Thursday, 16 November 2017

Beyond Feminist vs. MRA

Opinion: The Alt-Left should be neither feminist nor for men's rights. It should be for good relationships between the sexes.

It's a familiar story for anyone who's been online for any length of time. A discussion starts over a gender or feminism related topic.  There've been plenty of these lately since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal broke in Hollywood and the me too hashtag campaign, so there's no shortage of examples to choose from.  There's nothing unique about these conversations, however.  They've been taking place on social media since Facebook and Twitter first launched, and were commonplace on bulletin boards long before anyone knew what a comments section was.  The basic conversation hasn't changed much in the decades since Al Gore invented the internet. <grin>  A typical conversation will go something like this.

Feminist: Men rape and harass women. <subtext> That's why men suck and women should reject them.
MRA: But not all men.  <subtext> But not me.  That should give me an advantage in the mating game with women, should it not?
Feminist: But only men.  Plus patriarchy, power, privilege, rape culture, etc. <subtext> Not so fast, buster!  You're part of the segment of the population that does the most rape and who benefits from rape, and are therefore not so innocent as you'd like to believe.  And therefore suck no less and are no less deserving of rejection.
MRA: But what about false accusations? What about women who sexually assault men? <subtext> This nullifies the advantage you claimed in your previous statement.  Therefore, women should more readily accept and sleep with us.  I mean me!

It's never long before a conversation like this breaks down, and school yard level copypasta insults break out.  "Boo hoo!  Teh poor menz!" "Enjoy your cats!" So on and so on.  It'll inevitably come down to one or both sides being ugly, living in their parent's basements and being unable to get laid. This is due to the fact that the surface conversation is never nearly as important as the subtext that continually underlies conflicts over gender theory and its real world implications.

The unstated but nonetheless omnipresent axioms that are revealed when any kind of deconstructive analysis is applied to such discussions are that male power is expressed through sexual conquest of the female, and that female power is expressed through sexual rejection of the male.  All else is ancillary.  Which is largely why pro and anti feminists talk past one another and at one another far, far more than with one another.  The legitimate issues raised by either side fall by the wayside because they're obviously being weaponized to one or the other of those two ultimate effects.  The real purpose for bringing up rape, harassment, divorce, child support or any other issue, at least in online discussion, is to lower the value of one gender relative to the other, for the ultimate purpose of making sex either easier (in favor of men) or harder (in favor of women) to attain.

There's just one problem with this paradigm, however.  It doesn't work.  It's not making anyone happy.  It's based in a glaringly flawed assessment of human nature, and is much more rooted in ego than in reason or human empathy.  Men are not going to be rejected into sympathizing with women's concerns.  They go their own way instead, doubtlessly with the intent of bringing those pesky, uppity women to heel.  No dice: women are angrier now than ever.  Who'd have guessed?  The result is that heterosexual activity has been driven into a kind of moral black market, wherein most people actually do it at some point or another, but also have to conceal it, rationalize it or engage in it under some kind of false pretenses much of the time to avoid social censure. "An Ashtray With a no Smoking Sign," as Slavoj Zizek recently described the emerging rules of sexuality.  No wonder bad behavior abounds.

It's time to smarten up, people.  Get out of the grade school mentality.  Let's at least try and hit puberty, okay internet?  Human nature is not especially complicated.  We tend to simmer down when we feel that our concerns are being heard and taken somewhat seriously, even if disagreed with in some ways.  The natural response of people when faced with a lecturing, condescending tone is to get defensive, not to open one's heart or mind.  This is true however legitimate the surface grievance actually is or is not.  Which isn't to say you accept bullshit uncontested.  Rather, let your assessment of what's bullshit and what isn't depend on honest appraisal, which you can't get without listening and understanding.

Whatever your claim to victimhood, past or present, however poorly you were treated as a child or in your past relationships, other people, even the opposite sex, will not accept your shitty and abusive behavior. Not indefinitely, at any rate.  However much you feel entitled to it.  Two wrongs don't make a right.  This is something we feel instinctively, if not intellectually.  It stops mattering who started it, or who inflicted or suffered the greater suffering after a point.  Neither women nor men will accept the other's claim to morally superior status based on previous victimhood and grievance, even if real.  

