When I look at Robert Yager’s Gang series, the only thing that flashes through my mind over and over is the word “privilege.”
It’s not something I usually want to harp on because I generally loathe the preening crackers who tend to fling the term around the most. I don’t despise them because I disagree with their core beliefs, (quite the contrary) but because those insufferable children regularly undermine extremely important issues, while attempting to impress their study-group peers with the militancy of their dogma, and because they are almost always completely oblivious to the irony their liberal arts education represents.
I live in the city of Philadelphia. It’s a major metropolitan area that feel’s smaller than Mayberry to my friends and colleagues because their gentrified bubble, delineated only by the farthest reaching yoga studio or “neighborhood anchor” gastro pub, only makes up a few square miles of the city.
Real, true privilege is tangible and glaringly displayed in this bubble, but that privilege extends far, far beyond the racial hierarchies and the economic realities that the liberal arts loft dwellers prosper from, while feigning self loathing penance.
The bubble isn’t just geographical, it’s overwhelmingly historical.
Do we ever worry about famine? Of course not. Imagine telling someone even just a hundred years ago that obesity would be an epidemic. Inside this bubble is a historical Twilight Zone moment where people can afford to refuse meat as a food source because it’s cruel to the meat, and that meat is a cheaper food source than the food source that meat would eat.
In the timeline blip that is this bubble, there are no plagues, no failed harvests, no food shortages, no barbarians at the gates, no roving war parties or death squads, no approaching invasion. In fact, no one has ever experienced the devastation of large-scale warfare on the soil inside this bubble at all.
The reality is, through all of the time and space represented on this planet, the lives of a tiny select few alive today, represents an absolute anomaly, not some sort of birthright norm, as the guys down at the Whole Foods beer lounge knitting club would content. Gentrified Philly, Brooklyn, Austin, San Francisco, is not the normal state for humanity-
Now this is the moment were I’m supposed to turn my attention to Robert Yager’s Gang Series and tie my rant about privilege into a “there are starving children in China” lecture that shames you, the reader, for attending a Jeff Koon’s exhibit, when there is real life struggle happening right outside this gentrified bubble, and people are inevitably struggling to survive and dying pointless deaths just a couple subway stops down.
But I won’t.
If you were lucky enough to be born with the winning lottery ticket that is access to potable water, technology, health care, available education, protection by the police, and the ability to send away food because you suspect there may be egg in the meat substitute used in your gluten free vegan bahn mi tacos- enjoy it.
After a decade or two of Category Five hurricanes battering an over populated planet with dead oceans, your children will know the horrors of war just like the rest of the world through the rest of history. Seriously, eat some shrimp, pour a growler, order an Uber, do some yoga while you still can. Enjoy it now. I know I do, because this abnormal bubble some of us get to live in will not last.