Many years ago there was a set of questions or observations put together by a researcher by the name of Peggy McIntosh. You can look her up, but the gist of McIntosh is that her 'invisible knapsack' meme made her a star in the days before people figured out how to monetize meme-creation. She ended up resenting the popularity of her meme and withdrew support from the ideas percolating around them. But she still gets a lot of credit for the phrase 'white privilege' and of course 'white male privilege'.
I just dipped into some doo surrounding one of the derivative scoldings authored by a dude named John Scalzi, a scifi writer who can be easily described as an Ohio State fan. If you don't understand anything about Ohio State fans let me try to explain. There are several things that can be said about folks from Ohio, and in my experience the best three adjectives are, 'friendly', 'provincial' and 'self-conscious'. I really don't want to get into all that. Take my word, if you can understand that Ohio State fans believe themselves at once to be the greatest and most unpretentious people in America then you have an idea of where I'm ultimately going.
Scalzi wrote a lovely set of sci-fi war stories in a set known as the Old Man's War series. I read the first and found it enjoyable but not particularly deep. Scalzi's protagonist is existentially simple - like a second string lineman for the Buckeyes. You know exactly what to expect in the wholesome department. But over at his blog he decided to block for Peggy McIntosh by writing an essay with a videogame analogy called 'Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is'. I once knew a guy who used to play the role of a white boy. This meant that he spent a bit of extra energy convincing people he thought needed convincing that even though he was a white boy, he could X. I leave defining the full set of X to you so you can explore your own ideas by offering one member of the set: eat spicy foreign food.
Currently, I am under the influence of this bit of studied wit about post-literacy. I find it brilliant as it underscores what I have noticed about failures of modernity in the West and the increasingly serious farce of multicultural education. Additionally, I sense that this ties in with the higher level debate about modernity itself, perhaps expressed best as Lyotard vs Giddens, but I really don't have time for all that. Still I cannot deny the influence as I continue to find Dickens fascinating and occasionally refine my Peasant Theory.
So I respond to Scalzi: Imagine a game called 'White Male Battle Royale' in which white males were thrown into a ring and forced to compete for a panel of judges. Scalzi emerges as champion with his essay (which tells you something about the judges) and raises his fists in triumph, but not too high. There I sit watching this channel on television and I change it, wondering why I watched it in the first place.
Scalzi did address who the hell he was supposed to be writing that essay for in a subsequent follow up, but that didn't seem particularly compelling. On the whole all of this white privilege backpacking, repacking and unpacking seems to be as pointless and significant, boring and compelling as Ohio State football. Or football. Or sports. Or entertainment.
It's difficult for me to assess what the point of making Scalzi's point is, or actually the point of my critique. Perhaps both of us have too much time on our hands.
Nah. That's too easy an exit. What I mean to say is that Scalzi is wasting time on a morally self-congratulatory mission which involves foolish white guilt of the sort that actually undermines modern society by advancing arguments about identity which have nothing whatsoever to do with the presence or absence of justice.