Pat Buchanan commented recently that “whites are the only group that you can discriminate against legally in America now.” The conservative media took their opportunity to thumb their collective noses at the liberal elites. The liberal media took the opportunity to flaunt their talent for withering snarkery. This story was just another example of the froth of the 24-hour soundbyte news cycle, hear today, gone tomorrow, leaving a largely unnoticed residue of animosity.
The story resonated with me because the problem of the white male has been on my mind lately. My work gives me the opportunity to visit residents of correctional facilities and listen to them, and the experience, I suspect, will stay with me for the rest of my life. Prisoners are not what you might expect. They are not angry or rebellious on the whole. They don’t drag tin plates across the bars of their cells. They march in single file, their heads down, in slow and measured paces, and if you look them in the eyes you can see what defeat looks like. Their egos have been torn down and nothing’s been built to replace them.
|Riding Several Horses But Pleasing No One|
There are signs that white males are being left behind by society. The economic calamity of 2007 has been referred to as a “mancession” because the wave of unemployment hit men especially hard. Just think of Detroit: a once booming manufacturing hub, being torn down little by little, and nothing is going to be built to fill the empty spaces.
I’m suggesting that feminism is an ideology. As an ideology, you can put it alongside conservatism, liberalism, communism, antisemitism, white supremacy, black nationalism and any of a number of assorted “isms.” What all ideologies share in common is a commitment to a set of core ideas. Some of these ideas are absolute and unquestioned. Other ideas are open to minor tweaks and updates.The solutions they offer are always the same, even though the problems are ever-changing.
Another thing that ideologies share in common is a foil. If it weren’t for capitalists, Karl Marx wouldn’t have had much to say. If it weren’t for white privilege, the feminism of the 2010’s would lose its ballast and drift off into the stratosphere. Conservatism would wither if it weren’t for the mythical Welfare Queen and black boys in Chicago. There would be no liberalism without the myth of a sentient being known as “society” which lurks at the outskirts and devours the weaker members of society.
In reflecting on the possibility of evading ideology and its pitfalls, I’ve come to the conclusion that compassion is the best answer. Compassion is that which makes us pause for those who have fallen behind, and try to help them. Compassion does not make distinctions based on skin color or gender or infirmity or the ideological purity of the recipient. Most importantly, compassion unites rather than divides.
Compassion is an invitation. It is offered to every human being, but there are some who decline. They opt instead to send jobs overseas and complain about the cost of unemployment benefits. They live in mansions and rob the poor. They poison the water that they don’t have to drink and the food they don’t need to eat. These harpies have always been with us, since the beginning of history, and they’ve always been the origin of inequality.