It is easy to say that we should set our fragile egos aside and listen seriously to the other side when they lay out their grievances and issues.  This is true.  But when the other side does not expect this of themselves, even the most legitimate gripe becomes tainted by the ultimately self-serving purpose to which it is put.  The kinds of behavior displayed by feminists and MRAs alike in most internet discussions between the two would be emotionally abusive were they done in real life, and increasingly these kinds of relationship dynamics are spilling out of cyberspace and into the real world.  It is no wonder that growing numbers of people, especially the young, are eschewing relationships with the opposite sex all together, and claiming to be happier doing so.

And that's fine for some individuals.  If you're happier going it alone, and I think some people are naturally disposed this way, have at it.  But that'll be a disaster for society as a whole.  Fewer lasting successful marriages and long term relationships (LTRs) are poised to cause all kinds of problems down the road.  Demographic and economic dependency ratios are bound to get worse, and socially destabilizing levels of mass immigration will need to be employed to compensate for falling birth rates.   Frustrated romantic and sexual drives will find expression in other, usually more antisocial ways, from mounting political or religious extremism to mental health problems and increased cynicism.  Even many, though not all, of those who claim to be happier being single are not so much once you scratch the surface. A certain regret often, though not always, presents itself. And why not? Humans were not hardwired to live alone and not pass on their genes to future generations. A society losing its capacity for love and empathy is not one we should aspire to be a part of.  

So here's a proposal.  The alt-left should be neither feminist nor MRA.  Not exclusively. We should be instead for healthy and good relationship dynamics, be they platonic, romantic or erotic.  We should listen to the concerns of both sides and sort the valid and legitimate grievances from the entitled whining and vapid boasting.  It should not be a concern of the alt-left which of the two has the more legitimate grievances and is therefore more deserving.  Ten years and God knows how many flame wars into the social media age later, we should know by now that ideological partisanship and competitive victimhood isn't actually helping anybody. It's driving a spiral of mutual frustration that is causing increased polarization and extremism. 

Even if one gender really does have it worse than the other by a wide margin, our approach should be one of mutual listening and empathy, not one of grievance and vengeance.  This is not to say that we can't prioritize some issues over others or that wrongdoers can't be called out and exposed to such sanction and censure as their actions warrant. But it should never be an ego stroking exercise.  Even if you've had it worse or your sex or gender has been on the receiving end of injustice.  The world doesn't owe you anything, whatever you may think.  Success, be it alone or in partnership, derives from responsibility, not entitlement.

