An individual who is fairly popular and well-liked among his peers due to his intelligence, writing ability, and most of all, his near-pathological selflessness and altruism, recently posted an article that is meant to describe the concept of “privilege” (as almost exclusively applied to “straight white males”) by way of an anecdotal analogue. The article can be read here. I only mention the character of the person who shared this post because his opinion is well-liked, and he is certainly a “man of the times”. If anybody has their finger on the pulse of selfless egalitarianism, it is this individual, so the type of thinking I will discuss here can be considered more or less definitive for this ideology.
The story goes something like this: A man, call him Bob, works at some restaurant as a server. However, Chuck, a new hire, has been aggressively working his way up the ranks, and now works “the good sections”. Bob admits, “He carried himself with this annoying confidence…” and that Chuck was, “an intimidating dude” but that, “He was a good server though… only a month after he started working there–he was already getting rotated into some of the good sections…” Chuck was commanding respect that Bob could not, and the way that Bob describes it shows transparent bitterness and resentment toward Chuck’s ability to immediately begin advancing toward superiority in a system where Bob couldn’t.
But despite the candid nature of his description, Bob insists, “nothing he did got under my skin nearly as bad as this… When Chuck (we’ll call him “Chuck. His name wasn’t Chuck, but it was definitely a name in the “Chuck” category of names. It certainly wasn’t a pushover name like “Chris”) would walk toward you, he ALWAYS expected YOU to be the one to move out of the way. He didn’t do this when walking toward girls…” Here, so incongruously mixed we have scathing resentment of Chuck’s “harsh walking” and unconscious praise that he doesn’t have a “pushover name” and that he never did this “when walking toward girls”. In one sentence we see the inner conflict of the writer, both hating and admiring the more powerful and willful man– the true cause of this frustration.
The entire story is of a passive aggressive, “selfless type” who passive-aggressively “gets back” at the harsh walker by bumping into him and then acting like nothing was wrong. Having a conversation with the guy about his aggression was out of the question. The main takeaway from this article is that “if you’re privileged, then equality feels like oppression”… that is, “if you’re walking fast and somebody walks into your path and bumps you, it only feels rude because you’re really the rude one for walking so fast, asshole.” So if you feel like somebody is privileged, then go “bump” into them.
What does this mentality signify? It is weakness and impotence of the will and of social maneuvering. But did this individual merely lack the courage to openly and directly confront this harsh walker? Perhaps shame is the cause of his covert, passive gestures? Perhaps, deep down, he knew that his resentment was not caused by the walking itself. His frustration actually stemmed from the backstory of the new worker aggressively rising in the ranks and commanding more respect than he was capable of. His anger at the way this man walked… well, that was merely a symptom– a rash on the surface– of an underlying sense of weakness in relation to the aggressive new hire. What then, does this say about the idea of privilege if it can be associated with such a pathetic tale of passivity? That, I will leave to my readers to decide.