Surf “PRIVILEGE”, moderated by Gabrielle at her home in Tel Aviv, 13/11/2019
The booksurf on the 13th November on the theme of Privilege took place in central Tel Aviv. There was an option to relate to the theme of privilege within the context of climate crisis and some participants did combine these two, while others chose texts that related to the subject of privilege, pure and simple.
Sheryl started the evening with a reading from The Handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood, which describes an episode in which the male commander is reading to a group of handmaids. The handmaids are unable to read as they have been deprived of basic education. The extract highlights the issue of male privilege and power over the helpless young women. Next Dan read from an article from Fortune magazine of 2005 that discussed climate change, and forecast extreme climatic changes by the year 2020. A discussion followed about whether the dire predictions in the article had in fact materialised and if indeed the issue of climate change is quite as serious as it is presented by environmentalists, scientists and the media etc. The company was divided on this matter. Next Gabriela read from the novel The Wall by the English writer John Lanchester. The novel describes a dystopic reality following what the writer calls, The Change. A great wall has been built around Britain in order to keep out risen water levels and the Others, refugees from other parts looking for shelter and a safe life on the fortified island. The extract highlighted the issues of self-interest and personal security in a dystopic context on the one hand, and role of caring and individual responsibility for global situations on the other. Coincidently Steve read a section from The Wall too. The extract he read described the privilege of having Help after the Change, which in the context of the novel, is the term used for having servants.
After the break Milton read an extract from the actor, Alec Guiness’s autobiography, which tells of an early stage in his life in which he was clearly not privileged, with limited financial resources, but was shown great kindness by a private acting teacher, which catapulted him to a privileged career on the stage and in film. That reading was followed by Victoria’s rendition of ‘White’s Blues’ by the British satirical cabaret act, Fascinating Aida. The poem, from 2005, presents a comical portrait of the hypocrisy of a privileged white liberal, trying to pass herself off as politically correct, when in fact she does it exactly what suits her regardless. And finally Jayant Shaq read ‘Stranger in the village’, from ‘Notes of a Native Son’, by James Baldwin, in which the writer describes a visit to a village in Switzerland, the inhabitants of which have never seen a black person before. He imagines how different the reception a white person visiting an African village, in which the local people had never before seen a white person, would have been to how he, of Afro-American descent, was received in the in the Swiss village. He discusses the automatic advantage and privilege a white person has over a non-white person, regardless of education or personal accomplishment.