Personal Development gurus can get away with anything, so why can't you?
December 19, 2013 1:23 PM   Subscribe

When is "life hacking" simply what we used to call selfishness? Jen Dziura takes on blogger James Altucher's recent Quora piece, How to Break All the Rules and Get Everything You Want.
posted by cairdeas (135 comments total) 72 users marked this as a favorite
 
oh hey I know Jen. Awesome.

Also wow, the blinders on that guy. Sheesh.
posted by The Whelk at 1:26 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was going to post this today on the Blue, but went with a pretty webcomic instead.

I agree with her; a lot of the "life hack gurus" tend to be moderately affluent white dudes who think because they are moderately affluent white dudes that the rules don't apply to them. And yes, even small stuff counts. They may see it as a life hack, but I see it more as someone thinking themselves better than everyone else.
posted by Kitteh at 1:33 PM on December 19, 2013 [18 favorites]


> If you act like the river, you ultimately flow past all the rocks along the way.

This will be my last post on Metafilter, for I have attained enlightenment and risen above the endless cycle of death, rebirth and suffering.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:35 PM on December 19, 2013 [35 favorites]


If you act like the river, you ultimately flow past all the rocks along the way.

Then you gradually kill them due to erosion.
posted by FJT at 1:37 PM on December 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


Quora has pieces now?
posted by Iridic at 1:38 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you act like the river, you ultimately flow past all the rocks along the way.

Fish shit in it.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:39 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought "lifehacks" were things like using a spot of bleach to re-clean dental floss. I wasn't aware it actually meant "act like an entitled asshole".
posted by bonehead at 1:41 PM on December 19, 2013 [50 favorites]


> If you act like the river, you ultimately flow past all the rocks along the way.

My experience re: rivers and their relationship to rocks is that rivers tend to flow right over them, eroding them away bit by bit, until there's nothing left. Basically, river don't give a shit about rocks.

Actually, that's a pretty good metaphor.
posted by Think_Long at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Oh it's a white male class privilege thing. Cool, I thought it was just a guy bending some rules to take his daughter to a fashion thing and then play ping pong. He strikes me as precisely the kind of asshole who would want to do things like that, and he did them, so good show.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:42 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


also sometimes beavers build dams in you and you stagnate.
posted by The Whelk at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


moderately affluent white dudes who think because they are moderately affluent white dudes that the rules don't apply to them

previously and previouslier
posted by mark7570 at 1:43 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


My experience re: rivers and their relationship to rocks is that rivers tend to flow right over them, eroding them away bit by bit, until there's nothing left. Basically, river don't give a shit about rocks

Also, if the river moves enough rocks, eventually they pile up and then the river has to go bother some other rocks for a while.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:46 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


also sometimes beavers build dams in you and you stagnate.

And let's not even talk about toxic effluent.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2013


A white man walked in. He surveyed the line and confidently jetted past it, over to an employee pushing a wheeled bin across the floor. He put his hand on the employee’s back. He said, “Hey buddy … can you do me a favor? I just have this one thing.”

You try queue jumping in my neck of the woods we put you in a wicker man
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2013 [68 favorites]


I like how the one quote from his daughter as he takes her along is basically "dad, you don't have to do this." I may be projecting, but in her place I would have cringed repeatedly.
posted by postcommunism at 1:48 PM on December 19, 2013 [17 favorites]


I was at the fancy Christmas party for a giant law firm the other day. I don't work there, but my roommate does. One thing I was struck by was how easy it was to get in. Free food, free booze in a fancy art gallery and all you had to do was walk in. No tickets, no firm ID, no "you can only have one guest" rule being enforced. It's a firm with hundreds of employees, so it wasn't like everyone knew everyone. Of course, all that applied only because everyone who was trying to come in looked the part. Because I put on a suit, I could walk in no problem. Because I have the confidence of having walked into places like this before, no one questioned me. I was allowed to be there, but no one knew that and no one cared one way or the other.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:49 PM on December 19, 2013 [16 favorites]


I hate, hate, hate people who think the rules don't apply to them. That said, I'm confused, the word "lifehack" doesn't appear in the body of that piece at all.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:50 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Many rules are arbitrary.

