Over the last few months as I listen to podcasts and youtube clips of politicians and communicators talk about racism and shootings and abuse in jails, the term ‘level playing field’ sometimes gets thrown about.
That idea that, equality, is either, when everyone starts with a level playing field, or, some fairy-land ideal that ignores our starting points, but ‘if you work hard enough you will get there’. As a comment I thought I would just tell some stories to try to illustrate what I see as a false conclusion that ‘if you work hard enough, you will get there’.
Illustration one: The card game president scum. (it has other names) The aim of the game is to get rid of all your cards before everyone else. When everyone is finished, players get ranked from best to worst and the worst players then give their best cards to the best players. They are also put in order physically, so that the ‘deck’ (pardon the pun) is stacked against them. It’s almost impossible for the worst player to become the best player in one round. So impossible that, some have a rule that if the best player doesn’t continue to be the best player then they instantly become the worst player.
Some of us in life have the cards stacked against us. Some of us, for whatever reason, have been given the best cards, the best seat in the game and are expected by everyone in the game to succeed.
Illustration two: I’ve said this before and i will continue saying it I was born into privilege. – I am a white middle aged male. I have no university degree. I have no savings. No 20 year plan. But I know that if I ever get in trouble, with the law, or my health, or whatever – I have a good amount of people who wouldn’t batt an eyelid lending me money to return to my home country, and i have no doubt in my mind I could get any number of jobs within two months to pay back that money. I have skills, i have a CV that is ridiculously wide ranging. I have been given so many of the good cards and I have been handed a very good seat in the game because I was born on a giant island alongside 18 million people, to a well educated family who taught me how to live and love in such a friendly respectful way that I have made lots of good friends.
Some of us, by no choice of our own, were born well. Some of us, also by no choice of our own were born into war, poverty, oppression – unknown, and ignorant because of our situation.
Illustration three: Drugs can mess you up. A lot. I have friends who are smarter, more charismatic, more hard working than me. In fact lets talk about my friend ‘Yogurt’ (name changed for obvious reasons) Yogurt grew up in a loving family surrounded by crazy people. He learned an amazing skill, he was taught to work very hard, to be nice to peoples faces, and to network well in ways that had him working on large scale money making projects. Parts of his upbringing led him down a path of insecurity and questioning curiosity that ended in him becoming a functioning drug addict for a long time.
One thing led to another and he was kicked off work sites, kicked out of relationships, driven deeper into despair and Yogurt found a ton of comfort in… you guessed it, more drugs.
Some of us were given the keys to our own minds. Others of us, fell into habits that we were not prepared for, and we function in them for awhile, but discomfort and sudden torment pushes us further into our addictions.
Multiply illustrations by millions of unique lives and stories. We are a strange people, made strangely breakable. If humans were glass cups, some of us were made with a travel mug lid. The water will not escape and will stay warm for a long time. Others of us are born with large holes in the bottom and others were born with just the handle. Holding nothing.
In the maelstrom of audible racism and racism through ignorance we need to get rid of this idea that ‘its not my fault… they should take care of themselves’. As a single straight white man, this world is very easy for me to live in. I’m not abused because of how I look (unless i choose not to bathe for a while) I’m not abused because of who I love or where I walk at night. (usually) And more than that I started life on a pedestal compared to many. We might fear that helping people worse of than us will mean we can’t change clothes every day for a month, or we can’t eat at a restaurant every meal, or maybe could simply be nicer to each other (shock horror).
But, owning the different playing fields that exist. Fighting for an equality in the present. Actually getting others to the playing field we started on. Would be nice huh? If we all did start on a level playing field. Then we get to choose.
I chose to chase after a life of dreams. Other people chase a life of security, a life of wealth, a life of colourful shoes. But I had the chance to choose because I started on a high playing field.