Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Whiny Privileged Male 'Woes Me" Rant

I’m jet-lagged and frazzled, the perfect time to launch into existential crisis mode.  Usually, I don’t launch, I get launched.  Here’s the crux of it:  I often feel my voice deserves no time in any kind of social spotlight.  Why?  Because I am a (relatively) privileged white male.  Never mind the various sufferings and struggles I’ve had in my 51 years.  Whatever they were, I still got all kinds of breaks.  In fact, without those breaks, I probably wouldn’t have ended up with a PhD in philosophy.  There’s nothing more privileged than a white male who gets to choose to have a PhD in philosophy--this while billions of people live on less than $2 a day, and get whipped (sometimes literally) into line from birth. 

If I had been black or latino, I would have been marginalized or put in jail. 

It really doesn’t help me to hear that privileged white men have done important work steering the course of history.  I’ll name one of them out of the blue:  John Locke.  First of all, the possibility that I am going to steer the course of history is more than remote.  It’s like trying to see a protozoa a hundred feet away without a microscope.  Second and more important, why should white males be the ones that push things forward?  There are plenty of females (white and nonwhite) and nonwhite males who already are striving extremely well--give them the podium!  Maybe in Locke’s time, white males were the only feasible option for the promotion of interesting new ideas (nota bene: not all Locke’s ideas were progressive; some of what he said reinforced terrible attitudes toward nature and native peoples).  Nowadays, there are more nonwhite voices of ability and opportunity than ever.  

Also, it's really disgusting if, in Locke's time, white male intellectuals were the only possible way to push forward new, progressive ideas (very flawed ideas, like 'All men are created equal', excluding women, nonwhites, slaves...)

Nota bene again:  nothing points to  white male privilege better than a casual use of latin.  I’m steeped in the unconscious habits/usages of white male opiniondom.

Given that, historically, it has been white males all this time, with rare exceptions for the Joan of Arcs and Hypatias, shouldn’t we just step aside?  Honestly, I often feel this way, and I have not had an easy life.  There has been a lot of abuse, suicidal thoughts and a suicide, depression, and all the confusion and torn emotion that goes with that, lots of angst and anguish.  I have been a wrecked mess of a person. Currently I can't afford to see a doctor--unless I ask my father for money.  But you see, I have a father I can ask for money. 

When he dies, or gets sick, this might well all change, and I might get closer to learning what utter lack of options is all about--having to go out and work whatever kind of job, even if it is utterly meaningless to you, to have to beg, even, for this opportunity, and wear the pretty face.  But, you know, I get to whine about it, here on this blog.  And my PhD in philosophy, though it is not a big cash-bringer, has helped me expand my mind.

Yes, expanding my mind has kind of been a curse, a perpetual angst-maker.  Boo-hoo, poor 1st world dude with his PhD.

As I grow older and sometimes, now, need a cane to walk, and see the US Empire decline, cannibalizing its middle class, I feel great pain.  I do.  Geniune pain, often intense.  But it's all like 'Boo-Hoo', poor white male, he has a lot more than most, now whining more than most.

It's sad to me and frustrating and terrible that no matter what happens to me now, how badly I suffer, I have/had all this privilege, and that is ethically relevant to my pain.  I feel I don't deserve validation (which clearly I crave.  I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't crave validation). 

Why do I deserve anything?  White males led the charge to commit genocide against the native americans, almost wiped them out, took over a continent, instigated ideologies of racism, sexism and militaristic expansion.  My privilege today can be traced back into that thicket of atrocities.  Why should I get to speak?  To write poetry?  To write a novel?  I just finished writing a draft of a novel.  Yes, privilege allowed that, privilege built on the backs of slaves.  The roots of my privilege go way, way back. 

Ponder this:  Solid research shows that black slavery really didn’t end until after WWII.  Yeah, Lincoln freed the slaves but Southern law soon created chain gangs, Jim Crow, etc.  So, even my more recent ancestors benefitted from black slavery.  The roots of my privilege are solid up through modern times.

Another wakeup call:  most of our stuff today is Made in China.  Are the Chinese workers slaves?  You can make an excellent case that they are (no Bill of Rights, Police State, massive working hours, terrible soul-crushing conditions, beatings, abuse, no realistic alternative, etc.).  This puts all us consumer citizens in a bad light--but, being more educated, I should know better (and I do try to buy less Made In China).

So, I don’t deserve to talk.  I guess you could turn it around and say I ought to talk, but only about why I shouldn’t talk. I hate this situation.  I hate myself for bringing it up.  And I hate myself for whining.  I really wish I hadn't written this.  I hope there is something completely fundamentally wrong about what I am saying, and that, somehow, I do deserve validation.  I do deserve a pat on the back. It's true, I have worked so f---ing hard.  Nevermind that Republicans say my hard work doesn't count, because poets don't bring in money.

There’s no good answer to this puzzle of my privilege.  The best hope:  everyone has a right to have the precious time to flourish as an individual.  In effect, I was given that time.  I floundered, I searched, I doubted, I questioned reality and myself.  Being a college student helped a great deal with that.  Having someone always in the background to help me financially, should I need it, helped with that.  Guess it's okay that I got that!  And, of course, there's the old cliché, ‘everyone has a right to speak.’   And that “everyone” includes me, mr. white male. 


The world is still vastly unfair, and males in the privileged category (these need not be white; China has a racist patriachy too) continue to be most of the leaders, to be heard.  We privileged males are even among the brilliant and correct leaders, who say the right things.  Such leaders get audiences who listen to them, audiences who reward them and say, “Thank you, you’re so right!”  "It's okay that you're a white male because you're going the right direction!"

We’re not going to get where we need to be as long as it is mainly privileged males who get the wonderful opportunity to struggle with their wounds, their ideals, and finally, after heroic journeys, produce fantastic, progressive ideas.

 Again, you might say, it’s the ideas that matter,  not who says them.  But it does matter who says them.  Otherwise you’re just accepting racism.  Racism continues onward if white males are usually--what a strange coincedence--the ones who end up leading society forward with their excellence of thought.

It’s true, my white-male-written novel is going to be unique in some ways.  It’s fair to say no one else could write this novel, only me.  And then you might say, “It’s a work of art, we can’t just condemn it to the flames.”

But I worry, greatly and with good reason:  how many novels (including great ones!) were, and are, effectively damned to the flames, so that I could have the time to write mine, a book that probably isn’t going to create many ripples (despite my fervent hope that it does).

Yes, I’ve worked extremely hard.  Yes, I have suffered and struggled, philosophically and psychologically.  Yes, I continue to persevere, despite health and financial woes.  I'm a human being.  I suffer.  I count.  I really want to count! But it all comes back to this:  I feel so guilty for my privilege, and I know it is privilege (1st world blues) just to whine about it.  So I live in great conflict. It suxs.

Bottom line:  am I going to stop speaking, writing and thinking?  No.  That seems wrong to just stop.  Am I going to give up my house (a house that has been handed down to me)?  No.  So what does this essay amount to?




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

One of the hardest things

One of the hardest things for me, and I think many others as well, is that we can see the ideal of the Good, and yet humanity has, and is, stumbling so badly in the quest for it, and constantly threatens to go in the opposite direction--and does.
                                                         Oleph Drumcaller