So if you're single or attached, male or female, here are some things you can do vis-a-vis the opposite sex to improve the situation.  And in case you are wondering, this is over twenty years of relationship success (I've been with my present wife since 1995) and a decade of every mistake imaginable leading up to it, talking.  There's much I learned the hard way:
  • Listen.  Nothing is more effective at defusing anger.
  • Do not stereotype the opposite sex unironically or for non-comedic purposes.
  • Stop with the vain, stupid games. Crushing some young man or woman's confidence in him/herself won't bring down the patriarchy or gynocentrism, and it doesn't make you strong or independent.  It makes you an asshole, be you male or female. 
  • Do not participate in discussions that tend to descend into pissing contests of competitive victimhood, and clearly state this.  Ask instead, "what do you want?"  That's a powerful question that can very effectively shut down entitled whiners with weaponized grievances.
  • You are owed nothing.  Approach all relationships with the opposite sex, or with anyone, with that in mind.  This is not to say that you should tolerate shit and abuse. Don't. But don't expect to be put on a pedestal either.
  • Do not have as an expectation from an ideal partner a trait you do not have or can not match.  Half of our problems stem from 6's thinking they're actually good matches for 10's, so to speak. Do not expect a prince if you're not a princess, or vice versa.  And assess yourself honestly to save a lot of trouble.
  • Live a good life outside of a relationship context.  This signifies that you will not be dead weight but instead a net asset in other people's lives.  No one wants a needy dependent.
  • Trust must come before any kind of relationship intimacy, be it physical or emotional.  Always. Take it upon yourself to earn rather than demand trust.  Decide at what point your efforts are in vain and when to move on.
  • Do not expect from a relationship partner anything that you can do for yourself.  Relationship success thrives best when free of contrived obligations and expectations.  Otherwise resentments creep in and do damage.
  • Do not be afraid to point out the <subtextual> elements and their underlying axioms (see above for examples) in gendered discussions, but do so only if the person you're discussing things with becomes obstinate, obtuse or clearly hostile.  The underlying pettiness and stupidity become readily apparent when brought to light.
  • Likewise, if need be, remind people that two wrongs don't make a right.  Plus, no man was ever rejected, nagged, scolded or castrated into liking and respecting women.  No woman was ever convinced by rational argument or else likewise rejected, scolded or shamed into liking men.  People don't work that way.  Don't hesitate to point this out.
  • Make your disdain for passive aggressiveness clear, if need be.
  • If people insist on dominating conversations with socially destabilizing displays of rudeness, sarcasm or hostility, do not be afraid to call them out on it and exclude them from further social activities.  If you moderate or administer an online or social media space, you have a special responsibility here.  Trolls thrive on the emotionally destabilizing effect that their refusal to be decent and reasonable people has.  Do not tolerate it and ban them at once.
  • Admit that the opposite sex doesn't always have it easy.  Try to replace resentment with walking in the other man or woman's shoes, as the case may be. This isn't to say it's equally bad on both sides, all the time.  Occasionally people will need to be told to stop whining.
  • Do not attribute to malice what can be attributed to clumsiness or ignorance without evidence. This is especially true with flirtation, flattery or the like.
And above all ...
  • Get the f**k off the internet every once and awhile.  Yeah, I know.  It's hard.  But there are numerous dynamics that contribute to the internet being a relatively uncivil place where your faith in humanity can easily go to die.  Meet people in the real world from time to time.  They're usually (though not always) not what they appear to be when seen as just a social media profile.
So that in mind, get out there and see the world, dear reader!

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

Ernest Everhard Speaks his Mind - Nov 12, 2017

A compilation of my thoughts over the last two weeks.

My observation of things during the Bush years was that the rise of the new atheism was much more enabled by disillusionment with the Bush White House and, by extent, the conservative Christianity it was associated with than it was by a climate of anti-Islamism following 9/11, though that certainly was a factor. Though outspoken critics of Islam, Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens channeled anti-Islamism into a broader critique of religion in general, and thereby actually helped stave off a more ugly, reactionary and xenophobic form of far right anti-Islamism. 

The new atheism thus provided American liberalism with its own explanatory narrative of 9/11 - that it was caused by religiosity more generally - that doubly served as a critique of subsequent foreign policy errors in the middle east during the Bush years: neocon policy was driven in large part by Christian right ideology and that nation building in the middle east was a doomed exercise from the beginning due to the excessive religious tendencies of the region's inhabitants. I'd suspect that this, as much as the Lehman bro's meltdown, is what put Obama in the White House.

Most outspoken atheists I knew who were HUGE fans of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris were outspoken against Christianity almost exclusively, and these were also firmly in support of classic democrat party platforms: pro gay marriage, pro abortion, comprehensive sex ed, staunchly opposed to teaching creationism or intelligent design in the classroom, etc. etc. This seemed to me in rather stark contrast to their implied disdain for dogmatism and party line thinking. This, more than anything, was what got me thinking that the new atheists weren't seeing the whole picture. For all their disdain for religion, it was quite remarkable to me just how "religious" their thinking really was in some ways. Jordan B Peterson would thus be a question of when, not if.

The new atheism was as much the genesis of the SJW movement as the postmodern college lectern was. It was the beginning of the mainstreaming of the progressive who stood above, as opposed to alongside of, the common man. They despised the middle American working class no less than the SJW does, but for his religion rather than his race or his sexuality. While they clearly weren't fans of Islam, they had comparably little to say about it. It was largely below the progressive radar. Again, those of the skeptic community who sided against the SJWs when the schism finally came in around 2013 or so redeemed themselves to some extent in this regard. I hope they do not squander this redemption by getting too close to the reactionaries and the alt-right simply because they have a common enemy in the SJWs and mass Islamic immigration.

