What is being privileged? Your Dixie cups may be first sign

Luxury is an interesting word.

Its definition varies on whom you ask. It could be an 82-inch plasma flat screen capping off a living room strangled with leather couches on a Caribbean yacht. It could be floor seats at Rupp Arena. It could be having enough cash to buy expensive beer one weekend. It could be affording to keep the heat on.

Similar to beauty, luxury is in the eye of the money-holder.

America, even with the dollar’s struggles, is still supremely wealthier than the majority of the world. Growing up in a country with such wealth, it’s easy not to notice all luxuries we have in our country that are viewed as nothing more than mediocre parts of life.

Take for example those small Dixie paper cups that so many people have sitting next to their bathroom faucet. Are these a luxury?

Most would say no, and when evaluating the material value of the cup, they’re probably right. But monetary value is completely different.

A box of those cups costs roughly $5. Consider that some people might buy one box every month. That’s $60 spent on nothing but someone’s refusal to drink from the faucet after they brush their teeth.

True, $60 is not a lot of money (in this country), but consider what it’s being spent on: a completely nonessential commodity.

America is lucky enough to have the wealth necessary to sustain a commodity culture, a place where the best ideas come of how to improve our lives in infinitesimal ways while making us all the lazier.

Even in our own country of bounty, there are people forced to beg for the change we throw away at useless commodities. The homeless man in Phoenix Park also probably won’t view a paper cup as luxury, but the money that pays for it…

This is not some tirade against the Dixie company, and anyone with a quarter of an open mind and eyes should see this.

Simple luxuries we take for granted, that aren’t available for so many, surround us. Cable television. Bottled water. Toilet seat covers. Ice makers. Dish washers. Personal washers and dryers. PlayStations. Coinstars. Indoor groceries. Bowflexes. Fake plants. Microwave ovens. Cars with more horsepower and less fuel economy than we need. Not to mention clean tap water, electricity in every city and laws that require adequate heat in buildings.

And let’s not forget the basic and truest luxury there is: life. America has first-rate medical care, a world away from the 27 countries that have life expectancies lower than 50 years, according to the CIA’s 2007 World Factbook.

I’m not advocating throwing your paper cups and televisions and microwaves into the street (although there would be more value in that than people realize), but if college students are to be fully educated, they should be aware of their personal place in the world. For Americans, that means recognizing how lucky many of us are.

So many college students don’t take the time to explore these thoughts. And the curriculum at UK certainly isn’t pushing such discussion, at least not in any widespread way.

The realization of this arbitrary privilege of being born an American should be a requirement of any formal education in this country.

Asking oneself what to do with this wealth and privilege after that can’t be forced on a person, but it should be asked.

Sean Rose is a journalism and English senior. E-mail srose