May 8, 2014 § Leave a comment
A couple of friends touched the void of existential despair recently after coming across a widely read argument by a Princeton student on privilege. Other bloggers have tackled the article, but I wanted to go ahead and address it, as well, to see if I can’t add a helpful angle. Many times when I read these kinds of anti-progressive, anti-feminist, or related anti-social justice frame responses, I am struck by the fact that they seem to lack a strong basis on which to disagree with what they deem to have enraged them. This piece seemed to me to be stemming not so much from a purely reactionary display of privilege but from a shaky basis on which to understand what privilege is and what movements that talk about are trying to change. As bell hooks says at the beginning of Feminism is for Everybody, to understand feminism one must first have an understanding of sexism. And as I tell myself practically everday at school, you have to have something before you can decide to give it away; if you haven’t learned the lesson being taught, you can’t really dismiss it with agency.
Where do you start in educating someone about the concept of privilege? My vote is here: If you have enough water to be alive, you have some degree of privilege. I think that frame zooms out and gives some kind of ballast for the hurricane season of difficult emotions anyone will face as they become aware of privilege. Then I go here: Privilege indicates something that one group has and another does not. SO, there are privileges you can have that NO ONE SHOULD HAVE, and there are privileges you have that EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE.
I think that telling a personal family history of oppression re-shaped as a narrative justifying the legtimacy of one’s own, individual success in a social system gives evidence to a simple, basic lack of comprehension of what privilege, oppression, structural violence, and social justice movement are. The point is not that personal or familial character and hard work underlie success, but that there are entire demographics who can work as hard as they like and as long as they like and still not reach the position. For many of us, a deepened awarness of our own family history gives evidence to that truth.
Educating anyone about privilege is bound to be emotionally difficult. The main argument, I think, the author was trying to make was, “I shouldn’t feel bad.” I feel disappointed by the lack of success those of us trying to raise consciousness had in this case if this was the impression given about what awareness of privilege was asking of the privileged, or of anyone. What does it really matter whether anyone feels ashamed of their privilege? What does it change? I think both emotions, shame and reactionary pride, are simply byproducts of consciousness raising to be managed. The real work gets shut down when they take over the show. Oppression and privilege are not about what anyone feels; they are about much, much more than that. They’re about how structural violence creates inequality that becomes naturalized and goes unaddressed over time. They’re about how one’s personal history of privilege becomes inevitable, and one’s personal history of suffering becomes something other than changable and man-made. They’re about how this kind of exaggerated agency allows an unjust status quo to go on and on. Privileged people need to work just as hard to extend their just privileges to underprivileged groups as to give up privileges no one should have.
November 27, 2012 § 1 Comment
Eat, drink, sleep ~ I believe this is the one best thing anyone can do to help achieve a balanced temperament. Basic needs must be met consistently in order to alleviate basic, animal anxiety and imbalance. Self-care should be consistently reprioritized as it slips from our habits. For introverts, I think feeling overwhelmed, oversensitive, excessively emotional, indecisive, anxious, and immobilized are the general responses to stress from inadequate food, water, and sleep. Eat enough wholesome foods throughout the day, safeguard your access to food when you’re busy by carrying snacks and taking breaks, drink ample water and if you like add some coffee and tea with a heap of even more water. That’s pretty much my baseline for sanity preservation.
Provide processing time ~ As an extremely social introvert, this is perhaps the most important one on the list for me. Time between inputs, like spending time with friends and lovers, experiencing art like films and books, and other extraverted activities are important for an introvert to process and store information and sort out their perceptions and opinions. I honestly think I can’t remember well without enough processing time. I feel as if I lose experiences when I overcrowd them.
Learn to be a gentle handler ~ You can’t charm a fox with a brash approach or scare a rabbit into heightened performance. If you want to get yourself to take action, gentle nudging and internal coaxing will work while pushing yourself forward, brandishing the knife towards yourself and making threats will only lead to paralysis or resistance. A lot of introverts had pressure applied to them by adults as children in order to get them to become bold and have internalized this tactic which disrespect their true nature and also tends to backfire, as it’s counterintuitive for managing introversion. Improve your gentle self-talk and reduce your inner harsh, critical voice. It may seem like a motivator but is actually an inhibitor and a block.
Practice use of body language ~ For introverts, it is often difficult to talk, and if not to talk, then to take the risk of speaking authentically. Learning to use nonverbal expression can help give approval or positive attention to people you’re interested in, help you show annoyance or anger when you’re boundaries are being overstepped, and help you show your feelings when you want to but feel shy or inarticulate. I feel like I learned a lot by interacting with dogs, who wear their feelings on their sleeve by nature.
Notice your love of other introverts ~ One of the greatest struggles practically everyone faces is self-negativity and judgment. Many introverts gravitate towards other introverts and find shared traits understandable and even likable in others they judge in themselves. Remember to compare your consideration and respect for others to how you feel about yourself and try to make them equal.