"Privilege is therefore a counterproductive way of framing many issues that we now see in terms of racial and gender identity, such as sexual assault, wage inequality and abuse of police powers. Assuming that the advantages supposedly enjoyed by white males are "privileges" implies that some authority somewhere, presumably white and male itself bestowed the advantages on white males as an act of personal favoritism (it didn't), it presumes that white males are able to individually or collectively renounce these privileges but won't (they can't) and that it is therefore acceptable for the less privileged to hate on those who are arbitrarily favored in this manner (it isn't, since it doesn't work this way in the real world.)" Deep Politics: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate at The Alternative Left.

Intersectional identity politics is like Nazism in a mirror. It's like the architects of this ideology decided to take everything Hitler said, invert it and make it their own. The result is a chimerical creation that, through its efforts to be the absolute anti fascism, becomes like fascism in many ways.
Race is determinant, only the white race takes the place of the Jews as the destroyer of civilizations. White racial pride is replaced with white racial guilt, but racial identity is considered paramount.

Likewise, both are preoccupied with masculinity. For the Nazis, virile masculinity is essential to the greatness of the Aryan while for Intersectional Feminists, virile masculinity is essential for the destructiveness of the white. Nazis fear Jewish influence making men effeminate and masculinizing women. Intersectional Feminists fear patriarchy and white supremacy stopping men from becoming effeminate and preventing the masculinization of women. Both fear individual whites, blacks, men and women from living their own lives on their own terms.

With Intersectional feminism, nobody is really permitted to advocate for themselves, but loyalty and fealty is owed to those deemed more marginalized and oppressed, rather than those who are allegedly superior. If socialists advocate for, well, socialism, they're called "brocialists" because they don't advocate for women's issues. If the women's movement advocates for, well, women's issues, they're attacked as "white feminists" for not advocating for women of color or as "heteronormative" or "TERFs" for not advocating for queer or transwomen. Black cis/het males are condemned as the "white people of black people" and told to check their privilege vis-a-vis the broader anti-racist movement. Cisgender gay men are routinely attacked for their alleged misogyny, racism and transphobia. On and on. Common with fascism is anti individualism and a subordination of class consciousness to a sacrificial devotion to some or another external group.

This results in complete movement paralysis, as little time is spent actually advocating for any measurable reforms and most of the effort is spent calling out other activists for their sundry forms of unchecked privilege, and is also in absolute and complete contrast to Nazism, in which the will of a singular leader representing the master race is the will to power that all good Aryan men are called upon to emulate, though they will always fall short of Hitler's perfect example. Nazism is the absolute exaltation of the will to power, intersectional feminism is the absolute negation of the will to power.

As with all other kinds of fascism, complete obedience is owed to those above you in the status hierarchy, and free reign is given to abuse those lower than you on it. Intersectionalist articles routinely attack the "fragility" of males, whites or others with privileged identities who object to the disrespect and juvenile behavior they're subjected to while in spaces where intersectionality is upheld as paramount.

If you were to define feminism as simply the view that men and women are equal in some abstract, "in the eyes of God" sort of sense, than I'm all for it. I suppose I'm down with the core program: equal pay for equal work, my body my choice, and so on. There is no denying that a lot of objectionable conduct towards women from men takes place.

The problems I have with it are twofold and somewhat interrelated. The first is that most feminism comes across to me as judgemental and puritanical. The feminist apple did not fall far from the Victorian era social purity movement tree on which it grew. Male heterosexuality is viewed with extreme suspicion, and is seen as objectifying to women due to an unstated but implied view that gender relations are somehow a zero sum game. The nature of sex relations is such that men's gain is woman's loss and vice versa. If a male likes something, it is to be regarded as "objectifying" while that which the male dislikes is to be regarded as "empowering." This is never outrightly stated, mind you, but often implied.

