Month: July 2014

A little something on privilege, or what the fuck do you know about my life?

I am in no way blind to the fact that we live in a society based on power, structures, hierarchies, (man made) differences etc. But the thing is that I am, in some respects. As are all of us. Things, privileges, oppression, differences have been internalized and created in all of us, affected our vision.

Self-evident platitudes, you say. Clichés. Yes, of course. To an extent. Nonetheless, there is something more in it. I am here reminded of Spivak’s phrase “Unlearning one’s privilege as one’s loss” (and don’t worry, I am not going to pretend that I have some sort of general, or even specific, grasp of anything related to Spivak. I am merely hoping that the little I think I have understood isn’t totally misrepresented by me.).  As I have understood the term it means that my privileges as (in this case) a white, heterosexual, northern European, more-or-less middle class male have not only given me something but taken something from me – my view of the world is skewed (“…därigenom också förstå vilken kunskap om världen som privilegierna har berövat en, och vad som man inte varit förmögen att känna igen som kunskap. För en privilegierad position innebär inte enbart fördelar…”) . And it is a hell of a job to find out how and where. I can’t, literally and metaphorically, trust my eyes in a lot of cases, as this lense that has been placed before me is the way I think the world is, the way I think. How am I to know when I am seeing something else, as I am never outside of my privileges (even if I were to physically be transformed into someone else, I would still be me with my history, and my experiences in this new body would then in a way not be the experiences of for example a black woman. Which doesn’t mean that the experience as such wouldn’t be good or that it would be false.)? History and the world have robbed me of something, and I cannot know what. Likewise, it has robbed you of something, whoever you are.

The thing here is that this often makes me curious about the sort of dichotomy some people make between the privileged and the non-privileged. In this day and age of intersectionality, I find that there’s often an interesting lack of intersectionality. People are privileged and need to simply smart up (use their “empathy” as someone said, as if empathy is some sort of platonic thing, existing outside of the social relations that we are (all) in), the other side is allowed to be a multitude of individuals, sexualities, ethnicities etc (there’s a risk of some sort of atomism in all this that makes me wary. But then again, can I trust myself?). I find it interesting that the “enemy” in this way can be reduced to just a few characteristics , although I understand that these characteristics are what identifies the problem, so to speak. But I also think that it in itself can skew the vision of those that use it, that it can lead them to false conversions. On the other hand, I have a feeling that the place of the non-privileged can (at least) be felt as quite reductive.

This leads me to another dichotomy, which is that according to it people are either privileged or non-privileged and that the privileged are, because of their privileges, blind to the world, while those without privileges sees the world straight (at the same it is at times insinuated (or that’s my interpretation) that the privileged are not blind at all, but only choses to act it). The solution here is often that the privileged should “check their privileges”, as if that is something that could just be done, you know. The result also seems to be that the experiences of those who are privileged never really count as those experiences are always a result of privileges, while to experience something as unprivileged is to experience a truth, as a truth. Which it of course is not, as both positions are artificial (given, of course, that one does not hold that there are fundamental (biological?) differences between people). Pain, hardship, persecution, subjugation is destructive. For all involved. And is there an escape? Hardly for individuals. We are all a part of this pathetic play. There is no outside. So don’t you judge me.