I know Thanksgiving was over a week ago, but I couldn’t help but reflect this morning on how nice my life is. Not only nice, but completely and utterly lavish — a decadence, maybe, that verges on injustice (but I’ll get to that later).
I woke up this morning on a memory-foam mattress, smothered in warm blankets, to the sound of my iPhone 7 playing the aria of the Goldberg Variations. I curled up against my neon-green backrest and finished the intellectually stimulating philosophy reading I started yesterday on substance dualism. I made a cup of coffee with organic French vanilla creamer using my Keurig coffee machine, came back to bed, and watched a skit from Saturday Night Live. I briefly FaceTimed my mother, who loves me, and got a few messages from my father, who also loves me. I took a hot shower and washed my hair with keratin oil shampoo, and conditioned it with a bright, luxurious concoction of eucalyptus and mint. I tousled the damp strands of my hair with a little bit of Moroccan oil so that it will ripple down my back in soft tresses. I ate an organic banana, and then a clementine. I covetously eyed the three cupcakes from Pearl’s sitting atop my HP printer. And now I am sitting here, in warm clothes and pillowy, fuzzy slippers, typing away on my Macbook Pro about how nice my life is.
The utter level of material consumption here is astounding. Part of why my life is so nice is because centuries of industrialization, large-scale corporate farming, and globalization have culminated into a chaotic, exhausted Earth of mass-consumerism in which I can acquire so many luxury things, so easily. Chilean bananas in the Virginia winter. Moroccan oil from Israel. Netflix TV shows that were filmed in London. I even have boot-shaped plastic folds to keep my designer leather boots upright. Consumerism is a religion, it’s America’s religion, and boy have I bought into it.
But that doesn’t explain another disturbing fact – why me? Part of why my life is so nice is because I was born into a position of incredible privilege. I was born in a first-world country, in a nice neighborhood, to two married parents, in perfect health and mental capacity (although some may question the latter), and with plenty of people to care for me. Each of my parents makes a six-figure salary. These are conditions that were completely out of my control – yes, I am fairly wealthy, but I had almost no role in it. My parents worked hard to give me and my sister a “good life,” and now here I am, having just enjoyed half of an eggnog-flavored cupcake (I couldn’t resist). What could possibly be the reasons for being born into such privilege? Why did I get so lucky, while my brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe or war-torn Syria are born into suffering, disease, and poverty? Is it karma? Are we all paying for the evils of our past lives? Or is there a God who allows suffering to achieve certain “higher-order” goods? Is our world just a Sims-like simulation of super-intelligent aliens? Without getting too deep into the problem of evil, it’s a problem that stops me in my tracks from time to time. It is so incredibly unfair that I enjoy the life that I do, but I’m not sure how to correct the injustice. Should I be homeless for a month? Move to Congo? Sell all my belongings? More thoughts on this later.