And so much of "the system" serves to keep insiders in and outsiders out. Ever tried to dispute a charge with Visa? Shit each time I call the call centre it's like trying to get into West Berlin.

So I can see where this kind of mindset starts. That being said, I will never look at a lifehack the same way again. Thanks for the paradigm shift.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:51 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Geez, this rebuttal helps me understand what I dislike so much about the term "white privilege." It's not "white privilege," it's actually "non-white non-privilege." The reason I say that is because while it's not remarkable that Altucher would be treated the way he is treated in his story; rather, it's remarkable when non-white people can't get treated that way. The abnormal thing is not how white people are treated, but how everyone else is treated.

The reason why this matters to me is because "white privilege" suggests that there is something extra that white people are getting that they should not have, rather than the fact that there is something that non-white people are not getting which they should be. It's not "white privilege" that allows me to walk down the street without being harassed by the cops for now reason - it's perfectly fucking normal and that's how it should be. What's abnormal and wrong is how not everyone receives this treatment.

It also highlights what's wrong with the rebuttal. The original article had nothing to do with race, and bringing race into it is forcing the issue. The problem isn't with Altucher and how he's treated. Well, maybe there is a problem with his article (and selfishness), but it has nothing to do with race! The fact that non-white people cannot always get away with this kind of behavior is a separate issue, and Altucher is not being blind nor stupid by not mentioning that in his post.

It would be like if I tweeted the fact that I just bought an ice cream cone in Manahattan, and someone retorts how they have to worry about being arrested for walking down the street "hashtag-white-privilege". Excuse me, I was just talking about ice cream. Thinking of things in terms of "white privilege" instead of "non-white oppression" provides a way of pushing a racial dimension on almost any topic you want. It's a cute inversion that may provide value as a thought exercise, but I believe it is problematic to use as a default perspective.
posted by Edgewise at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2013 [76 favorites]


This guy reminds me of Aleksey Vayner. Except that he is not dead.
posted by adamrice at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2013


The reaction the original piece is over-the-top. Linking this, even obliquely, to what happened to McBride strains any patience Dziura's point. Dude wasn't even obnoxious about what he did, just tiny little blog post he wrote about it.
posted by spaltavian at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2013


Sadly, she skipped right over the obvious truth--it's really class privilege. Send a homeless white guy in to try this crap and see how far it goes.
posted by entropicamericana at 1:56 PM on December 19, 2013 [44 favorites]


I hate, hate, hate people who think the rules don't apply to them

I hate entitlement. I really have no opinion on people who just try to see if something works, gives up when it stops, all without hurting anyone else.
posted by spaltavian at 1:58 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dude wasn't even obnoxious about what he did, just tiny little blog post he wrote about it.

Dziura addresses that:
It happens all the time that white people claim not to be racist because they didn’t intend to be racist; they weren’t thinking about that at all.

But there are many situations in which it is precisely your job to think about that. Nothing induces more rage in others than your taking what you do not deserve and not even noticing.

A small example: Sometimes I am waiting in line, killing time on my phone, when the cashier, ticket-taker, or receptionist summons me forward. (I am fairly certain that I read as a Fancy White Lady. Now that I have a wedding ring, I may have reached the very peak of privilege in my lifetime.)

In situations in which it’s not clear which way the line is supposed to form, or in which multiple lines ultimately lead to the same service point, it has absolutely happened that I was being invited to jump ahead of someone.

[...]

Skipping ahead of people in line, even when invited to do so, is better referred to as “being an asshole.” And obliviousness to your own privilege is no excuse. If you’re absorbed in your phone and not really sure if you’re rightfully next in line, it’s your job to look around and say, “I’m sorry, were you here before me?”

