“This is a revolting development,” as Riley would say, back in his 1940s Life of Riley radio show. I brought up my blog post “I want to be good, but how?” of a few days ago, as a proposal for a discussion topic with some of my friends earlier this evening. It went well for only a little while as I was discussing the comparative virtues of picking up cigarette butts versus picking up dead tree branches on a public sidewalk.
Suddenly, I don’t know quite how, the group discussion turned to the subject of American white male privilege. My first thought was that as a member of a privileged group of people who could deign to pick up litter without feeling guilty I was exerting some sort of unearned dominance. Other categories of people wouldn’t do such a disgusting thing because it would make them feel debased and demeaned. I didn’t feel that.
Perhaps, just perhaps, that is an accurate description, because I do feel a bit of satisfaction doing something that is solely for the public good, and not for any personal gain. I set myself up to be attacked because I admitted that I took pleasure in doing a good deed for the unknown public.
Several times I have mentioned in this blog that I do shovel snow, carry water, chop wood, sweep sidewalks and do things that as a teenage boy I would have chafed at doing. But I now enjoy doing modest amounts of those simple things. It’s not like I do it for hours, but I do do it for minutes.
The whole conversation drifted away from doing good deeds toward people being resentful for being categorized and judged.