The privilege of not caring. The privilege of thinking of family first, of taking a break, of letting go. I always felt I was so smart the way I try and rationalize, convince the knots of stress in my shoulders to unknot simply by listening to the logic of my argument, about what really matters in life. Your family is more important than an assignment, sometimes you just need to give yourself a rest and indulge – ice cream, or an awful reality show.
But everybody doesn’t have the luxury to think of themselves first, even if it is now and then. Even worse, everybody doesn’t have the privilege of spending time with their family, even when they need them most. It all comes down to money and that crushes me.
Somebody argued me once about religion and all the wars it has caused. What about all the misery money causes? All the wars, the big ones and the ones that go on in thousands of countries, cities, millions of neighborhoods and households every day?
“Well the economic system can’t survive without money, but we can survive without religion.”
I disagree. I don’t think I would be able to survive without religion. I think of the people who live in villages scattered up and down mountains in Kashmir, who lost everything but faith in the 2005 earthquake. If they survived on money, they wouldn’t have made it. But faith kept them going, keeps them going.
The disparity in income and wealth is disgusting and it is pervasive, present everywhere. You can’t escape it, even if you buy and island and lie in a hammock under the sun.
I’m flying to New York today. I’m wearing leggings, boots and a coat and after I breezed through security (one of those days in which my being a South Asian isn’t a big deal) I bought an almost roasted cappuccino and hashbrowns. I’m sitting on a stool that’s really slippery and inconveniently far from the table/stand thing in front of me. The sky is compartmentalized in large, glass squares and it looks cloudy, misty, rainy. The convenience and comfort has transgressed and gone beyond its borders, changing from its comforting blue, lavender colors into a murky swirling dirty mustard, brown – guilt.
We’ve talked about the costs of privilege and this is one of them – everything is so easy and good that you can’t help but think of all the places where it isn’t like this, and the sheer number of those places makes my head spin. It robs the calm from this moment.
There are always those movies, photographs and books in which coats, legging and a to-go coffee cup is the epitome of everything you (as a 20-year-old relatively privileged female) want. It’s the impersonal and individual dreams that materialize and you realize the emptiness. I mean, the coffee tastes good but you know what tastes better? Tea and butter toast on a window ledge, homemade french fries with chilli garlic sauce and tang on a rooftop, Chinese food on a bench.
Life isn’t worth living without friends, family, faith. And I’m privileged because I have it all.
I hope becoming a social worker helps me relieve the guilt. I can’t wait to go back to Pakistan and start working. I know there will be obstacles, I know I will hate the traffic, the dirt, the electricity company but I will love the people (hopefully, mostly, usually?), the monsoons, the family, the comfort of belonging. Of a people with more love and less hate than it is believed, advertised, talked about.
Man, I love kids. There’s this adorable little boy sitting in front of me with his slightly less little older brother and father. He keeps squinting and tilting his face, just sitting there and blinking, making funny faces. It could be because he’s eating the sour Skittles, or because he’s doing that thing we all did (do) when we focus on an object and close one eye, then close the other one and repeat quickly to make the object move. Or maybe he just likes squinting and blinking. Sigh. I love kids.