The Distress of the Privileged

This is a remarkable piece.

In a memorable scene from the 1998 film Pleasantville (in which two 1998 teen-agers are transported into the black-and-white world of a 1950s TV show), the father of the TV-perfect Parker family returns from work and says the magic words “Honey, I’m home!”, expecting them to conjure up a smiling wife, adorable children, and dinner on the table.

This time, though, it doesn’t work. No wife, no kids, no food. Confused, he repeats the invocation, as if he must have said it wrong. After searching the house, he wanders out into the rain and plaintively questions this strangely malfunctioning Universe: “Where’s my dinner?”

Privileged distress. I’m not bringing this up just to discuss old movies. As the culture evolves, people who benefitted from the old ways invariably see themselves as victims of change. The world used to fit them like a glove, but it no longer does. Increasingly, they find themselves in unfamiliar situations that feel unfair or even unsafe. Their concerns used to take center stage, but now they must compete with the formerly invisible concerns of others.

If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.

The new form of privilege is to be able to make claim to none, for these no-privilege privileged can push through any unsavoury agenda while rebuking objectors as perpetrators of this or that -ism.

I guess, i think it’s more symptomatic of the left blogosphere’s attitudes toward old white guys.

You know for the amount and speed of demographic and sociological change going on in American - i’d like to get an actual measure, but i’d bet it’s one of the fastest in the world, and possibly fastest in world history - even the most moderate conservatives are pretty constrained. Turn Germany, France, UK, Russia, China, India, or virtually any other country the many shades of colors and opinions we have in the US as fast as we have since the 60s and see what happens, and when you look at countries like South Africa you see what “white flight” really looks like. Most of the time the push back has been competely toothless or at best symbolic, like the bible-as-philsophy subject in public schools, or fences on borders that never really get built. As bad as Republicans can be, as intellectually dishonest and willingly blind - i mean, yea, sure they’re Christians and conservatives and gun owners blah blah, how horrible - but they’re not able to do 1/50th of what the left fears.

One thing i have grown sympathetic toward conservatives about, living in Conservatopia, is that the left really does want them to dry and blow away. Just look at the Other Forum to see the level of not-well disguised disdain towards religious or conservative positions and how taking these position drive them to frothing anger because having those opinions is either a moral failure or psychotic delusion, and conservatives aren’t completely paranoid when they think the “lib’ruls” really are gunning for them.

That blog post just smacks of bashing white guys who complain. You don’t have a right to complain old white guys! Yet that attitude among liberals is exactly what old white guys complain about!

That’s exactly what it’s not about. In fact, this sort of statement is what the post is about: creating a false equivalency between “bashing white guys who complain” and genuine oppression.

Paraphrased, what he’s saying is: yes, we get that you’re really uncomfortable with change, and that’s understandable. But please stop trying to say that “I don’t like these changes” is the same amount of distress as treatment that ranges from being denied basic rights to being killed.

To put it another way, suppose I made a disparaging remark about an Old White Guy who wanted to hang out a “no Jews or Coloreds” sign in front of his store. He complains about it, and I write a blog post bashing him for doing so. I get this comment on that post on some random political board:

That blog post just smacks of bashing white guys who complain. You don’t have a right to complain old white guys! Yet that attitude among liberals is exactly what old white guys complain about!
Wouldn’t that person be focusing just a bit on the wrong issue?

But when he uses phrases like “counter-revolution” to describe conservative reaction he’s already internalized in this argument the scope of the demographic and economic changes they are facing, and simply expects them to aquiesce, get out of the way, die out, shut up and get on the train, because the superority of his morality and their “intrasigence” demands it. It’s the choice between informing on the price of privilege and exclusion and demanding (or obligating) compensation.

Saying they’re “focusing on the wrong issue” summarizes exactly why the 1% are not wanted in the brave new world and why all that nervous chatter about class warfare might well end up proving the old white guys right (more or less), and is a kind of “my hair is a bird” non sequitur since the whole premise of these kinds of blog posts is to point out that the old white guys need to be put in their place and be made to pay for it. Telling a group that their argument is invalid, we don’t care what or how it burdons you, because group X or Y is much more burdoned (and it’s all your fault) isn’t the way to win friends and influence people without coercion.

Of course these blogs aren’t meant for “them” anyway, but when they sit around the country club harranging someone about Obama and how that this is the worst thing that has ever happened to them and he’s the most divisive president in history blah blah blah, but when i see Obama’s intellectual base is being fire up by these kinds of blogs, i have a much harder time outright disagreeing with them, even if they’re still crazy fucks in the end.

Worrying about privilege is a playtime activity for other privileged people. This is the same sort of activity that conservatives engage in when they worry that welfare might pay out for “lazy” people who don’t deserve it. It’s an attempt to sidestep discussion by pegging a group people with a perceived character flaw makes them wrong by their very nature. This is about constructing lines between “good” and “bad”, based entirely on value judgements, that conveniently place one on the right side. An article like this purports to be meaty discourse when in fact it’s a sickly sweet gob of emotional candy for insecure liberals.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of old white people with terrible ideas about the world. However their “privilege” is entirely irrelevant to the right or wrongness of their ideas.

For example:

suppose I made a disparaging remark about an Old White Guy who wanted to hang out a “no Jews or Coloreds” sign in front of his store
That’s a straw man and we can talk about whether this sign is right or wrong without letting the conversation get taken over by value judgements of how White and Privileged and Old this guy is. In different places and times, young, poor and even non-white people have put up signs exactly like that.

How many times have the immigrants gone from non-White to White?
Germans, Irish, Italians, Poles?

