The real problem with privilege
Ok, that's a little overstated. But it's at least one of the problems.
I've done a number of interviews and podcasts since my book came out a few weeks ago (available at your local bookstore!)
Sometimes the questions are the same - why did you write the book, what's wrong with privatization, private prisons, etc. But I've been asked some harder questions also.
Here's one that got me thinking: What's wrong with single drivers paying to use the carpool lane (i.e. Lexus lanes, HOV lanes) or using the privatized toll road to avoid traffic on Interstate 5?
First, true confessions. I use them. I use the HOV lane on the 110 to get to LAX (that I did frequently pre-Covid, and just started up again.) It saves me at least a half hour. I'm not giving it up. I hate the pilgrimage to LAX (and LAX also when I get there.)
So the question challenged me. What's really wrong with it? I'm not hurting anybody (I think?) I have the money.
As I sped by the "regular lane" traffic this week on my way to LAX, I pondered the question again and wondered why I should have the "privilege" of avoiding traffic to get where I needed to go when all those other folks were chugging along at glacial speeds?
I'm pretty sure anyone would do it if they had the money (and can figure out how to get that transponder thing.) And the HOV lanes have plenty of regular cars (like mine,) pickups and business vans. It's not filled only with Tesla's, BMW's and other assorted luxury rides.
As I thought about it, I realized something about small privileges like this and the many large, systemic privileges that surround us.
The real problem is when you think you deserve it.
I don't feel that way. In fact, I feel a little guilty (but not guilty enough to join the masses. I need to get to the airport!) But I'm sure lots of folks do. And I'm sure every billionaire believes they deserve that private jet. They got themselves there by their (inherited) bootstraps. Those other (underserving) folks just didn't work hard enough and take responsibility for their destiny.
The shift towards deservedness can sneak up on you. There is one privilege I have where I find myself feeling I deserve it. I fly a lot so I have Platinum status on American Airlines - meaning I get on the plane in one of the first groups. And, yep, I feel I deserve it. I fly a lot, it's a drag, I exchange that "I'm a regular, I know the drill" knowing look with the boarding staff and flight attendants. I'm a FREQUENT FLYER. I really feel like I deserve it.
When I realized my own emotional response of my "privileged airline status" I started to feel a little guilty.
Of course, the answer I gave in the interview was how even these small privileges separate us from each other; that if we don’t experience the same problem, they why would we be committed to a common solution.
That’s true. But I'm still getting on early!
I landed at LAX yesterday and drove right to the Largo to see Gaby Moreno in her “Posada, Boleros & Friends” holiday show. It was fantastic. One of my favorite albums is one that she did with Van Dyke Parks called Spangled! Here's an interview on NPR's Alt Latino. I saw her perform the album a few years ago with a full band and small orchestra while I was in NY for a meeting.
Check out the whole album, but here's one of my favorite songs on the album.