A Little About Privilege

My phone has been giving me trouble for about a week now. It started soon after I did a major software update. The file system got corrupted, my music, videos, and photos went missing, and the phone became buggy and slow, even after I did a factory reset. I felt insanely angry.

This particular phone model is part of Google’s bid to bring a pure Android experience to the developing world at a fraction of the cost. It is an ambitious program, and I admit I prefer their stock Android version to the heavily modified HTC and Samsung ones.

The best engineers and programmers in the world built something that almost became a brick was my thinking at the time. They did not apply themselves enough to make something that works in this part of the world (this would not be a surprise were it confirmably true. Face it. Who gives a shit about this corner of existence?). I realize that my reaction was unwarranted.

Things do not always work out the way we want them to. Machines die. Theoretically, I know this. The practical reminder is agonizing. I went to the care centre, and the room was packed. I did not have the time to wait. I had scheduled lunch with a friend, and I hate keeping people waiting, so I left.

The other alternative was to buy a new phone, and it is one I have toyed with endlessly. I have a goodish job now, and I can afford to. No worries here, yes? That would be throwing money at the problem. So, what about the people who have similar phones and who cannot afford to replace them on a whim?

Was my time much more important than theirs that I could not wait for it to get repaired? And, was I the only one with such issues? Given the number of people at the repair centre, of course not, but my feelings and thoughts at the time seemed to imply so (and, as a corollary, that I was special, that my time is more valuable).

This whole thing seems innocuous: what is the big deal about replacing a phone just like that? I can do it almost effortlessly. But, what about those who cannot? What about that chick who has been saving up for eight months to buy her first smartphone?

The one who’s time is not unique enough, the boring one who does not have Saturday lunch plans and can afford to sit for hours in a stuffy room with the rest of the unwashed? It is a bit humbling, realizing just how much you have that you can afford to sneer at an alternative solution (in my case, waiting to get the phone fixed, which makes more financial and practical sense).

And it is not just about the money (or lack of it as we have established, snicker). Part of the whole debate surrounding privilege is the inability to see one’s relative advantages, legs-up that we did not have a say in. After I cooled down, it occurred to me how brattish I had been.

How many other times had I behaved in a similar manner, throwing my weight around using something that I had almost no choice in? It is funny how the tiniest things (and a ruined phone is little) seem to put so many things into perspective and bring so much to the light.


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