The puritanism extends well beyond mere personal relations, though. I notice an overarching "brother's keeper" mentality within feminism wherein a heavy weight of moral responsibility seems to be felt for the less fortunate and less privileged. This has gotten exponentially worse since "intersectionality" has become the dominant concept in most capital F feminism. While there is nothing wrong with charity or real work aimed at empowering marginalized people, intersectional feminism and the whole SJW movement it's given rise to seems to pursue this in a guilt and obligation laden manner. I see a lot of guilt tripping and - while this is frequently denied openly, being "privileged" is often implied as something that someone is supposed to feel guilty and personally responsible for.

It is often used as a pretext to hand wave away dissent: the privileged are allowed no opinion on anything, at least on anything social justice related. This leads to what my second and I think my far greater objection to feminism is.

And this is that feminism has become a closed belief system. People are reduced to their combination of marginalized or privileged statuses, and this is seen as the determinant factor in all social relations. Dissent is shut down because it is dismissed as privilege trying to rationalize itself, or else internalized oppression if it comes from someone more rather than less marginalized. Feminist spaces therefore have a tendency of becoming echo chambers where towing the line, signalling, buzzwords, slogans, copy pasta and canned responses all too often serve as a substitute for open discourse.

The world view this engenders is thus extremely Manichean - meaning neatly divided into pure good vs ultimate evil with no middle ground. What is needed for the "good" to win is not the usual give and take of regular politics, but all out crusade. Negotiation is out of the question - one does not negotiate with privilege and oppression, except maybe to gain some other kind of needed advantage. Too often, the result is self righteousness and dogmatism, and feminist spaces become rife with purity spiralling, boundary policing and stifling self censorship for those who do not perfectly fit in.

The cumulative effect of all of this is a kind of exhausting moral overreach that is frustrating and wearisome for all involved, sooner or later dissolves into disillusionment, and ends up silencing and invisiblizing far more people than it actually empowers. The intentions are, of course, good. Most of the time, at least. I do think petty misandry does creep in from time to time. But for the most part, feminist activism is aimed at empowering the more marginalized and this is, of course, commendable. 

But it's conditions for doing so always seem to demand that someone else more "privileged" be silenced. Male leftists are dismissed as "brocialists" for not emphasizing women's issues. Mainstream feminism is dismissed as being "white" or "cis/heteronormative" for not emphasizing the issues faced by women of color or queer/transwomen. I've seen cisgender gay males called misogynist for sexually rejecting women (while heterosexual men are similarly denounced for sexually favoring ciswomen (objectification) or rejecting "women" with penises (transphobia).

It reminds me a lot of that old aesop story about the man, the boy and the donkey, who continually rearranged who rode on the donkey and who didn't until they finally ended up causing the donkey to fall into a river and drown: try to please all, and you will please none.

You can take the God out of the puritan. But taking the puritan out of the nonbeliever is proving more difficult. So feminism was vaulted into prominence in the formerly Christian world to renormalize repressive, guilt based morality and to make thinking that sex was dirty and degrading acceptable again.

Part of what's driving the men's rights movement (of which I'm not much of a supporter, truth be told) to the right is, and let's be honest here, the gynocentric and misandrist tendencies on the left. Not all of the left, to be sure. But it's definitely there. Hell, a fair amount of leftism I'm seeing these days is barely disguised femdom - which probably goes a ways in explaining why so many feminist men end up being such sexual mutants, as we're now discovering with all these sexual misconduct allegations coming out of Hollywood, and so on. 

A major problem I have with the way the culture wars are shaking down is that it's evolving into this:

Left = Female > Male
Right = Male > Female

This trend is stupid and needs to be resisted, and that was a big part of why I started Alternative Left. I'm a male, generally moderate - pro feminist in the classical liberal sense - on gender related issues but an avid supporter of a strong welfare state, regulations on banks, labor unions and so on. But most people who share those views with me despise my genitalia and heterosexuality.  Few will come right out and say it, but the subtext is virtually always there. And then we wonder why men drift right, even if it countermands their economic interests if they're also working class. 

