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Archive for September, 2009

A good life

Last spring, I spent a lot (to me) of money on a mountain bike. I have spent the past few months happily developing my climbing legs and literally soaring to new heights.

bikeI’ve also spent a lot of time feeling guilty. That I, a woman of color grad student from the Third World, could possibly spend that money on a bicycle.

How do I justify that? And why do I feel like I have to?

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I previously wrote about the dearth of people of color riders on the Los Angeles trails. I have since spoken to other people of color who have been thinking about riding, about spending money on a basic mountain bike, one with decent brakes and some kind of suspension. For many, it’s do-able if (like me) they cut wayyy back on other expenses. But oh the reluctance, since spending the money and actually devoting time to riding is often labeled as unproductive. A waste of time. And maybe, just a bit selfish.

What constitutes a “good life”? For many, the idea of a good life follows a linear progression of childhood, college, marriage, mortgage, kids, retirement. Judith Halberstam observes how this idea of a good life is built around accumulation. Those who live outside this logic of consumption and accumulation are pathologized and vilified.

This dominant idea of a good life already devalues activities like riding and running and  walking and being outside. Because these are pursuits that do not necessarily promote the productivity that “a good life” demands. Instead, they are often a refuge. They are opportunities to breathe, to reflect, and to feel joy outside the consumption-based logic of capitalism.

Perhaps this is a reason why such interruptive and “unproductive” activities are vilified and pathologized in the first place.

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