(a) that waiting is just part of life, and so there's nothing particularly virtuous about waiting without losing your head.However, I don't know whether either of these interpretations really, fully works. The quip looks more like a complaint: "waiting sucks." Indeed. And presumably it sucks even more if one lacks patience or if what one is waiting for isn't really worth the wait. If there's any truth in the attempts to redeem the complaint, it's that it can clearly be condescending and show a kind of bad faith (in a master-slave sort of way) for someone to tell another, who is being forced to wait unreasonably or unjustly, that since patience is a virtue, he or she should not complain. So I can see the legitimacy of something like this complaint when "patience" is invoked as a means of controlling others. But what's requested by the "master" in such cases is not patience so much as servility. And so the problem here isn't that genuine patience is not a virtue.
(b) that "virtue" is the language of the privileged (or the bourgeois), and part of being a member of the privileged class is that you usually don't actually have to wait in the ways that the underprivileged do. (The privileged don't wait for the bus.) To think that patience is a virtue is the result of a narrow understanding of what life is like for most people, which connects this interpretation to the first one.
Friday, May 04, 2012
Patience & Privilege
My wife drew my attention this evening to a Facebook post by a friend of hers which read, "Whoever said patience is a virtue never had to wait for anything." At first, this struck me as pseudo-wisdom. (Cf. Bo Derek: "Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.") But then it occurred to me that perhaps there are two possible redeeming interpretations: