In my previous thinking and writing about the vulnerability of the poor, I’ve emphasized that we people of privilege can never really give our privilege away. We can take on voluntary poverty by moving into the ghetto, or sharing the poverty of a remote African village, but our privilege always goes with us. We have our education, we have our vocabulary that opens doors, or we have family that in a pinch will help out. At the very least we know what privilege is and in which direction it lies. Usually, when I’ve talked or written about this, I’ve added the caveat, “… unless we develop a mental illness that takes our privilege away.” Alzheimer’s will, in this sense, eventually take my privilege away.
Even with this disease, of course, I will never really experience the vulnerability of the poor and oppressed, of say an oppressed person who also has Alzheimer’s. But this will get me closer. Similar to the worst time of my depression when I had to face the possibility that I would never be well, the Alzheimer’s means that I will be more and more vulnerable to the needs and desires of others. If am not able to participate in a conversation (or if other people think that I can’t), then I will be excluded. At some point I will be dependent on others to get me what I want or need. I will become susceptible to scams or frauds.
I don’t feel that vulnerability yet, but it is certainly coming. It will take a certain spiritual strength to exist in that vulnerable space. But what kind of spiritual strength will I have as my cognitive impairment worsens?