardless of where you are from, your race/gender/height/weight/ability, or any other factor, I would like to propose that we all have, at some point, had challenges or difficulties to face. I repeat, life is hard.

Relating this to social justice, and anti-oppression work, I think the term privilege is often used to encourage people to be more conscious and reflect upon their attitudes and ideas towards others. …An effort to decrease judgement and create understanding. In practice however, I think the use of the term privilege creates many assumptions and judgements against others. For example…

Jazmin Singer recently published an article describing her experiences as both a (to use her words) fat person and a thin person. In her article she referenced the “privilege” of being thin. I think I could argue equally for the “privilege” of being fat. I am not trying to say being fat is easy, because as mentioned, LIFE IS HARD. But being thin has its own challenges. As a child I was very small for my age and was often bullied for my size. People would call me anorexic, bulimic, and on a few occasions some other girls took me to the bathroom and tried to force me to throw up. Some people might not agree with me. Perhaps my struggle and pain as a thin person is not great enough to validate pointing out the privilege of other sizes. But I’d like to propose, it is not a contest of who is worse off. We all have the ability to suffer, to feel pain (physical or emotional) and hardship in some capacity. What might be a step to one person is a mountain to someone else. Some people might have more challenges to overcome than others. That doesn’t make any struggle less of a struggle.

In another case I read an article that said, “White people aren’t told that the colour of their skin is a problem very often.” – for me, this was not the case. Growing up in a mixed Canadian community I was part of a white minority in a primarily South Asian population. I was bullied at school, there were certain expectations of how I would act because of my race, I was often excluded from social events and was definably not a part of what my classmates called “brown pride”.

I am not ashamed to have lived as a thin, white, middle-class female from North America. Believe it or not, life has been hard for me too. I get stopped at the border and asked about drugs, I get physically searched down almost every time I get on a plane. There have been times when food was not available to me and the prospect of homelessness loomed. LIFE IS HARD.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for oppression. I think it is wrong to discriminate against others based on any number of factors including but not limited to their: gender, race, size, ability, appearance, religion, or species. But I think often in activist work to stop this discrimination, other people, perceived to be more “normal” or better off  or “privileged” are denied the benefit of the doubt.

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Am I Living In Integrity?

3D Star Map

I sit now, reflecting on myself. Am I living in integrity? I am being my word?

I have spent the beginning of this week doing vegan outreach at my university. With a fellow animal advocate we have had a Pay Per View booth (see: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/paid-per-view.aspx).

Across from our booth was the SFU Lifeline Club, the pro-life (and quick to mention anti-abortion) club on campus. When speaking with the students at the booth I really began to question myself on this issue. I began to question myself in general.

For many years I have not even admitted that I ever enjoyed the taste of meat. “It is the spices and seasons that made it taste good” I would say. Much like the defenses that carnist ideology brings up…

“to eat the body of another sentient being, we have to block our awareness and shut down our empathy.” – Melanie Joy via http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7vWbV9FPo_Q#!

I would deny and put up a “vegan wall” against animal products. I think in some ways I have to. I have to put up a wall and “imagine”, forcing myself to remember the torture and pain that animals experience, the ill-health effects of animal products, and the environmental degradation… it is a mental exercise (though admittedly, it has gotten easier and become more of an unconscious thing that I no longer have to work at as actively as when I first went vegan).

Though non-vegans also practice a similar tactic (I believe) to avoid thinking about where their meat comes from, I feel as if i am acting a bit defensively. Perhaps I am in denial about what “tastes good” to me in order to do what I think is right.

These are the places I feel out of integrity:
Fair Trade – When cocoa or cacao is an ingredient in a (vegan) product I am not always inquisitive as to the source. This also applies to coffee and tea. I don’t drink them very often but I am not always conscious about the source. I think this is an easy thing I can “correct” to try and live more in integrity.
Electronics – Though I have done research on the assembly production of electronics I have bought (I wrote a paper and researched the Foxcon suicides), I have only briefly heard about the minerals and potentially horrible conditions and harvesting of these minerals in third-world countries. This is an issue I have had trouble finding information about and do not have any clear solutions for.
Clothing – Though I have been buying only articles Made in Canada/the USA and well researched companies which do not use sweatshops overseas, I have not been buying exclusively organic cotton and materials free from pesticides and the pollution of conventional cotton production. I did another research project on this industry and I am very ashamed of the production process of many textile products. I suppose I could buy more second hand products. Hmm. I shall consider this further.
Driving – I have been getting rides and driving with friends so often lately. I miss my bicycle commuting, my bold action against the fossil fuel industry.
Abortion – As I outlines in my previous post, I have not given this issue adequate consideration.
Organics – Why am I “die-hard” about the consumption of animals when the use of pesticides and other chemicals is also destructive to the environment, bad for health and kills insects and other species.

Thinking about these issue, I also started to reflect on self-destructive behavior. Where did this idea come from? What is the difference between self-care and self-harm? So many questions…

#takethevow #iamsilent

Dear World!

Just letting you know I am doing a vow of silence tomorrow to raise awareness for all of the children and slaves who are silenced every day by poverty, disease and exploitation. I won’t stand by while children are subjected to exploitation, poverty and the denial of their basic rights. Every day, millions of children are silenced by these abuses. But we can take a stand for children everywhere.
I have decided I will use my voice in work meetings (as it is my duty to) but not outside of that time so if I do not respond to you tomorrow, this is why. I will also not be text messaging, e-mailing, tweeting or updating Facebook (gasp!).

If you want more information about what I am doing please visit: http://www.freethechildren.com/vowofsilence/
I will also be collecting donations for Free the Children tomorrow so if you have any spare change and want to give someone else the gift of education I would be happy to collect it from you (but no pressure).

25 HRS of Silence for 25 YRS of Conflict!

 

Wanna shut me up? Pledge me! I’ll be silent for 25 hours on APRIL 25th! I’ll also be accepting donations in person. Awesome, totally transparent cause!

All proceeds go to find the Invisible Children Protection Plan. BE THE CHANGE. Join me in going silent!

GO HERE!

expressing my concerns

Why do people so often view themselves as the most important creatures on the planet? Or themselves as the most important person? As a human, I can see how it can sometimes be difficult to look outside ones self. You are you, after all. What else is there? A lot, as it turns out.

With each decision you make so many other are affected. How will other people feel about it? How will other creatures feel?

I sometimes express my concerns about the decisions of others. I feel it is my right to. We all share this planet. We all need to co-exist. What if someone I know was torturing someone else? I wouldn’t just stand by and watch. But no one will listen to my concerns if I don’t express them in a way that makes other comfortable and able to listen to my concerns. I’m still trying to find out what that manner is.

The purchasing and the plastics and the paper waste… it all makes me very sad. I can see why others might be offended when I express concerns but I wish I could make them understand. In speaking out against the lack of compassion I have created a lack of compassion. Funny how that works.

Kwan Seum Bosal

Kwan Seum Bosal

Kwan Seum Bosal

How do we create Kwan Seum Bosal?

Peace.