Friday, August 21, 2009

The More I See

I was reading a blog post on white privilege and general suspicion towards white people's examination of privilege without actually acting upon it. I was about ready to say, "at least they're thinking about it. Give them a chance" except she went on to discuss the plain fact that part of privilege means being able to remove oneself from the non-privileged situation.

For example, I can afford to live in a decent neighbourhood. Given the choice between a neighbourhood that has a high level of crime and a decent neighbourhood, I can choose to live in the latter neighbourhood. I can't run away from the fact that at the end of the day, I have this choice.

I do what little I can to mitigate other people's lack thereof. I can, for a brief period of time, extend what I experience every day to someone less privileged. There's much more I can be doing, I'm sure, and I surely don't have the power to do it all, but I can share a little bit of privilege, even if I can't give it away.

But that's not what I was really thinking about. What I was really thinking about was this: the more I read, the less I know.

In the paper I'm co-writing, Shira Tarrant pointed out to me in something I wrote, "assimilation isn't always linked to internalized imperialism. And it can be a good thing, as you write. Please clarify."

There was no way I could clarify that statement without getting into a whole other side of the conversation on how assimilation is neither good nor bad, or is good and/or bad depending on one's point of view. And even if I did go on to discuss whether it was good or bad, the bottomline is that I would still have no answer.

Can privilege ever be truly given up? I don't think so, but I don't know.

Can racism be truly eradicated? I don't think so, sometimes, but other times, I do, and I don't know.

Now, whenever I can, I try to make it a point to read one difficult thing a day. By difficult, I don't mean, abstract philosophy, although that's part of it. I mean, difficult questions. Uncomfortable thoughts. The paradox between real-life living and theory. Challenging myself with something that should stridently offend me, but really, it does so because it discomforts me so much.

The more I see of the world, the less I know.

I first saw this phrase in a book about Tao, a little comic book. The context was more, "The further you go, the less you will know." The overall feel was that one should stay in one's place in order to keep one's sense of peace.

Now as I grow older, I find that such a fallacy. It makes sense for those who are living in discomfort all the time.

But me?

The more I see, the less I know, the more I realize how much work there is to be done before I can even begin to think I'm doing any good in this world.

I think this is a good start.

I think I'm onto something here.

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