Monday, January 19, 2015

The Vulnerability of Privilege

Eula Biss is interviewed in a recent Salon article, following the publication of her book "On Immunity". Lots of powerful stuff on fear, privilege, and vulnerability. Here's an excerpt-

One of the favorite narratives [of privilege] is that we’ve just worked harder, so we deserve more. But there’s another narrative. It has to do with vulnerability, and that’s a narrative that I first started thinking about and noticing when I was writing about race. It justifies certain ways of wielding privilege, on the argument that the person who is privileged is actually not powerful but very, very vulnerable and needing protection, and that the people who are dangerous are the people who are less privileged. There’s a story line that runs something like this: vaccination may be OK for some people, but my child is uniquely vulnerable. My child is actually too vulnerable to receive this preventative medicine, and therefore I’m going to opt out of this public health initiative to spare my child this risk.

My mind is whirling with other examples of this privilege/vulnerability issue-

Going to war. These days we don't have a draft, but even when we did, there were those who could somehow escape it. 

Castle doctrine. The idea that someone behind their locked door is more vulnerable than the person on their porch. 

It is human nature to want to protect oneself and one's offspring. But we also have reason and morality--we need to get beyond irrational fear.

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