One subject that’s been much on my mind, but I didn’t get to address in my Outside piece, is privilege. From the beginning, I’ve been acutely aware that the opportunity to take a year off work and do nothing is not available to the vast majority of my fellow Americans (much less folks in, say, developing countries).
Recovery from what Paul Krugman calls The Lesser Depression has been sluggish. Unemployment remains high. Inequality is widening. Productivity is up but wages remain flat:
And so on. America is full of people surviving paycheck to paycheck, living in fear of a medical problem or job loss or bankruptcy, scrabbling to get by. It seems weird, in that environment, to publish a piece about how I spent a year walking my dog. Struggling Americans need lots of things, but Lessons From My Year of F’king About is not among them. They have worse problems than tweeting too much. And they don’t have much time for yoga. “Take a break” is just a bitter taunt to them, not practical advice.
Basically, digital overload is #firstworldproblems and gadget-free wellness retreats are #stuffwhitepeoplelike and a year off is a #checkyourprivilege type of thing. I struggled with this quite a bit; I wanted to acknowledge it in the piece, but there was never a graceful opportunity for it.
As is often the case in these check-your-privilege situations, though, I’m not quite sure what I should have done once I was done checking. I’m certainly in a privileged position, mostly, if we’re being honest, through the luck of where and when I was born (and many other kinds of luck since). I carry that awareness with me, but in cases like this, I’m not sure what to do with it. Do I not publish the piece? I mean, the problems I write about are real problems, at least for a certain class of people. If those people are interested in my experience — and they seem to be, to my ongoing surprise — why shouldn’t I share it with them?
I’m not sure what the right answer is. What do y’all think?