I know the demographics are changing, but how long until Latinos transition to white? Sorta like Irish, but with a bit more color?

Article was interesting and had good points, but was greatly degraded due to use of junk terms like ‘privilege’. That area of sociology is a pseudo-scientific groupthink with less validity than Freud.

And better cuisine.

Depends on how fast and the degree of integration. My kids are a good start. Half-Latino and the racial mix is, very mixed. They get frustrated with official forms that won’t let them check LOTS of boxes! On cuisine my son (Cajun on one part) can cook a with roux, make gallo pinto or make apfelkuchen, and some deer recipes from me. Each is from hand me down recipes from the relevant ancestors! Yummmmm. The thing is they don’t want to be “white”, they like and want to be “mixed”. This is new and I wonder if it isn’t behind part of why people feel so threatened now.

For the OP’s proposition:

I guess it depends on how the counter revolution goes and how much blood there is. It comes down to what the people with guns will do, be it Egypt, Pakistan, Mali now, or Franco’s Spain, ending segregation in the south in the US (for non US unaware, federal controlled troops deployed and threats of more made), or the removal of the Cherokee by federal military force even after they won the lawsuit to stay. So US has a mixed record on enforcing change or not enforcing change. More recent events are trending to enforcing accepting change to maintain stability.

Our military is more than a match for the “homegrown militias”, unlike say Mali. We won’t need to ask France for help, again. ;) But one trend to watch is radicalization of the military itself. Especially the Air Force, but also other branches are seeing a bit of this. The recent study being done out of West Point’s CTC Link Hereshows that these guy resenting loss of their prior status and being willing to get ugly about it is not an empty worry. From social ties to people involved in some of the reconstructionist militia movements, I know they have a priority to “convert” is their word the military. “Infiltrate” is the correct tactical word. The PDF is an interesting read.

That report states the problem is now not just a “southern thing”. I know in the last about 10 years at least there has been a lot of cross pollination between groups here and ones in the pacific NW. The report says the cross pollination is more widespread that that. Pakistan got worried when their Afghan-linked Taliban groups started cross pollinating with the Kashmiri militant groups. They should be. We should be worried about ours. So far it looks like the FBI takes them seriously as threats and the military itself, mostly, turns in their own if they still cross certain lines regardless of ideology. Still something to watch.

They are being asked to deal with integration well beyond white/black now too. Other religions and other races are now more common. Of course, there are more ways than guns to deal with loss of status. What Virginia just did to Asians is totally hilarious. Think being able to study hard and do better on placement tests will help you? (one Link Here) Nope, they’ll just hold you to a higher standard than whites. At least its ok to help those doing worse to integrate. But if you do better than whites, you’ll get a smack down (at least in VA and FL, and I hear private schools in NYC). And Asians are threatening for loss of power, and sometimes dealt with in ugly ways, just google Danny Chen.

If the integration is too fast for some people comfort, it will be slowed via outright terrorism (hopefully countered and we stay a stable country), and by laws. They can be quite insidious.

Ugh, no kidding on the “check one box on the form” crap, Hechicera. My siblings and I are perfect examples of people for whom it’s completely inadequate:

On my dad’s side, the direct paternal line goes back to Dutch/Flemish ancestors who were here (well, in present-day New York state) in the 1600’s. Along the way there was much admixture of people from England/Ireland/Scotland and probably other Northern Europeans.

On my mom’s side (she’s from El Salvador) we’re mostly descended from transplanted petty Spanish aristocracy (“criollos”), some of whom were in Central America in the 1500’s.

No doubt we also have some Native (both North and Central) American genes in there, and almost unquestionably have some Northern African in us from the 800 years of Muslim rule in a good part of the Iberian peninsula.

Now we could check “White Hispanic” on the form (when it has that option) but that completely ignores the fact that we’re truly bicultural as well as having grown up bilingual. So when I can make up my own category I say White Bicultural Anglo-Hispanic or something.

Now as far as privilege goes, no doubt I’m perceived as “white” when people see me or hear me speak English. I’m sure that that’s helped me fit in with people who would otherwise have viewed me as “the Other” given my first name (José).

A risky forum to link to a post about privilege, McCullough.

I wasn’t expecting the answers to be so…so like that.

Thoughtful? Not everyone’s racing to 50k, McCullough.

What did you expect?

More on this - you take an idea out of its natural echo chamber and you no longer have unquestioned acceptance of it. Very few ideas, no matter how strong they are, would get assimilated without a fair degree of salesmanship outside of their target audience.

Now, I highly doubt you could sell this idea here, but you haven’t even tried and skipped directly into indignation. If you were looking for blind acceptance, well I am sure you will be able to find your way back to the hivemind.

He’s only posting on QT3 as a sociology experiment anyway.

It’s true! I occasionally debate just giving up on the P&R forum here because it’s such a wasteland. There’s a few interesting posters left though.

I think it’s good to spend some time posting this stuff and seeing the responses. I don’t know anybody like the gun guys in the gun thread in my real life, so it’s somehow healthy to be exposed to it. Engaging over it feels less healthy.

Why exactly is it a straw man? Just declaring “that’s a straw man” doesn’t make it so.

Privilege isn’t exclusively about being old, white, or rich. Anyone who puts out such a sign belongs to a privileged group: people who do not fit into either discriminated category. Whether you’re disadvantaged otherwise isn’t the point. To be white 50 years ago was a huge advantage over being black, even if you were young and poor. To be heterosexual today is a significant advantage over being gay. It’s getting better… but there are still people like Enidigm arguing that it’s a terrible, terrible thing to criticize bigotry.