I do get why the left supported feminism in the first place: women were marginalized and excluded compared to men, all else being equal, and so support of equality for women made sense for those whose value system stressed equality more generally. But this has now evolved into full on gender partisanship. To much of the left these days, women are simply better. It's caused them to take up a lot of strangely Victorian era attitudes that until relatively recently, the left was most critical of.

Conversely, what about women who are avid supporters of the free market? How do they manage in what otherwise tends to be a real old boy's club? I wonder if a Margaret Thatcher could even get started in this day and age - not that I would have a problem with no Margaret Thatcher, mind you. Not that women aren't welcome on the right - the moderate center right leastwise, but it does seem to skew more decidedly masculine in its overall culture.

The battle of the sexes would be better kept off the political spectrum.

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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Deep Politics: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

Once upon a time, I wrote:
To gain a deep understanding of politics, there are few writers I'd recommend more than George Lakoff.  During his lengthy tenure at University of California Berkeley, he was involved in groundbreaking work in the field of cognitive linguistics - the study of the relationship between thought and language.  Don't worry, we won't discuss anything near so dry here.  This is about Lakoff's opus, a 1996 tome called Moral Politics that claims to get inside the minds of conservatives and liberals respectively.

Lakoff's work is relevant and worth a study by anyone serious about understanding the construction of ideology for two reasons.  The first, which I won't get into as much here, is his emphasis on the use of wording and metaphors to craft narratives that invoke specific moral frameworks when communicating political ideas. He warns against using the conceptual framework of one's ideological opponents when debating contested ideas, as this gives the natural advantage to your opponent, who's framed the issue in a way that's advantageous to their world view.
I'd like to return to Mr. Lakoff and his work now, to discuss the first of those reasons here, the one I did not get into previously while discussing the Nation as Family Metaphor.  And that's the concept of cognitive framing - the mental structures that we use to see the world, and the use of language to create and advance a particular cognitive frame.  Terms like narratives are often used in the same or similar concept as frame: they denote a structured way of viewing the world that animates the positions people are more likely to take on political and social issues.

This sounds dry and academic, maybe even postmodern, and to an extent it is.  But it is also crucial to understand for those who wish to engage in dialogue with the intent on changing the world.  You will, whether you know it or not, advance a particular mental framework or social narrative, as will your opponents.  If your opponents understand this fact better than you do and are able to manipulate the concept of framing - as regressive leftists are as a result of studying post-structuralism and literary deconstruction, you will be at a huge disadvantage.  Conservatives also know about framing, and have used it to devastating advantage, such as with Newt Gingrich's infamous 1996 GOPAC memo: Language: A Key Mechanism of Control (the name really does say it all, doesn't it?)  Decades of marketing research, for both commercial and political application, has been invested in the study of cognitive framing, and you'd better believe that the powers that be use it to keen effect.

So the alt-left's main opponents are well versed in these theories. These also aren't new concepts: the use of language to create and mold reality was a major theme in George Orwell's 1984.  So this is a useful concept to understand.   

The first example that Lakoff sites in the first chapter of Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate is the oft heard term "tax relief." These two words together say more than their literal meanings suggest. Lakoff explains this frame in more detail: "For there to be relief there must be an affliction, an afflicted party and a reliever who removes the affliction and therefore a hero."  Taxation is thereby presented as something from which relief is needed.  This means of framing the issue of taxation is to the benefit of conservatives, who favor smaller government and are against state funded welfare programs for the poor.

The trap, warns Lakoff, is for social democrats to accept this core framework while arguing against conclusions derived from it.  One must not come out as being against tax relief, because this way of framing is inherently disadvantageous for the center left.  It is an uphill battle to advocate for a greater number of taxpayer funded social welfare initiatives if one buys into the framing of taxation as an affliction from which relief is needed, which one does implicitly through use of the term "tax relief." 

Better, argues Lakoff, to begin by conceiving of the issue of taxation in entirely different terms.  He describes it variously as "paying your dues, paying your membership fee in America", "what you pay to live in a civilized country" or similar concepts, all based around what citizens get for their tax dollars, rather than the burden that taxation places on citizens.  This shift in emphasis is what reframing is all about.

