We the Privileged

Douglas Rushkoff’s latest medium piece is something I urge all to read.

Its a very uncomfortable read for us who have retreated to our homes with yearly salaries, beautiful gardens and not having to deciding between a  earning an income and risking our household lives.

How much are we allowed to use our wealth and our technologies to insulate ourselves and our families from the rest of the world? And, like a devil on our shoulder, our technology is telling us to go it alone. After all, it’s an iPad, not an usPad.

We are all guilty of this, its human nature but Douglas is right, we need to think again. Theres ways to make things better for us all not just ourselves.

Many of us once swore off Amazon after learning of the way it evades taxes, engages in anti-competitive practices, or abuses labor. But here we are, reluctantly re-upping our Prime delivery memberships to get the cables, webcams, and Bluetooth headsets we need to attend the Zoom meetings that now constitute our own work. Others are reactivating their long-forgotten Facebook accounts to connect with friends, all sharing highly curated depictions of their newfound appreciation for nature, sunsets, and family. And as we do, many of us are lulled further into digital isolation — being rewarded the more we accept the logic of the fully wired home, cut off from the rest of the world.

Guilty, I recently bought a new chromebook (currently typing this on it) but about to give my old one to my parents. I will take their old one back and likely donate it somewhere as its still useful but no longer supported.

The amount of sunsets I have taken has increased and reaching out to friends and family for a catch up has been great. All while complaining about 7 zoom meetings in a row. There is a aspect of relativity to account for this all but the point is digital isolation is only afforded to a privileged group of people.

And so the New York Times is busy running photo spreads of wealthy families “retreating” to their summer homes — second residences worth well more than most of our primary ones — and stories about their successes working remotely from the beach or retrofitting extra bedrooms as offices. “It’s been great here,” one venture fund founder explained. “If I didn’t know there was absolute chaos in the world … I could do this forever.”

Here is the kicker. Even myself, has considered could I actually do this for much longer? Of course I don’t have a summer home, live in a very hot flat with a shared garden, etc. But I have a 1gig a bit fibre connection, the expertise, experience and technology to do this for much longer. I also don’t have kids so could happily do this (working from home) for quite a bit longer. I’m actually aiming to be the very last person back in the office because except for my work laptop SSD problem I can do almost everything I need for work remotely. I certainly am protecting myself as I am at slightly more risk than most but I already mentioned how I’m considering my location for working. I know a lot of people are thinking the same if they don’t need to be close to work or in cities. For me this is more of a reason to be in the city and maybe the prices of city centres will become more affordable in the long run? I’m very aware of my privileged position being able to actually consider these options with a career I love. We all need to remember and act on this… but I’m the wrong person to be saying this…

I have also been watching Anand Giridharadas who is pointing in the same direction as Rushkoff. Our self interest has clouded our vision. He gave this powerful talk at a recent TED event, which included this quote (mainly aimed at Americans)…

If you live near a Whole Foods Market , if no one in your family served in the military, if you are paid by the year and not the hour, if most people you know finished college, if no one you know uses meth, if you married once and remained married, if you not one of 65 million americans with a criminal records. if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually you may not know whats going on and you may be part of the problem.

I guess if you were translating that to the UK it would be…

If you live near a Waitrose supermarket, if no one in your family served in the arm forces, if you are paid by the year and not the hour, if most people you know finished college, if no one you know smokes pot, if you married once and remained married, if you not one of 11 million people with a criminal record. if any or all of these things describe you, then accept the possibility that actually you may not know whats going on and you may be part of the problem.

All really powerful thinking and connects directly with another blog I recently posted.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

2 thoughts on “We the Privileged

  1. @cubicgarden Yes to everything. Won’t even try to find the numbers for my country, but the same realities exist here, as everywhere else. Even freelancing and without work since March until last week, feeling very much privileged, with family support that is not available to everyone. There are a LOT of people with no support at all, except what the state is providing.

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