“Life in this society being, at best, an utter bore…” –The SCUM Manifesto
It doesn’t really matter which row inspired me to finally write this post. It follows the same pattern every fucking time. Privileged person nakedly articulates something privileged or wrong or harmful. It pisses off those who are harmed by it–or those who know just how harmful such naked articulations of privilege can be. We express this. We are told not to be angry, or rude, to be rational and logical. It is all derailed. The privileged person fails to learn, change, grow, be better. They act as though they are the victim of some unreasonable mob, never giving a second’s thought to why people are angry.
To the privileged, an expression of an emotion in an argument is a sign of weakness. Being angry or sad, and showing it, is seen as a sign of having lost the argument, of being not worth talking to, of somehow having failed entirely as a person.
We are taught that debate must be calm and sterile. This position only benefits those who have the luxury of feeling nothing. It benefits those who have the luxury of disengaging and switching off. It benefits those who have the luxury of viewing oppression as an intellectual exercise rather than a grinding, frustrating, infuriating reality.
This society is shit. The system is shit. The future is fucking shit. It is perfectly normal to be angry about it, to scream and shout and swear. It is perfectly normal to cry tears of frustration or sorrow. It is perfectly normal to want to bellow a “fuck you” rather than try to reason with someone who is content with the way things are.
We are taught this is unreasonable because it is easier to maintain this system if we do not express these emotions, that we go on pretending that everything is up for debate in a manner which is often only accessible for those privileged enough to disengage. We are told that our frustration and fury is just the same as hate speech, when in fact it is not: it is frustration and fury against hate and oppression.
There is a gulf of difference between the anger felt upon having one’s privilege challenged, and the anger felt upon witnessing an expression of privilege and a replication of the power systems which have existed all along and nothing is changing. In both cases, these angers are legitimate. However, the former can go and fuck themselves in the eye for perpetuating this bullshit. Sort yourself out and try to be better. That’s what I did.
And yet we are stuck with, at best, these two responses being equated, when in fact they are nothing alike. At worst, the former is validated, and it is considered far worse to be called out on one’s privilege by someone who is rightfully pissed and not afraid to show it than to replicate oppressive power structures. This is the wrong way round, and you know what? It pisses me the fuck off.
Far from moaning about it, the privileged ought to understand why others are expressing emotion and not engaging on their terms. It is they, not us, who must learn to control themselves. It is they, not us, who need to improve.
We all need to learn that it is all right to feel the things we are told we ought not to feel and express the emotions we are told we ought not to express. That it is not a sign of weakness to snap in the middle of that same fucking conversation you have had a thousand times before, and this time is going as fruitlessly as the last. That this world sucks, and you’re paying attention, which means you have a panoramic view of the dimensions of suckiness.
Yes, you might not win any rows, and you certainly won’t win any friends, but you were unlikely to win these sorts of fights in the first place. That belief that everything is fine and dandy held by the privileged is unreasonable and impolite, and therefore reasonable, polite debate was never likely to persuade them.
What is certain is that we will win no wars through tone policing, and that emotion is a strong tool. This is precisely why those in power are so eager to suppress it.