We can use this concept to look at contentious social issues from new angles.  Consider the highly controversial constituent elements of intersectionality, for example: white privilege, male privilege and so on.  The term "privilege" has a specific meaning that both denotes and connotes very specific concepts.  A google search of the term reveals the following definition: "A special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people."

Like "relief", the term "privilege" makes certain presumptions.  For there to be privilege, there must be an authority with the power to bestow privilege, and that authority opts to bestow privilege based on arbitrary factors such as race, gender or sexual orientation, among others.  It is also conceivably possible for a privileged person to renounce their privilege, or for the authority granting said privilege to act in a more just and egalitarian manner. To fight against privilege is to fight for fair treatment for all, which we can also define as social justice.  One who fights can also be called a warrior.

The problem is that the term social justice warrior carries a lot of cultural baggage.  While the denotation - the literal meaning seems fair and reasonable, the connotation - subtler ideas communicated more through undertone and subtext is overwhelmingly negative.  The term invokes a frame consisting of fanaticism, zealousness, self righteousness, hypersensitivity and so on.  Why is this?  Part of the problem lies with the use of the concept of privilege to frame the issue of social inequality.

The "knapsack of privilege" consists of a bevy of benefits supposedly enjoyed by white males that are denied women and minorities: higher pay for the same work and less discrimination to actually get that work, men are raped and sexually harassed far less than women, whites are hassled by police less frequently than minorities, and so on.  To view these things as "privileges" presupposes - if only subconsciously - that someone capriciously made the decision to confer these benefits on white males and not women and minorities.  The implications are that not being raped, being paid fairly for the work one does and freedom from arbitrary police actions are not rights, but rather privileges that are unfairly enjoyed by some and not others.  Think long and hard on this.

Implied is the notion that all white males enjoy these privileges while no women or minorities do.  This subtly legitimizes an attitude of collective resentment on part of the less privileged and collective responsibility on part of the more privileged.  It is these implied resentments and this implied responsibility that formulate the subtext of a considerable volume of media informed by feminist and critical race theories, and why they provoke such defensiveness from their white male targets.

Privilege is therefore a counterproductive way of framing many issues that we now see in terms of racial and gender identity, such as sexual assault, wage inequality and abuse of police powers.  Assuming that the advantages supposedly enjoyed by white males are "privileges" implies that some authority somewhere, presumably white and male itself bestowed the advantages on white males as an act of personal favoritism (it didn't), it presumes that white males are able to individually or collectively renounce these privileges but won't (they can't) and that it is therefore acceptable for the less privileged to hate on those who are arbitrarily favored in this manner (it isn't, since it doesn't work this way in the real world.)

The self righteous militancy that the privilege frame tends to engender in those who accept it - the SJWs - also acts as a barrier to the exploration of alternative explanations for unequal outcomes. SJWs will see an attempt at a reframing of the issue as an attempt on part of the privileged to duck their responsibility for the unfair advantages that they enjoy and thereby jeopardize the morally superior status enjoyed by the SJW, and call out such actions accordingly.  Plus, many white males have, to varying degrees, internalized the privilege frame and the ensuing guilt serves to paralyze their will and bring about rapid capitulation in the face of feminist accusations of defending privilege, especially on college campuses and extremely liberal urban areas where these ideas enjoy cultural dominance.

Since the privilege framework does not effectively diagnose the true nature of the grievances, legitimate or no, that women and minorities have vis-a-vis white males, things are not likely to improve for them for so long as this framework holds.  This will intensify resentment on part of those whom this frame holds as being less privileged - and deepen their commitment to this flawed means of framing injustice, and paralyzing guilt on part of those deemed more privileged.  The end result isn't likely to be good.  Zimbabwe and South Africa present an unpleasant glimpse at where this could potentially end up.

To present a solid and defensible way reframing of social inequality in a more productive manner should be a key task of the alternative left.

Do you, dear reader, have any ideas for a more productive way of framing the issues of racial and gender equality?  Let me know in the comments.

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Egolitarianism - the Core Disease of the Left

But we did, Nathan. And that's precisely the problem. In the unlikely event that Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs magazine and...