Having Power Over Your Life Is Privilege

One thing I think about a lot is ways to design my life to improve it; for example, this month I am starting on a system of cash-buying, so that I improve my spending habits and awareness. But I’m always painfully aware of how lucky this makes me; these are some thoughts on that.

Whilst I was planning it out, I found my diary from last january, when I moved out of my parents home and money was a LOT tighter, but I was incredibly excited because finally it was all my own money and my own choices. In this diary, I’m making choices to eventually get a bike, to eventually get a job that I don’t have to commute to, choices that I have now, in the space of the year, more than fulfilled.

Another way that I can “design my life” is that I’m currently taking driving lessons. Because I have enough money that I am able to save, I have been able to pre-book my theory test, and bulk book my lessons. These are some more obvious things that people with a lower income or higher outgoings (e.g with a family, or hiked-up rent costs, or debts with outrageous inflation) would not be able to do, let alone choose to do in order to improve their near future.

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In my work, I see a lot of different kinds of people coming to stay to destress and hopefully de-escalate a mental health crisis. Some of them have money; they have cash on them and come with a nice suitcase with enough things for their stay for the next few days. These are relatively rare though. More often than not, people come who don’t have money for a pack of fags, who didn’t bring anything else, who can’t afford the bus, and these people are quietly heartbreaking. Yes, they spent their money on something, but many of these people can’t work, and I don’t blame them. Employment is hard enough as it is having my full health and mental functioning, I would not like my chances as an anxious depressive who barely finished school and has turned to drugs to try to cope with life, bouncing along to the coffee shop to fill in their trite (yet also somehow demanding) little application forms (“Give an example of when you gave great customer service!”).

job search
Jobs are harder than they sounds when you’re: a) a snowman b) chronically unemployed or c) stigmatised against in societally chronic ways.

On the less obviously tragic side of things I find* you have a disctinctly female kind of crisis. These come in two forms. Young women, somewhere around 20, with plenty of things and normal sounding lives and coming in after a suicide attempt. Or mothers, who have been holding it all together and now they really aren’t sure they can leave the kids at home alone and also they feel worthless and terrible. (The worst is when these mum-types go home, and don’t stay, because they think they are letting their family down. You can’t stop them, but it’s never fun.)

Again, it’s the people least able to change their lives who really need to change it the most. Young girls feel completely trapped, even as they are supported by their parents, and though it’s a mental and emotional trap, it’s one I recognise (or perhaps project) from myself; I didn’t move out of my family home after university, in fact I moved back, to save on rent, to make myself more secure. I spent 5 months back home, and a lot of that time was spent crying or travelling away from it; not because it was a bad place, but because it wasn’t working for me. Yet I felt, (and I assume others also feel) that I owed it to my family to save the money, to make the effort, to not hurt feeelings.

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Eventually, I had to move away, because I felt that I would either end up killing a member of my family, or myself in that situation. It wasn’t comfortable emotionally, but I was lucky practically. A series of lucky hires from managers who inexplicably liked me and wanted to give me a chance meant I had got to a job I could reach from my boyfriends house, and having a boyfriend gave me an automatic place I could stay whilst I found a place. The next stroke of luck was a SHOCKINGLY cheap houseshare room that was completely tiny but neat and perfect. Only because of this combination did I get my freedom.

The mother’s entrapment is as obvious as it is cliched as it is depressingly common, women are expected to tie their entire being to motherhood, and be glorified for it for one day of the year. Too many don’t realise how limiting this is, how unhealthy and unnatural, so too few people bother to fight against it, almost no one appears to consider that parenthood should be an equal burden, and that hands-on motherhood is no more or less of a blessing than hands-on fatherhood would be.

Ultimately, it’s the cages we put around ourselves and eachother that are the hardest to breakout of. The economic cage is one a lot of us live within, and to liberate other people is an impossible thought, cos we ourselves are trapped by our rent and our bills and our debts etc. However, if we can, we should. Our lives are worth it, and the people with the least fortunate lives are the most trapped. We cannot free the person who believes the answer is in the bottom of the beer can, but we can help by looking to see where we can make a difference. The landowners who rented me out that houseshare might have just been trying to fill a tiny box room, but it made the world of difference to me. The people who care about their jobs and genuinely want to help people, make a huge difference to the people they help. The people who run charities and the political parties that care about social security, make the world of difference to people who are running low on choices, if they are still able to believe they have a right to them.

If we don’t look out for protecting people’s choices, it only gets harder. People easily judge others who have far more limited options than themselves, and people begin to judge themselves and put themselves in boxes, even when they have the “choice”. Yes, maybe there’s a chance we ourselves might not have options, but that shouldn’t be the motivator, that should be a reminder that we are lucky and we should use our choices wisely, because we are lucky enough to have them.

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*Disclaimer: This is my opinion, the holy grail of mental health is that everyone is an individual, and my colleagues would likely argue that this isn’t a trend, but hey, it looks like one to me, and it works well for my point, so tough.

You’re a Hypocrite! What about MY free speech!

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Again, I’m borrowing from the amazing NaoiseDolan, this can be found at naoisedolan.com/freeze-peach/

What’s going on in the Hypocrisy/FreezePeach Argument?

