7.3.14

Oppression and Privilege

Oppression is when othering becomes institutionalized, that is when a culture, social structures, or any prevailing entity, starts to enforce patterns ranging from segregation, to ethnic cleansing. Privilege is freedom from oppression. They’re reverse sides of the same coin.

You don’t typically notice privilege until you’ve lost it. In geek terms, the Game of Thrones fan that can’t afford HBO, or the gamer with no money during the big Summer Steam sale. Slightly outside the padded world of geekdom, privilege refers to anyone with the monetary, social, or other resources to not worry about details like your next meal, or paycheck, or rent check. Perhaps the culturally enlightened vegan, backpacking through India. They’re a tourist to poverty. They get to go home. Those chronically undereducated kids, starving on the hot pavement or barking about their trinket stalls, they are home.

Recognizing privilege can be a subtle shift. The American architect with three kids, who finds himself in his third year without steady work. It can be sudden. The Greek banker who had steady work for three decades, washed into the tidal wave of a countrywide depression. Only so much can come from empathy. If you only ever live on the white side of town, only ever go to good colleges and get good jobs, never travel outside your wealthy country, or your medium-wealthy area, you can be blithely unaware just how differently other people live.

Ignorance over oppression, especially willful ignorance, is a certain brand of privilege. While some will violently defend their rights to that ignorance, that works contrary to the listening which averts tragedies that are – especially for the privileged – stunning in both their horror and magnitude. It also averts the bland, everyday gaming banter that’s been stale for awhile.

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