I am privileged. The Oxford dictionary defines privilege as follows: «a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group». Personally, I relate to the advantage aspect of privileges.
A couple weeks ago I took a roadtrip (privileges: free time, financial freedom and means of transportation) to visit two of my best friends in the north-east of France (privileges: community and freedom of movement), where they are both studying abroad for the time being. The nine hour drive was pleasant enough, I had just finished a one year deployment a couple of days prior and enjoyed being alone with my thoughts, just for a little while.
I arrived in Bordeaux, known for good wine and Cannelés (French pastry flavored with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust), Saturday afternoon, exhausted but content. My week-long stay with my besties was supposed to be relaxing, spent reconnecting and indulging in French culture (aka flirting with whomever I pleased and eating the supposedly best food ever).
My silly little plans took a u-turn when we found, not even 48h after my arrival, that my car had been stolen. We embarked on an odyssey, a captivating story with twists and turns, flirts and language barriers, encounters with the French Police System and the hardships of policing. (Coincidentally, I was reading «The End of Policing» by Alex S. Vitale at the same time.)
On one hand, I was initially pleasantly surprised by the French Police. They were helpful and successful: they found my car and the three culprits involved in the theft not even 48h after my initial visit to a French police station. On the other hand, the failures and deep rooted issues of almost every judicial system were still obvious (I’ll save the story of the forgotten crack-pipe and heroin for another day).
That being said: I won’t claim that I’m lucky that my car got stolen. However, I will say that it’s luck that my car got stolen. Luck in the sense that yes, this impacted the trajectory of my vacation and next couple of months greatly, yes I had more encounters with the police than I’d like on a supposedly relaxing vacation and yes, I fell victim to French bureaucracy.
However, I do not rely on this car for transportation to and from work. My family does not rely on this car for daily life. My insurance will cover the damages. I have a roof over my head (during vacation as well as generally). I have the financial means that eventually payed for a train ticket home. I have a great support system, my friends, that comforted me when I got frustrated (the language barrier and certain aspects of the theft surely got to me.)
I’m obviously not glad that my car got stolen. But, it was an inconvenience, and a lesson learned, nothing more and nothing less. Can you imagine the sheer privilege of this statement? «Getting my car stolen was an inconvenience.» It almost feels gross to say this. Correction: it does feel gross to say this.
But the uncomfortable feeling of saying this is greatly overshadowed by how grateful and appreciative I am of my personal circumstances. Being born where, into what family and at what time (economically and historically) is pure luck. And I’ll be damned if I’m not the luckiest woman alive.
That being said, I reacted in rational fashion to said inconvenience. This was not surprising to me (I have a tendency to be a bit too rational for my own good.) In this specific case, and my opinion, it was the only way to react to the situation I was put in. And while I was not surprised by my approach, every person I recalled the incident to, sure was.
This in return was surprising to me. Why would my rational approach to such an «inconvenience» surprise others? Either, because they view me as an irrational human being, or because they wouldn’t react in a similar manner. In this case, my rationale tells me it’s the latter.
But why would I not react anything but solution-oriented? I have no emotional attachment to said car (it’s not an heirloom, nor gift). The lives of my family and me were not endangered. Our economical status would not be (greatly) impacted. So, in conclusion, I could and did crack a joke about the whole happening shortly after leaving the police station initially.
Because, as Kourtney Kardashian infamously said: «There’s people that are dying.» We are currently witnessing another war in the Middle-East, innocent people are losing their lives daily. World leaders lack the empathy and rationale to take the necessary measures to protect innocent civilians.
Therefore, what gives me the right to be anything but inconvenienced by all this? I am not traumatized. We live and we learn, and I lived through it and I learned from it. I took it for what it was: a part of my plot and a learning experience: take the train instead of the car whenever possible. I will not claim this as anything other than that.
I have been witnessing a lack of perspective by many, in the last couple of years, but especially months and weeks. With the lack of perspective comes a lack of empathy. I get to have both. The privilege to dissect my experience in this capacity as well as the privilege to not let this further affect me.
I urge everyone who lives within my circumstances to approach similar situations accordingly. In summary: with the perspective, and admission, that we are privileged enough to not take up too much space to have this affect us greatly, especially while there’s people who have to suffer through worse, even if their situation seems less spectacular.
And by all means: suffering through «worse» isn’t necessarily graver situations, but instead less privilege and fewer tools to deal with them.
13. November 2023