The History of My Privileges

Is it possible to be a historian of your own life? To see yourself as a figure in the crowd, as a member of a generation who shared the same slice of time? We cannot help thinking of our own lives as uniquely our own, but if we look more closely, we begin to see how much we shared with strangers of our own age and situation. If we could forget for a moment what was singular about our lives and concentrate instead on what we experienced with everyone else, would it be possible to see ourselves in a new light, less self-dramatizing but possibly more truthful? What happens when I stop using “I” and start using “we’?     What “we” are we talking about here? Which “we” is my “we”? An old joke comes to mind. The Lone Ranger and Tonto are surrounded by Indian warriors. The situation looks bad. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto. “What do we do now?” Tonto replies, “What do you mean ‘we’, white man?” The “we” to which I refer and belong were the white middle-class of my generation, born between 1945 and 1960, and my theme is what we made of our privileges, and once we understand them as such, what we did to defend them.   We were, for a time, really something. We were the biggest birth cohort in history. We made up more than half the population and we held all the power, grabbed as much of the wealth as we could, wrote the novels that people read, made the movies that people talked about, decided the political fate of peoples. Now it’s all nearly over. Every year more of us vanish. We have shrunk down to a quarter of the total population, and power is slipping from our

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