Opinion: ‘Check Your Privilege’ Is The Worst Thing In The Universe

checkyourprivilegeBefore you read this, I want you to check your privilege. You see, I’m a disabled 35 year old white male of mixed British ancestry who’s great great grandma was southern European and dark skinned, probably a Sephardic jew.

So if you’re not all of those, then I’m sorry but your opinion is invalid. I win the argument. Yay me.

Welcome to the bullshit riddled 21st century version of arguing, where I can close down anything you say by pointing out that you’re not of, and by extension cannot possibly understand, the issue at stake. It drives me up the pissing wall.

It all stems (well, it probably doesn’t, but I think it does so check your privilege) from an article by the philosopher Thomas Nagel, way back in 1974, titled “what is it like to be a bat?”.

Nagel pointed out the inherent problem in thinking about what it’s like to be a bat is that when trying to answer the question you’ll still at all points be thinking as a human, and therefore cannot truly understand how it feels to be a bat. This is objectivity at work, basically. (for the record, I only ever did one philosophy course and it didn’t cover this. Go easy on me.)

Then modern people (those my uncle refers to mockingly as “the thinking classes”) started using this idea as a get out of argumental jail free card, and it got my tits proper raw.

“actually Aly, you can’t possibly comment on x as you aren’t in fact y and so therefore all of your points, however valid they may be, are basically meaningless.”

Look how raw my tits are at this point.

The liberal left jumped at this tactic like salmon at a waterfall, and this is what made it worse.

I consider myself left wing (although a libertarian, mostly for reasons of adult films and my wanting to watch them) and this whole check your privilege thing makes us all look bad.

It’s not a good argumental tactic. It removes healthy, constructive debate – it’s the equivalent of picking up your ball and going home – and it removes the concept of empathy. Although that seems to have been in short supply for a decade or more. Or maybe I just got old and miserable.

Stick ‘check your privilege’ into the Guardian‘s search engine and it vomits back a fair few articles, mostly of the dreaded opinion piece variant, mostly. There’s even a quiz. Take it. I dare you.

Typed into the Telegraph‘s engine however, you get a bunch of “latest evidence that the liberal left have lost their fucking minds”pieces, and God help me I find myself agreeing with the Telegraph and this makes me feel sad. We should be able to debate freely, goddammit, and if I do not indeed possess the privilege to discuss a topic, I still have the right to discuss it.

I’m not a woman, for example, nor am I a page three model – although a boy can dream, right? – but I can still discuss (more rationally than at least one side of this war apparently) the No More Page Three campaign.

I’m not a parent, but I can be just as angry at Michael Gove as all parents should be. And if you’re not angry, you’re really not paying attention.

Having said all this, I am of course a white male.

I should learn to check my privilege and keep my trap shut.

ALY MCNAB

Advertisements