Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Lack of privilege isn't a virtue

Nick Cohen explains the problem with equating marginalization with virtue:
You can argue about whether to call our culture post-modern, multicultural or politically correct. But its fatal contradictions ought to be beyond dispute. It was driven by the notion that a “rainbow coalition” of groups marginalised by straight white men deserved to be championed: women, gays, ethnic minorities. The alert among you will have noticed the first problem. There is no mention of class. An unemployed ex-miner coughing his guts up in a South Yorkshire council flat may be white, male and straight, but he is not more privileged than a female CEO, let alone a kleptomaniac politician in a post-colonial African state. Yet both the capitalist and the dictator can pose as victims and enjoy a global narrative that casts the sick old man as an oppressor.
I always welcome his critiques of authoritarian leftism, and I do think the exclusion of class in social justice circles is a huge problem. (If one explained by the transient nature of class. The same can be said for age-- something else generally ignored by online activists. Though if most online activists are young and middle-class, those biases exist anyway.) But it's not CEOs and dictators claiming victimhood, it's those with some "privilege" but no real power to speak of finding themselves in a community that prizes suffering. No one wants to be an oppressor, so the only option is to identify as oppressed in some way.