We live in a globalized world, most of us — particularly those with the wherewithal and interest to be reading this blog. It’s easy to forget that not everyone is like us.
In the wake of John Scalzi’s Lowest Difficulty Setting blog post, I was thinking about my guy and how he’s a straight white male (SWM) who has, like many, faced adversity. He’s had an African American female boss, he’s a generation older than me, and his father was a teacher. But he also has beaten cancer, lost his career in the Navy due to leg injury, and is, quite frankly, an alcoholic. He works in a pink collar industry and due to his dylexia barely managed to graduate with a high school diploma.
But what I’m getting at here isn’t the notion that Mr. Scalzi is somehow wrong. I’m quite confident that he’s completely correct. What I want to get at here is the notion that not everyone gets it. I have a law degree and studied feminist philosophy pretty extensively in college. I blog, I tweet, I facebook, hell I’m developing a computer game. I’m not the single most internet-savvy person in the world, but I certainly get by. My guy doesn’t. He can barely type, doesn’t have a facebook, doesn’t have an e-mail, doesn’t know how to fill out online applications and to be perfectly honest, he doesn’t have a phone. He doesn’t drive, even.
Now, we don’t live in the boondocks. I am a ten minute drive from one of the most populated cities my country has to offer, and we have internet. But until he met me, he didn’t know what hulu was, didn’t know what netflix was, and didn’t own an ipod much less a ps3. I introduced him to audiobooks, I’ve educated him about politics, and I’ve broadened his horizons every bit as much as he’s broadened mine about things like sports and cooking and social interaction.
As Seanan McGuire once pointed out, there is a very real digital divide, even in a first world country like the good ole United States of America. Even among the relatively (yes, I’ll say it) privledged. And in furtherance of this point, there are men out there — not just like my boyfriend, but like my uncle, who lives next door to me and worked his entire professional life on Capitol Hill — who simply do not understand that these issues exist, and if they did, would dismiss them with a snort.
Let’s talk about my uncle for a minute. He was a barber on Capitol Hill before his retirement, well-connected enough that had it not been in the middle of the Vietnam War, he could have — and almost did — secure for my father a recommendation to the United States Naval Academy. We are not talking about the disadvantaged urban poor when we’re talking about my paternal family: I’m 4th or 5th generation off the boat from Poland and we live on waterfront property. My uncle is Captain of his own 40ft ship and is, in his own way, a fascinating man to talk to, raging prejudice aside.
If only he would talk to his own child; my cousin is a transgendered former member of the army who, like my other cousin, sacrificed very real usage of his body in service of this country. My uncle raised his children to be strong, to not whine, to be themselves, and he succeeded — but since my cousin underwent surgery to become, as he has always felt he was, physically male, my uncle hasn’t spoken a word to him and the issues surrounding this have led to my own father’s cessation of contact with my cousin. (In fairness, my uncle once went a year without speaking to his “natural” son because of a SNAFU regarding the timing of a fishing trip.) It’s heartrending, not because my father is biased against the GLBT community, but because he once said to me, in all serious, If you were gay and I had known it when you were in the womb, I would have been in favor of aborting you. Not because I wouldn’t love you, but because I couldn’t bear to watch you have to suffer like that.
Folks, we live in a world where fathers — good, loving fathers who have never, ever failed to support their daughters in any way — say things like that to their daughters.
But I digress. What I’m trying to say here is that time is a luxury. Many of my local friends are online only long enough to update their facebooks, for that is the whole of their internet presence, and many of them do it from their phones. Lower class, upper class, educated, white collar… the majority of my “real life” friends and acquaintances aren’t gamers, aren’t bloggers, and barely know how to use e-mail. Living as I do in the suburbs of a large city, I cannot imagine that this is isolated. So where do we get off assuming that everyone is like us, that everyone has access to the information that we do, that everyone sees the political, social, economic, or cultural landscape that we do, or even should.
We ought to knock it off — in particular, we ought not be dismissing genuine efforts to educate and boost the signal as “that old, outdated message we all already know” because quite frankly, a lot of people don’t.