I’ve tried to explain this to a lot of people over the years, but we always end up talking past one another. So I figure it’s better to perhaps gather my thoughts into a handy and succinct article that I can link to people, since that’s a normal thing to do, right? That seems like a useful approach to the issue.
Now a lot of the time this is about racism, but not always, it can apply to anything. But obviously since hundreds of millions of people historically have been subjected to racism, and billions of people are subjected to it in modern day, that becomes a very common cause for discussion about privilege. It is probably the most visible model of exploitation in the world today.
And I think to start off the point I am making, I would reference Malcolm X. He made a good point about privilege when he discussed the concept of the house slave and the field slave. To anyone else observing it, the house slave is a slave, they live a miserable life and are by no means winning, but of course to the house slave, he’s living the dream, he’s got it easy, he’s thankful to his oppressors and sees each day as a gift.
At least in Malcolm’s metaphysical example, that was the house slave in question. It’s basically a glass half full mentality to being a second class citizen rather than a third class citizen.
And that to me is what the modern perception of privilege looks like. Is not being a slave a privilege? Is not being shot by police a privilege? Is not being segregated a privilege? A lot of people would say yes. But would you thank a burglar for not robbing you? I don’t think privilege is doing nothing, I think that’s indoctrination. When a government simply refrains from hurting you, and you say “Thank you government for this privilege!” It’s brainwashing, simply put.
That’s not to detract from the crimes committed against oppressed populations, that’s not to say that these are not terrible atrocities, but it is to say that it is messed up to consider it a zero sum game. To behave as if racism, or misogyny, or anything like that is natural, and that you should be thankful it’s not happening to you.
Obviously it’s not natural, obviously we don’t need to live in a world of genocides or police brutality. Obviously there’s nothing natural about the bombs being dropped on Yemen, or the prison labour in California.
I think that a thankful house slave as it were, is a gullible one. I think that’s when you become meek and docile in the face of this tyranny. I think the rebellious thing to do is to be an ungrateful house slave as it were, to say “Exploiting me less is still exploitation.”
Politically correct liberals created a kind of token economy, in Skinnerian psychology, a token economy is like a system of imaginary value, and in this case it’s validation.
So people compete about who has it the hardest, because instead of demanding real and tangible freedoms, such as housing, good work, good wages, healthcare, democratic institutions and things that literally matter: You instead demand winning arguments and getting sympathy, because these things cost nothing to the powers that be.
But it’s also just a product of indoctrination, it doesn’t matter if you live under a landlord or a slumlord, either way you’re giving money to a leech. Believe you me, I’ve lived under both. You’re paying for your right to exist. It’s a stupid scam invented by feudal nobles, and it’s thanks to how people believe they could always have it worse that it’s being maintained.
And it works all the way down too. If a woman is facing discrimination or mistreatment, reactionaries will always point out how there’s some woman in a different country having it worse. That’s the token economy at work, instead of solving the problem, you reconcile the problem ideologically. As if that changes anything.
Yes, perhaps there are people who have it worse, but people who remind you of that aren’t exactly making themselves busy to help those people, so it doesn’t really matter.
In fact we have a fat upper class with yacht clubs, summer mansions and sports cars, and these people are trying to appeal to scarcity?
As if, by some weird magic, doing a good thing for someone in the first world will offend the ego of someone in the third world. That’s purely imaginary. If you live in a first world country, and you have access to people who have problems in such a country, then you should help solve those problems. That’s all you can do. Making excuses won’t solve it. Privilege discussion becomes such an excuse.
Especially since it’s not as if they got a specific name in mind when they describe someone who has it worse than you, it’s only an imaginary person based on assumptions of statistics and the like.
So you can always find someone who has it worse, even if you meet the most destitute person in the world, you can tell that person that someone has it worse and they’ll believe you.
So I don’t think it is healthy how, for instance, white people in poverty are supposed to be politically correct and clasp their hands before every meal and say “Oh thank you racism for the food we’re about to receive.” I don’t think evictions, prison, debt, violence, war and so on affects humans differently.
You can argue statistics and likelihood, but once people are in that situation, they’re suffering. It’s cruel to pit poor people against one another in this token economy, and behave as if there’s only one lifeboat and they have to fight each other to get it. That’s only true for as long as people think it’s true.
Reality is that working class people and poor people of every stripe, who are suffering under economic hardship, long hours, payday loans, car finances, medical costs, rent and all the other burdens of the proletariat, are going to keep suffering until they understand who the real enemy is.
On one side you got reactionary racists pitting common people against one another, by presenting a zero sum game in the form of “The other is going to get you!” and then on the other side you got politically correct racists who pit common people against one another by presenting the exact same zero sum game through this token economy. But either way the result is the same, just house slaves and field slaves who remain under the boot of their rulers.
You’re not a robot, you know grief, you know pain, and you know what it’s like to be miserable. Do not make foreigners out of your comrades, and do not believe politically correct liberals who are trying to make you think that you’re getting luxury debt and luxury rent. That there is VIP capitalism for VIP workers. There’s not, it’s a pure illusion. Mitigated misery is still misery, and you should still consider the powers that make you miserable to be an enemy.
Never be thankful to a police officer for not killing you, be outraged that he killed your neighbor.