After Booman had chosen to refer to my views as "privileged" a little while ago, I had hoped that I could have drawn him out to explain himself just a bit more. Regrettably he chose not to do so. Had he taken a different road, I had some questions for him. He and I are roughly the same age - I believe he's in his mid-to late 30s and I just hit the big Four-Oh at the end of January, so we can assume both of us are born somewhere between 1966 & 1971. My little questionnaire for determining "privileged" status of Gen-Xers goes as follows,
Did you, growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s have or experience any of the following:
- Cable TV, perhaps including HBO?
- A VCR (whether Betamax or VHS)?
- The newest Atari, Colecovision, etc. videogame station?
- Go to rock concerts at huge arenas?
- Eat out at restaurants on a regular basis?
- Wear designer clothes - or if you chose not to, at least had parents who could afford those for you?
- A regular allowance?
- The knowledge that your family could afford to send you to the college or university of your choice?
- A private school education? Or if not private school, were the public schools you attended in the ritzier neighborhoods?
- Travel to really cool places, be it Disneyland or New Zealand?
- Have access to regular medical care?
- Have your own telephone?
The one thing we did have a lot of were books, and my parents - both would probably be considered "hicks" by our elites - had developed a love of classical music & big band jazz (took me a while to appreciate either, but that's okay). Without the cool videogames or the cable tv (btw, those antennas you stick on top of a tv usually suck), or the chance to catch the latest Rush concert, I'd open some books (my folks were stocked up with tomes by Hemmingway, Plato, Poe, etc.) probably to the background of some baroque something or other my mom was listening to at the time. Otherwise, I'd find whatever friends I had at the time to hang with, cruise the 'hood in whatever old wreck one of us would have to drive, or hang out & try to skateboard or check out the latest nudie magazines that one of my friends always seemed to have in abundant supply (I had not yet been exposed to feminism in its many diverse flavors). No A-list parties, but not too bad of a life really.
Okay, so if I'm not privileged in that sense, how about family background? I certainly had relatives who farmed - one had a fairly successful family farm operation, though most barely made a living at it. I also had plenty of relatives who worked in manufacturing or out in the oil fields. My dad was a first generation college grad, from a family where I don't think too many folks graduated from high school. Mom at least got her high school diploma. Niether family fared well during the Great Depression, from what I understand. So looks like I don't exactly have a blue-blood pedigree. How would you fare?
If I'm not privileged in that sense, could it be my vocation? You guys know me as someone employed at a small public university. Took me a bit of doing to earn the necessary degrees - had to start at a jr. college, then a state university for my BA & MA, then another state run university for the doctorate. In a sense one could say that I have the privilege to do a lot of the work I want to do at hours of my choosing (more or less). Making a living out of reading, writing, and telling some coherent stories about what is read and written is a luxury that I thought would be out of reach for someone like me - and I treasure that. Of course since I don't work at one of the big research mills, I ain't exactly rolling in the dough.
Being a white male living in the US I suspect that one could say I'm "privileged" relative to much of the rest of the world, and I would accept that description as accurate and I'd accept that an accident of birth has probably opened doors for me that would be closed to most as well as affected my outlook on life. That said, the same could be said for an ungodly proportion of bloggers (including our good pal Booman). Under the circumstances, then, use of the term "privileged" as a form of criticism from one that is ostensibly equally "privileged" makes no sense.
So although I can sort of gauge some ways in which I might be "privileged" as well as others in which I am not, I am still left wondering what in the Hell the guy meant by "privileged" and more importantly what in the Hell if anything it had to do with a conversation about being "anti-American" or on defending views that might be considered "anti-American."
Signed, dazed and confused.