When you are an affluent-seeming white man and you ask for things that don’t belong to you, sometimes you’re not really asking. It’s sort like Bill Clinton asking Monica Lewinsky to have sex with him. There’s a context behind the asking.
posted by notyou at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


> The reaction the original piece is over-the-top.

The original piece was pretty fluffy (though irritating), but Dziura's riff on it is pretty great:
When you ask a serviceperson for something that doesn’t belong to you, there is often a subtext of, “If I complain to your manager, you know your manager is going to listen to me. Just look at me, and look at you.”
posted by postcommunism at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2013 [34 favorites]


we played an hour of ping pong at the best club in NY...

C'mon! Where's Stefon when you need him?
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:59 PM on December 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ironically, this sort of not-following-the-rules is what I am doing when I don't want to sign in to Quora to see the content.
posted by almostmanda at 2:00 PM on December 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


"I thought it was just a guy bending some rules to take his daughter to a fashion thing and then play ping pong. He strikes me as precisely the kind of asshole who would want to do things like that..."

Well, I think the point isn't that he is horrible to want to take his kid out to do cool fun stuff; I think the point is to ask whether is is always so awesome to use your advantages to push past / take things away from other people at your whim - and whether the people who do not do so are merely less bold or less out-of-the-box thinkers or less river-like.
posted by cairdeas at 2:01 PM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


You have to select your life advice gurus carefully. I started reading M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Travelled once and didn't get very far before I decided he was a clueless asshole and I wasn't interested in anything he had to say. For instance, he tells you to break open a bag of onions at the grocery store to just get the few that you want because "you should refuse to be victimized by the stores business practices". How about realizing that a business doesn't owe it to you to do business with you on your terms, jerkwad? Or he tells a story of how he played a game of chess with his 14-year-old daughter and insisted that she stay at the game table past her bedtime despite the fact that she pleaded with him that she was tired and needed her sleep in order to be able to get up on time the next morning. He kept saying, no, damn it, chess is a serious game and that she needed to finish it. Eventually the poor girl left the table in tears. His take on that was that he "needed to give up the urge to compete". I would instead have told him he needed to stop being a controlling douchebag and to get his priorities straight, because his daughter's well-being is more important than some dumb game that could be finished the next night. When you realize you have more real insight into life than the person who's telling you how to live, it's time to tune them out.
posted by orange swan at 2:02 PM on December 19, 2013 [57 favorites]


None of these articles have anything to do with "life-hacking". At least not as I understand the word.
posted by bleep at 2:02 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


She briefly mentioned women asking for raises, and I think the moment I really realized the game was rigged was when there was an actual study about how (largely white) women ask for raises and still don't get them the way that (largely white) men do. A lot of the rhetoric about wage gaps actually ignores the addition of race, where the numbers are even more depressing (even when controlling for education and field).

I like how she pulled the subtext out of his initial post - all of the unspoken things he simply doesn't think about that hinge on his race, gender, and clothing. I think this is one of the places where Implicit Bias lives - in these little interactions which create an overall story of "the world gives me what I want and I deserve it" which allows one to ignore all of the people who don't get what they want or - even worse - blame those people for not getting what they want, since clearly getting what you want is possible and pretty easy.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:03 PM on December 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


This guy is so ask culture, he barely even asks!
posted by onehalfjunco at 2:08 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Goes straight past "ask" culture, right into "take" culture.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:11 PM on December 19, 2013 [38 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: Because I have the confidence of having walked into places like this before, no one questioned me. I was allowed to be there, but no one knew that and no one cared one way or the other.

I knew someone in high school who said the same thing about stealing - walk out with something from a store like that's what you always do, and you could get away with it.

Little did I know they were talking about lifehacking.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:19 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another thing the asshole doesn't get -- or more likely just doesn't care about -- is that he's offloading costs.

