The Privilege of Progress.
For the past few weeks I’ve had some computer issues. I wasn’t sure what the problem was and took my computer to the store to be fixed. They told me it would be expensive and so I decided to hold out. (Not the best decision if you’re writing requires a computer and internet connection.) During that time I researched some different devices and discovered, on trying to trade in my 4 1/2 year old laptop, that it is now valued to be worth, well basically, it’s worth nothing. Technology has progressed so much in these last 4 years that what was cutting edge then is obsolete now.
It got me thinking about how much progress we’ve made over my short lifespan. Here I was feeling anxious to get my computer. I was tracking my package and full of frustration when it got here in 5 days instead of 3. When it finally arrived I breathed a sigh of relief. In comparison, when I was a kid a package traveling from Maine to Florida carrying my coveted marshmallow fluff went around the world before arriving on our door step a few weeks later. Now it takes just a couple of days. In just 40 years we went from entering the commands in our Radio Shack TRS-80 Tandy Color Computers to an array of brand name smart phones & computer systems. We went from playing Pin Ball to Atari to Nintendo to Xbox Live. I remember going to Disney World one year and being impressed by the idea that one day we would be able to talk to one another through a viewing screen in which we could have conversations from across the world. It was so futuristic. I had hoped I would be around to see it.
In the world of technology we call that progress. That progress creates a whole new culture. A new way of life. For instance listening to my dads 8 tracks in the car was a far different lifestyle than the one I live today syncing my iPhone so I can stream Spotify. In fact over time I started out buying my own records and 45’s. I thought it was so cool to have control over the needle. To be able to place it anywhere on the record and hear whichever song I wanted. I would stare at the vinyl while it spun around and around and simultaneously amplified beats onto the walls of my room. Then cassettes arrived and I found myself making mixed tapes of my favorite songs straight from the radio. No longer did I have to try to save money to buy the album. No more having an album full of songs I didn’t like for that one hit wonder. Then CD’s came on the scene. They seemed so futuristic. Little silver discs that took up way less space than my beloved records. They were more durable and I could listen to them in my car! It didn’t seem like anything would ever replace those CD’s. Then came the ipod. Needless to say, every time we think something can’t be improved on or ideas are expended, something new comes out.
Every changing technology reigns in a whole new era with it. Styles change, culture changes, attitudes change. As a result of improvements in technology we live better lives. We live longer lives. We do things in a few hours today that would have taken days to do years ago. Life is fast and progress even faster. With progress also comes the privilege of an easier life. In fact, with progress comes privilege.
I can’t help but think of privilege when I think of progress. I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I was the first of my generation in my mothers family to graduate high school and the first to graduate college. With my two youngest getting ready to graduate high school, I can safely say I’m proud of their accomplishments and I expect that they will continue on to something more. I believe they will expect no less from their kids. It is not an option now, it is an expectation. It is part of the progress of our family lineage. Someday maybe not so far away their grandkids will expect nothing less of their kids than entrepreneurial success and a thriving philanthropic reputation.
Is there privilege in it? Of course there is. I don’t deny it exists. We hear it everyday. “Kids these days don’t know how good they have it.” Do you know how good you have it? It doesn’t matter what the color of your skin or your economic background. In this day and age you are living in privilege. You are living in the privilege that was provided for you by your ancestors before you. Your living in privilege that came from the people who suffered for human rights and struggled for acceptance and fought for acknowledgement. If you’re a woman, woman who came before us helped pave the way for us to enjoy the life we live today. Every time some new technology becomes available and our societies transform from past to future we step into a new sort of privilege. Think of the progress in medicine. We have vaccines for diseases that years ago would wipe out entire populations. If you are a minority you are living in a much better world than used to exist for those that have come before us. Is everything fair? Is the world perfect? No, but we’ve only to look to our neighboring countries to see we live in privilege. I’m not refuting there is disparity. However, as a whole, we are certainly living longer, healthier, and with modern advances like never before.
Privilege has gotten a bad rap lately. I don’t think privilege is something to be frowned on. After all if you work to provide a life for your kids better than what you had, they may have privilege, but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t without struggle or sacrifice. It doesn’t necessarily mean it was unappreciated or self-absorbed. After all isn’t that what every human rights movement is about? Eventually someone will reap those benefits….isn’t that the point? I believe privilege is a result of progress. Are there disparities still? Yes. But no where near what they used to be. Hopefully we will continue to provide privileges for those who come after us. Hopefully we will teach those next generations how important it is to understand the privilege they enjoy and to always strive to improve and progress. I will continue to teach my daughters the importance of appreciating how lucky they are to have the options and opportunities that have come to them from the struggles of the woman before us. I don’t want them angry that things aren’t perfect. I want them to consider the opportunities they have to change the things they don’t like. When I look around I see how far we’ve come. I see how far other countries and cultures have to go. I focus on continuing to progress and in the mere act of progressing, someone somewhere sometime in the future will look back and be grateful for the privilege I helped provide.