On totality privilege

FOMO is a big thing these days.  That's "fear of missing out", but I'm sure you all knew that.  It's the feeling that something is going on and you're going to miss it, so you have to obsessively check/stalk Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.

Your fear is usually of missing out on pretty trivial things.  Maybe it's being the first one to find out a piece of news.  Whatever it is, it's probably something that can be experienced later with little or no degradation of the experience.

Basically, there's precious few things that we can't time-shift to fit our schedules.  Some of these must-be-there things include concerts (although we can watch livestreams), sporting events (but here, sometimes television is better), and protests (which I've found Periscope to be great for).

But for those things, if you do miss out, you can always console yourself with the fact that there's gonna be another one, probably in the same location, probably in the near future.

And then there's the solar eclipse.  A once-in-a-generation event, unless you're willing to travel long distances.  And there's a chance that it'll be cloudy and you'll miss it, and that's completely out of your control.  And you have to plan, and all the places to stay were booked up in advance, and travelling costs money and time, and the place you're in gets like 90% totality, and who wants to sit in traffic forever just for a lousy extra 10%?

I looked on Reddit after the eclipse.  So many people saying what a letdown it was.  I divide these people into a few categories:

  1. People who had good reasons why they couldn't travel to totality zones.  Maybe it was too far, or maybe they had to work, or maybe they didn't have the money.
  2. People who traveled to totality zones but were clouded in.
  3. People who had the means and the ability to travel to totality zones but didn't do it.
Group 3 is the one I don't understand.  As far as I could tell, the internet was clear on this: totality is a totally different experience from partial.  Yes, during partial, a few things change, but it's not drastic.  It's gonna be pretty meh.  Viewing the sun partially eclipsed through eclipse glasses is kind of interesting, but really you'd get the same thing from watching it on TV; in both cases your view is mediated by an artificial obstruction.  There's no visceral experience.

Part of me thinks there's some hipsterism involved in group 3.  Something that says "this is really popular so I'm not going to do it".  Old me might have been in this group, back when I thought that mainstream things were for "sheeple" (OK, didn't really use that term, but it gets across the meaning).  "Oh, look at all the mindless drones, making their way to where their TVs told them to go."  I get it, but I think it's immature.  Some things are popular because they're good.  Popularity by no means = quality, but quality is a contributing factor to popularity.

What's worse, to me, is that some people seem to get angry that others saw something mind-blowingly cool and they didn't.  If you feel this way, well, now I think you feel un-privileged, and I feel privileged.  Let this be a lesson in how it feels to not have privilege.  Through absolutely nothing but being born in the right circumstances (in a place near totality), and through absolute chance (clouds not obscuring the view), I saw something amazing.  It's not because I'm better than anyone else or did anything particularly well (although a tiny bit of planning was involved), but something good happened to me that didn't happen to others.

Are the others justified in feeling envy?  Sure.  Should I shut up about how awesome it was?  Maybe.  But I just wanted to put this out there as a lesson in what people mean when they talk about privilege, completely separated from any racial/cultural/economic issues that might cloud the discussion.  It's totally okay to be privileged, as long as you recognize it and help others gain the same privileges when you can (and next eclipse, I will be harping on the necessity to get to totality to everyone I know, because now I have had the experience).