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Opening Arguments

Poor, poor, privileged me

The best arrogantly self-pitying whine I've read all month: "I tried to escape my privilege with low-wage work. Instead I came face to face with it":

 I attended the Edmund Burke School, one of Northwest Washington’s small private prep schools, where college acceptance rates were close to 100 percent, students called our teachers by their first names, and — despite our de facto liberalism and the lip service we paid to the ideal of diversity — we were mostly white and well-off. Most of our parents were left-leaning architects or journalists, federal employees or lawyers, who thought their children would thrive best in small classes and had the means to make it happen. I was sheltered, and I knew it.

So I inclined away from the kind of internships or resume-building white-collar gigs that my peers were pursuing the summer after graduation. I wanted something physical, something working class.

[. . .]

Nor, I’m sure, was I the first to learn that my mission was doomed to fail. No matter how blue-collar my surroundings, I’ll always carry the marked advantages of my educated, middle-class upbringing. Despite my total lack of relevant work experience, I leapfrogged straight toward management. 

[. . .]

This was five years ago. I graduated from college in December with a major in geography. At age 23, I’m a freelance writer and illustrator in my college town. I’ve done other low-wage work in the past five years, but my trajectory has brought me toward the more skilled and specialized labor expected within my class. 

So, basically, he took a walk on the blue-collar wild side, then drifted into where he should have been all along, and now, if I'm reading him right, he will feel guilty for his "privilege" the rest of his life. (His "leapfrogging straight twoard management" was being put behind the cash register at a falafal shop because he could speak and understand English the best.) I'm trying to think of a word for him, and the closest I can come is "schmuck." He might be guilty of humblebragging, as one observer has posited.

Or maybe at some point in his pathetic, guilt-ridden existence, he will finally grasp reality: You ar who you are, unaccountable for the circumstances of your birth and upbringing, so start with that -- accept it and move on. Grow, change. You have nothing to feel guilty about except for whatever poor choices you make.

I know from my own life  that you can learn from the poor-working class-blue collar experience. But you have to be born into tp it and want to move up from it. You can just dip your toes into it and expect to get much from it. And I don't think you can learn anything from actions motivated by guilt.

UPDATE:  Ann Althouse makes an obvious point:

 And, by the way, when did it become unusual for middle-class American kids, in the years before graduation from college, to work in fast-food joints? It used to be completely the norm, not anything you'd consider yourself special for doing. Here's a list of places I've worked: International House of Pancakes, Burger Chef,The White Horse DinerThe Brown Jug, and Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. That wasn't odd, just what a typical American college student did in the summer.