amw (amw) wrote,

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thinking about leaving and privilege

I've been thinking about how privileged it is for me to be able to say "fuck everything, i'm going to travel for a while". It hit home over NYE when i bumped into M, who i haven't seen in almost a year. She's a carpenter and Berliner born and bred. When i said i wanted to travel for a few months she just looked at me like i was an alien. She's my age, but the first time she ever left Europe was last year to holiday in Thailand. For many people, a vacation overseas is something you spend years saving for, and then it's over in a couple weeks. Lots of people can't even take a few months off in their own homes, much less overseas.

I know it's no surprise to y'all to hear me say people in my industry are disgustingly overpaid. Every day it drives me nuts that i have to put up with jackasses complaining about how the next tech company over is offering 5k more for the same job, plus they offer free artisanal soda and back massages, meanwhile pink collar workers are on their feet 60 hours a week and still earning half what we do. The salary (and perks) inflation in the tech industry is shameful. You only need to look at places like the Bay Area to see how badly it fucks up communities.

On the other hand, i also know that i spend a lot less money on "stuff" than both my upper middle class peers and many working class folks. My apartment has two chairs, a mattress and some rugs. That's pretty much all the furniture i have bought since i moved to Germany. I have no gadgets. No ornaments. I am still wearing mostly the same clothes i had in my closet 5 years ago. One of the reasons why i can work here for 3.5 years and end up with enough cash to scrape out another 2 is because i hardly spent any of the money i earned.

Of course, back on the first hand, traveling the way i intend to is desperately bourgeois. I probably have enough money saved that if i did the hippie trail and spent my time couch-surfing and hitchhiking and staying in hostels in third world countries i could avoid working for years. But i don't really want to do that. I want to travel to places where people live off more than a dollar a day. I want to see different places and meet different people without worrying about whether i am getting the best possible deal. I don't need to go somewhere exotic, i just want to go somewhere else. And i don't want to depend on anyone. I don't want to blag my way around the world.

And there it really is - true privilege. The privilege to not have to depend on anyone else for a while. All around the world in all cultures people stick to their family groups, their friends, they become part of a community so that they have a support network. Even backpackers have their own community distributed all round the world. But, because of my job, i can afford to buy independence. For a (relatively) short time, i will be able to go where i want, do what i want, owe nothing and rely on no one. I can do it, because i know that at the end of the day, i am still going to come back to a first world country with ~15 years experience in an industry that massively overpays its workers.

I guess i should be happy that i was lucky enough to be born into a relatively well-off family in the right part of the world and i happened to be skilled in what turned out to be the biggest boom industry of my generation. But it makes me wonder... does my constant need to be "free", to be able to do my own thing, to not have to answer to anyone... is that only a dream i have because of my privilege? I mean, would it even enter other people's minds to disappear for a few months without any particular goal simply in pursuit of the sensation of freedom? As i talk to more and more people i am realizing the answer is no. The idea of just taking off and landing... wherever... it doesn't even make sense to them. It makes perhaps as little sense to them as using what little money you have to rear children or fill a house with "stuff" makes to me.

The thing is... am i being some kind of bourgeois apologist by saying, "well we are all different people with different goals and dreams, therefore it is okay for me to bum around while other people toil for scraps"? Or is the fact that - in the face of injustice - people are still able to find their own kind of happiness exactly something to celebrate about humanity?

I dunno. I know i wouldn't help anyone by giving away (more) money and ending up a parable of how the pious workaholic died by their own hand.

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