If you’ve ever tried to have a meaningful conversation with a casual bigot on the internet ever you’ve had this conversation:

Them: *bigoted casually harmful thing* Just my opinion though!
You: That opinion is trash and perpetuates stereotypes and harmful thinking towards a group of people.
Them: Excuse me?! FREE SPEECH though!! You’re oppressing my opinion!
You: I’m not “oppressing it” I’m just telling you it makes you look like an arsehole. I’m not stopping you.
Them: But you SJW’s don’t want me to judge anyone ever though, you think you’re free from criticism, so this is #oppression, this is unfair, this is the real tragedy here.
You: You’re aware that you are literally judging me right now right?!?

So what’s going on here? Are they trying to bait you? Are they living on another planet? Is this actually reality and have you been deceived the whole time and good is actually bad and you yourself are in fact worse than Stalin?!? (Probably, probably not, and probably not.)

Essentially, most people start out as whiny babies with no concept of other people outside of themselves. They can see themselves being criticised, and feel hurt, alienated, maybe even isolated and confused, and think, damn this is awful, how is this even allowed? If you’re never challenged on anything or taught to think for yourself, this doesn’t change as you grow up. People who are most insulated by privilege are the most likely to fit this description, because the world around them is quite literally, catered to reflect them. There’s no need to think for yourself if everything around you agrees with your own narrative.

The Moment You Inadvertedly Create a Police State in Your Comment Section

When you come across them online with a contradictory viewpoint, they are threatened on a level they probably don’t quite understand. They know that you’re presenting something different and therefore #wrong, but also that you are quite happy and confident in what you believe, despite your blatant Wrongness! How, when they are Right and you are Wrong can you be so composed??  Clearly, you must be under some illusion that you are perfect and actually Right, and that no one can disagree with you! So bam, look what you’ve got coming your way now, you got some DISAGREEMENT. Some DISSENT. Ooooohh how you going to handle THAT now, come on!

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Actual image of what Mra’s and other casual to semi-pro bigots think they are dealing with

They turn against your opinion in the hope that it will shock you just as much as having their opinion challenged has shocked them. Unfortunately for them the playing field isn’t quite even here; if you’re touting an alternative viewpoint, not only are you used to having your opinion shouted down and disagreed with, but also, you are used to thinking for yourself, and not needing the approval of others to have conviction in your beliefs.

So it’s completely boring. Once you’ve had a couple dozen of these conversations, you know exactly how it goes, and no, you’re not surprised that they think you are an “evil totalitarian dictator from hell”, like you always thought you were the opposite of, because of course you are, it’s obvious and immediate, it’s the easiest possible insult there is for someone who’s trying to fight for fairness and freedom, to try and hit us with the “not fair!” card. It’s simple and its aim is to be paralysing, but you can think for yourself, and know that’s not how fairness works.

Like a child who incessantly shouts this though, the people who call you out on this have no idea how fairness works, they barely have an honest concept of what “fair” is, outside of their own hurt feelings. They genuinely believe that justice is all about feelings, because to be fair to them, they’ve never been taught anything else. They’ve always been taught that you shouldn’t be racist or sexist or homophobic because it hurts people’s feelings; a simplistic model that doesn’t address the greater systematic context of harmful actions but it’s easy to explain to kids and gets them to stop propagating said actions. It’s great for a start, but the problem is that once you’ve learned to shut up about the right things at the right moments with the right people, that’s when most people stop learning about what fairness in society means.

So you are actually Fair…now what?

No, you can’t convince them that you are being fair. You can’t convince them that your challenging viewpoint wasn’t built around criticising them and making them feel bad and that therefore it’s not allowed in the constitution or whatever they believe in.

That’s not fun. If they are a troll, they exploit that to try and guilt people into taking it back, or just waste their time trying to convince said troll of their good intent and pure meaning. If they aren’t a troll, they probably will sound the same, but either way, it’s a waste of your time. It’s not truly you who hurt them, it’s the shock of other viewpoints, one of which you happen to hold and you happened to voice.

Now maybe it’s a bit patronising to call it a “shock”: these other views are hardly unheard of, radical ideas like “equal pay” and “stop police killings” are everywhere in media. But the shock comes in realising that other people believe in this, and there’s not much you can do about that except trust in the process of awareness that worked on yourself. No one suddenly became aware of social inequality after one comment by a friend or anonymous message, but equally, no one became aware without those initial interactions. Allow yourself to be that first hurdle, or even the fith or the tenth or the hundredth. You’re not taking something away, you are adding a hurdle, and certain people don’t like being challenged. You could stop challenging them, but does that really help anyone in the long run? You could try and tell them this isn’t a personal challenge and it really shouldn’t be a challenge, but nonetheless, it will still be a challenge to them if they haven’t had to find away around it yet.

Ultimately, the only way people will realise that Dissent is okay, and that it’s not a threat to their Free Speech, is once they learn to think for themselves in the way that so many others have been forced to since birth. It is not your responsibility to do that for them, partly because you literally cannot, it’s in the phrasing “for themselves”. The most that you can do is lead by example, and hope that one day, they’ll find a better way through this hurdle than yelling at it for existing.

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Don’t shove your opinion down my throat…let people get over the stage where they are just yelling variations of this at you.

 

*Disclaimer: It is better to publish something than let it sit in drafts forever. xx*