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I had an opportunity a few months ago of being told I was privileged and was a “nasty” person in terms of many of my attitudes. I found that rather shocking for a number of reasons.

The first is that since age five, I have worked my heart out — worked like a dervish perfecting dedicated swirls to be faster and grander — to serve humanity and the natural world. Sometimes I have done so under personal self-sacrifice (such as when I used my Christmas money to send my Christmas presents to a leper’s colony when as a teenager) and under threat: How would you like to be sworn at and spit in the face by white supremacists when aged thirteen and raising help for Selma, Alabama march? Scary, but you, still shaky in your deepest self, go out the next day and resume your activity in the racist southern state in which you live. It is because you have no choice except to keep in struggling the world forward. … Another good one is being told by Marines that they want to ship you over to Iraq and kill you there since they do not like your opinions. And they found out where you live, too. Oh, that’s loads of fun, too, eh? … wondering whether one is going to show up at your door and blow your brains out. … Yes, I’ve always tried my hardest to serve, but am I privileged? Are the above examples an indication?

Recently I decided that I am, but it all depends on your baseline — the standard used for measuring one’s relative placement. Perhaps I am depending on the standard used. After all, I always had enough food, shelter over my head, medical care, dental care, toys and books of interest, nice adequate amounts of clothes and shoes, and so on. I always had a winter coat for freezing days and a swimsuit to dip into a pool of water on hot days. I always had family and friends to encourage me onward in my efforts to be my best self. I have always lived in a relatively safe neighborhood.

Now-a-days, I have given up chastising family members and friends for jet travel to vacation homes, out-of-country travel for touring about in other lands several times a year and many other kinds of extravagances. (Jet travel contributes to 8% of climate change.) I? I don’t travel except by car and not too far away from my state.

I have one very tiny air conditioner in my home and when the temperature hits above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, especially on humid days, I have to jump into the bathtub to bring my body core temperature downward so I do not have to be carted off to a hospital either dead or half-dead by an ambulance. … Yeah, really privileged, yeah? Yes, but it is all relative since some have no bathtubs and simply succumb to the heat or the cold, right? Yes, right.

And I am stubborn and stupid sometimes. I am so angry about climate change matters that I have not driven my elderly 2010 Toyota Prius (best car for climate change issues) NOT ONCE this year. Yeah, yeah — I’m a dumb-dumb — cutting off my nose to spite my face, as the saying goes, since this lack of use is BAD for my car’s not degrading through non-use. … Yeah, yeah I have lots of issues that I still have to figure out from a reasonable orientation rather than a foolish position.

Sometimes when I get upset, I call one of my friends and rag on the issue that bothers me. One of my friends in reply told me that I am not sufficiently looking at the amazing good acts that certain wealthy family members and friends do rather than their wrongful behaviors. Yet I have a tendency to look at the wrongs and the badness since this is wherein we have to focus attention to try to change individual behaviors, social trajectories and corporate patterns that are slated into possibly destroying humanity and the Earth as a whole.

Not everyone has all of this, though, that I have — including some ratty old, but functional furniture and an 1860’s home with no mortgage left to pay to a carnivorous bank. Many people have way less and I am a white skinned blond. Maybe sometimes that, too, is a bonus. (Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t, such as when some Blacks, who have no idea about who I am, have named me a Honky, which is the N- word for whites.)

Yes, I am privileged. I finally came to that conclusion. It is undeniable.

I live in a messy complicated world and I haven’t been killed (as happens in some countries) for being an activist standing up for human and environmental justice. That alone is a privilege. I am aware.

Dedicated to Jay Janson and Shiva Shankar, as well as my family members (myself included) and Catholic Workers who I know who are willing to lay their lives literally on the line if needed to support our world forward.

Many of us have already gone that route. It is NOT fun to lay life on the line, but you take that path as a matter of service. There is no choice when one see that which needs to be addressed as is starkly staring you in the face.

Sally Dugman is a writer from MA. USA

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