I’ve been reading Sloterdijk’s Rage and Time (very slowly) and he said two things that came together for me.
– Liberal parties are “banks of rage”
– Resentment arises when vengeful rage is prevented from expressing itself directly.
In fact, these two things feed into each other somewhat. When vengeful rage is prevented from being expressed, it stores up as resentment which can last a lot longer. You know, how sometimes it’s quicker just to shout your argument out than it is to act like everything’s ok when you’re eating away at your own insides? Creating a system where people cannot express their rage leads to a system where we create resentment, for a loooong time.
Anyway, this sort of ties into my whole discussion on my irritation about the concepts of “privilege.” I don’t believe, for a second, that discussions of privilege are in any way about empowering disempowered groups. I believe they are a socially acceptable avenues to vent anger in the form of resentment.
For instance, as McKenzie says in her piece about pushing back on privilege, it is not enough just to acknowledge your privilege.
I would ask, is it even helpful for someone to acknowledge their privilege?
What I find is that most of the time when people acknowledge their privilege, they feel really special about it, really important, really glad that something so significant just happened, and then they just go ahead and do whatever they wanted to do anyway, privilege firmly in place.
– Mia McKenzie
Do I detect a note of resentment? If not from her, I’ll own it for myself. I find it really annoying when people acknowledge their privilege to me also. However, unlike McKenzie I don’t think an even stricter set of rules is really going to help. Sure, it’s frustrating when straight men claim to be queer, but I’m not oppressed by the masses of “queer” straight men.
Here’s how you deal with straight men pretending to be queer. You yell at them. You say, “You don’t fucking get it. You don’t get what it’s like to hate yourself for who you love, you don’t know what it’s like having to come out to your family. You don’t GET IT, shut the fuck up!”
Or, if you’re feeling more diplomatic, you write in your blog “I make no commentary on if it’s right or wrong, but GOD DAMN it fucking PISSES ME OFF when straight guys say they’re queer.”
But, liberals generally don’t express anger directly. So, now we’re dealing with resentment, which lingers like a silent but deadly. That’s why this whole “privilege” discussion has been around for *ages* yet no ones lives have actually been improved. What people need is a place to vent their anger and have their feelings validated. It’s ok to be angry, it’s a good sign, in fact. In our society, the ability to express anger is generally associated with, uh… privilege. It’s no coincidence that white men openly express anger more than any other group (Columbine, anyone?) If you’re in touch with your ability to feel angry, it means you’re moving up in the world!
The fact that various minorities have to express their anger in the passive aggressive requests that will likely go unanswered is both a symptom, and a perpetuation, of the problem. We don’t let black people, or women, or trans people, or whoever be angry. So, now we have cis white men doing some stupid song and dance every time they try to say something in public, and it’s funny, but it doesn’t help. What we need is space for these people to *get out* all the violence they have absorbed.
We don’t need white men acknowledging their privilege, we need a space for black men to say what it’s like being in a job interview with a racist. A space where it’s ok to curse, and be politically incorrect, and to tell white people to go to hell. A space where it’s ok to say this, and their comments will not haunt them for the rest of their lives. The fact that there was ever a controversy over Obama’s *pastor* (not him, but his *pastor*) making “racist” comments is absurd. Also, most of what he said was fairly reasonable.
[The United States] government lied about their belief that all men were created equal. The truth is they believed that all white men were created equal. The truth is they did not even believe that white women were created equal, in creation nor civilization. The government had to pass an amendment to the Constitution to get white women the vote. Then the government had to pass an equal rights amendment to get equal protection under the law for women. The government still thinks a woman has no rights over her own body, and between Uncle Clarence who sexually harassed Anita Hill, and a closeted Klan court, that is a throwback to the 19th century, handpicked by Daddy Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, between Clarence and that stacked court, they are about to undo Roe vs. Wade, just like they are about to un-do affirmative action. The government lied in its founding documents and the government is still lying today. Governments lie.
Uhhh, how was that wrong? I mean, I guess we can’t prove the “closeted Klan court” part, but given the disproportionate number of black men who go to prison I’m not going to press that one too hard.
The government lied about the Tuskegee experiment. They purposely infected African American men with syphilis. Governments lie. The government lied about bombing Cambodia and Richard Nixon stood in front of the camera, ‘Let me make myself perfectly clear…’ Governments lie. The government lied about the drugs for arms Contra scheme orchestrated by Oliver North, and then the government pardoned all the perpetrators so they could get better jobs in the government. Governments lie…. The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against people of color. Governments lie. The government lied about a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and a connection between 9.11.01 and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Governments lie.
Ok, he loses a few points for the HIV comment, but most of that is accurate. (During Tuskegee they actually allowed African American men who *had* syphilis to die when they had the means to treat them. Point still stands, U.S. government treated those men like shit.) Anyway, dude has a right to be pissed – he lived through the jim crow laws! He has probably, personally, absorbed decades of racism. Can you imagine what that’s like? Because I can’t.
But, there’s no place for that. He can’t even say these things to his own congregation without getting *someone sitting in the audience* in trouble. And, it’s *important* he said these things. The fact that Obama had a place to go where people could say “these things they’re doing to us aren’t right” probably helped him keep his head as a black man in the US. Black men who don’t have that space don’t end up being president – they go somewhere else.
Anyway, I’m fairly fed up with all this PC bullshit – mostly because I don’t think it’s helping. I think it’s used as a way that liberal people with “privilege” gain status over each other by seeing who can out-own-up to their privilege. I don’t think it helps minorities improve their situation.
I also think it’s used as a way for turning rage into resentment, which will cause us longer lasting problems down the line. I think we need to embrace the rightful anger of the “underprivileged”, and only once it’s fully embraced can we begin to transform it. Into what? Who knows – we’re not there yet.