Optimism Hissed Through A Toothy Grin

English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un...

English: A homeless man in Paris Français :  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is something I read often on Facebook timelines: if you have food in your belly and a roof over your head you should be happy because you are doing better than half the world. There is so much wrong with this statement I do not know where to begin. I suppose I will start with those who post it, because it is almost always a person coming from a place of privilege who will almost certainly never have to worry about losing either of those things. Usually they get to enjoy so much more than those bare basics.

Which gets me to the second part of my problem with this absurd call for contentment. We are talking about the essentials. No body should have to go without them. You should be able to take them for granted, especially in country with more than twice the per capita income of any other nation on the planet. What else should we be grateful for? The fact that our homes are not covered in excrement? Should we be grateful that the state can’t get away with murdering us? I am sure some of you would say yes, and that’s because you don’t belong to the class of people in America where that is not the case. Your privilege shields you from insecurity. It protects you from having to worry about whether you will have a home, a meal, or a safe walk down the street in which you don’t have to worry about a stranger killing you because they can, because no one will care, really, if they do.

The racism and nationalism implied in the statement is overwhelming. The fact of the matter is, most people, everywhere, do enjoy those basics. It may not be in the form we westerners prefer, but they do. Most countries, most cities, most communities enjoy most of the same amenities. To our Eurocentric, arrogant eyes, however this cannot possibly be the case. To these people the idea that a country with a majority brown population can have cars, high-rise apartments, wi-fi, supermarkets, and all the other conveniences of the modern world is something they cannot make their minds believe, regardless the evidence presented to them.

It is cruel, complacency doctrine garbage. The threat implied is exactly what you would expect from someone who does not realize they are the oppressor: you have this little bit, but step out of line, and you might not even have that. We already have elected officials trying to make that the case, and they have an easier time of it when so many of our countrymen back them with this fake, toxic, optimism. Real optimism insists we are capable of doing better. Real optimism holds out hope that we will do better. Real optimism does not ask us to accept things as they are, but to believe they can change. Real optimism, however, is something the privileged do not want the oppressed to have. If that happens, then their special place in society melts away, and that is something they cannot have.


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