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Back in the sea pic
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Once upon a time, a straight white male sea creature called Fish wanted to understand what was meant by “Privilege”. He had seen this word on a sunken ship into which he sometimes swam.
So he went on a quest. He asked many fish for their advice, but none had even heard of this strange word.
One day he happened to come upon two whale elders who said they could help. The first called Wiktionary told him that privilege was an advantage within a given society, enjoyed by some but not others. The second called Wikipedia added that it is all about power or systemic structures that help the privileged - as opposed to those that oppress the non-privileged (which is called “Social Inequality”).
But Fish still did not understand - as all the water creatures around him seemed to be doing fine, everything flowed along very nicely thank you. Yes, some water creatures struggled a bit more than others but there was no obvious power structure he could see. Fiddlesticks, he thought, it was all as clear as the fabled Marianas Trench.
Fish was about to give up his quest when he happened upon a magic lamp in the sunken ship. He gave it a good few rubs with his body. Out popped a strange non-water creature who gave him three wishes, but warned that he couldn’t wish for more wishes.
Fish eagerly shouted his desire to understand “Privilege”. And poof, suddenly he found himself lying on the African savannah. Somehow the genie had enabled him to breathe a little, but it was still difficult - and he could no longer move around freely as he used to do in the sea. He lay there flip-flapping around. He understood that this land structure aided only those with legs. In this land world he felt like a fish out of water. He saw that the land creatures were privileged to walk about there, even if they did not realise they were privileged due to the existence of this land structure.
Suddenly some legs grew from him and he could walk. So he kept on going seeking further elucidation. It was nightfall and he struck up a conversation with a black bird flying above him in the starry sky. This black bird was wise and talked of systemic structures such as air and land (so confirming his earlier insight). Bird said it thrived on air, as did other air creatures, but had noticed that land creatures fell to their death when they walk off cliffs and the like.
Fish now better understood “Privilege”. A creature was privileged if it lived amidst a structure that supported it, but was likely to feel oppressed elsewhere. At this point, he was tired and thought of his home. Kaboom and more smoke, his legs were now gone and he was back in the sea.
Fish was glad to back in water. “Eureka” he exclaimed as he realised the systemic structure he personally was privileged to enjoy was water. Water was all around and he hadn’t been able to see how helpful it was to all water creatures. And he also saw that water was not easy to live in for land or air creatures. Finally he felt he had understood this word “Privilege” – and his first wish had been fulfilled.
The second wish of Fish was to be allowed to help the world understand all this. He acted and his notes and resources are below.
The third wish of Fish was that we could all be allowed to breathe. For Fish had noticed the oxygen levels were dropping for all creatures. Also he noticed something called ‘pandemic’ and something called ‘white privilege’ was affecting the breathing of certain land creatures called humans. All these disasters seemed interconnected. Fish didn’t want anyone to ever again say “I can’t breathe.” So, as we speak, Fish is busy doing that work...
Notes & Quotes
If you have privilege, it means you are likely to flow through life more easily.
It's important to understand having privilege doesn’t mean you never struggle in life.
White privilege example, regarding when people say 'Black Lives Matter' and some respond 'All Lives Matter'. We might need to understand that: Yes, all house colours matter, but when the black house is on fire, we need to save it.
So, yes, all lives matter, but let’s urgently lift the black lives out of danger.
“Privilege does not mean that you are rich, that you’ve had an easy life, that everything’s been handed to you, and you’ve never had to struggle or work hard. All it means is that there are some things in life that you will not experience or ever have to think about just because of who you are.”
(Chescaleigh, 0m44s, posted 22 November 2014, accessed 7 June 2020)
It's impossible not to have some form of privilege, at least for some part of your life. But obviously there are privileges that are far more unjust and damaging to the welfare of all. Today these might include: white, straight, male. Like Fish!
If you are a white straight male, this doesn’t mean you need to change your skin colour, your sexual orientation and your gender! It means becoming aware of your privilege in life, how it affects the power dynamic in situations, and asking how things can be made fairer. Then acting to achieve these things...
If you are not a white straight male, this doesn’t mean you need to lighten your skin, marry the opposite sex and transform your gender. These are likely to be inauthentic acts. Rather embrace who you are! Work to educate others on making the world fairer.
Gender Studies articles