Je Recuse! Privilege’s curse & why you should stop reading this blog (probably)
I’ve got a problem. But it’s not the sort of problem that you’re going to have much sympathy for. In fact, it’s not the sort of problem that you’re allowed to have much sympathy for. Because my problem is that i’m far too privileged – for my own good or for anyone else’s good. Which is why, in this day and age, anything I say or claim will be subject to greater suspicion than what practically anyone else on the planet will say or claim. If you don’t believe me, check this succinct quote out from Gene Veith:
The deconstructionists develop a ‘hermeneutic of suspicion’. They approach a text not to find out what it objectively means, but to unmask what is hiding. These texts are “privileged” because they codify and justify the racism, sexism, homophobia, imperialism, economic oppression, sexual repression (take your pick) that is the hidden superstructure of the culture. (Guide to Contemporary Culture, Crossway 1994, p54)
OK, so far so good. And don’t get me wrong. There is a deep validity to this hermeneutic of suspicion – not least because as the ancient prophet once said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” We all have agendas and schemes which we keep hidden from view. Scepticism is one necessary protection against being deceived or exploited. Fine.
But here’s my problem. You shouldn’t really take me seriously at all, or at least, you should be wary of any authority I claim to have. Let me show you why.
- I am a man. And we all know what men have done to women since the dawn of time.
- I am white. And we all know what whites have done to pretty much everyone else in the last 500 years or so.
- I am Privately Educated. And we all know how toffs treat the plebs.
- I went to both Oxford and (sort of) Cambridge. And we all know how many doors those places open.
- I was born with a silver (well, more like brass) spoon in my mouth. And we all know how the wealthy exploit the poor. Oh and by the way, even if you didn’t have all the privileges of my background, if you live in the UK or US, you are almost certainly in the top 3% of the globe’s wealthy.
- I am British. And we all know what the British empire did. And of course, Britons (like me) are constantly looking to recapture some of our old prestige and influence.
- I have always had a job when I needed on. And we all know how hard it is for those without work to get it, especially if unemployed for a long period.
- I am married with kids. And we all know how marginalised that inevitably makes the childless, singles, gay, widowed, divorced etc feel.
- I have floated my vote for all 3 main parties in my time (i.e. never UKIP), but I grew up with Tories being default (not least because various grandfathers and uncles were all Tory MPs); and we all know how the right always despises and exploits the poor.
- I am a Christian. And we all know how the absurd credulity of Christians has always led to oppression, persecution and war. To make matters worse, I am what you might call an ‘evangelical’ – which means that I’m essentially a fundamentalist obscurantist who always ignores reality in favour of a self-serving ideology of power in the guise of the gift of grace.
- I was for a time a “missionary” in Africa. Yikes. And we all know the cultural and political vandalism all missionaries have left wherever they have gone. And we especially all know how paternalistic and racist whites in Africa always are.
- I am able-bodied. And we all know how invariably they callously ignore the plight of those less physically able.
- I (like to think I) have all my mental faculties - oh, wait, hang on… I’ve battled with depression for the last 8 years or so. So that’s ok.
I’ve at last got something to give me some sort of affliction to be proud of. But I’m sure you’ll agree, this is nothing like enough to hold counteract the torrent of privilege.
Now please don’t misunderstand. I’m not claiming your sympathies for a poor little rich boy. Nor am I pouring scorn on those who have been forced to climb the mountains of life that I’ve not had to. I’m simply saying that applying the hermeneutic of suspicion to its logical conclusion means I have no longer have anything legitimate to contribute… to anything. It’s not enough even to acknowledge my privileges. My submissions are de facto ruled inadmissible.
So there we have it. I have no alternative.
Je Recuse. Adieu.