You ever work event security? I have, long ago, and it seems nothing's changed. Half of our energy went to keep assholes like this out. They're always the ones who cause big commotions when you have to move them out of someone else's seat in the middle of the first act. Or who have to be pulled away from standing up in front of the front row of seats at the concert. So, all of us are paying extra to try and keep him out.

And the surly response you get from the guy with the list? The lack of politeness that makes it all just a little worse? The nastiness you get from an usher about not sitting in the better seat even when it's empty? That intangible cost is on him too. It's cause the staff knows to expect guys just like this, trying to game the system. There's 20 or 30 of him for every person who really ought to be on it and got missed. Because they're just too good to be bound by the little rules that they pay their fair share just like everyone else.

But hey, he's figured out how to up his scam game a little by towing a little girl along, so kudos to him, I guess.
posted by tyllwin at 2:19 PM on December 19, 2013 [52 favorites]


On the one hand, I see the point. On the other hand, in other cultures this is a way of life.

So one time I was waiting in an airport with my friend Perere, who is a very black Brazilian man. We were complaining that the airport had no water fountains so that you were forced to pay for bottled water. He suggested that I should just ask the assistant at the convenience store to fill my water bottle for me from the tap behind the counter. Uptight guy that I am, I found that hard to force myself to do, but Perere insisted that I should just do it. And I did, and I got my free water.

So: one the one hand, at the time, I thought of this as a little lesson in jeitinho. On the other hand, maybe it only would have worked for me.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:20 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Google Affluenza.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:23 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


His behavior is entitled and privilege unaware to say the least, but I'm not comfortable with the idea that anyone who doesn't follow rules, which may be unjust or just plain stupid, is entitled and overprivileged. I'm not trying to say jumping ahead in line is necessarily civil disobedience in the service of a great cause, just that not following the rules is sometimes the right thing to do, even if it is also in your own interest to break said rules.
posted by fraxil at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Asking the clerk to fill your water bottle is pretty harmless, though. You could have done that yourself in the airport bathroom. Plus, clean water is a right for every human being - being first in line is not.
posted by subdee at 2:25 PM on December 19, 2013


Jeitinho isn't justified when practiced in South America, Southern or Eastern Europe, the Middle East, China, etc. either, i_am_joe's_spleen. It's all low-level corruption that damages society. America and the U.K. are rife with corruption and both low and high levels. I only wonder if the term "white privilege" helps or harms by attempts to address it, really no clue.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:28 PM on December 19, 2013


Can we all simply agree that, from now on, anyone uttering the term "life hacking" gets shoved out the airlock?
posted by Thorzdad at 2:33 PM on December 19, 2013 [21 favorites]


I work backstage all over NYC, and regularly at a pretty popular show. One of the best parts of my job is when some entitled douche "hey buddy"s me and thinks I'll let him go somewhere he doesn't belong because he called me "chief" and then telling him to get the fuck back behind the line or I'll have his ass thrown out. SO SATISFYING.
posted by nevercalm at 2:35 PM on December 19, 2013 [37 favorites]


People calling me "chief" wins them my immediate, automatic hatred.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:37 PM on December 19, 2013 [29 favorites]


I think the shittiest part is where he was expressly told that he couldn't play ping pong, played ping pong anyway, and when he was told AGAIN not to play ping pong, offered to retroactively pay for the time he had used at the table. THAT's privilege: "Oh, do you have a problem with something I did? Let me willfully, deliberately misunderstand why I wasn't allowed at this table (it was for reserved for other people and my having a child doesn't make me more special than they are so I don't get to invalidate their reservation) and pretend maybe you're just offended for reasons that have to do with money, which I can solve by giving you some money because money is nothing to me and I can just offer it around to fix any mistakes I made!"

HATE.
posted by pineappleheart at 2:41 PM on December 19, 2013 [35 favorites]


I think the privileged part isn't just the "I broke a bunch of rules and there are no consequences" stuff. It's the "whether or not there are consequences for breaking rules is something I am in a position to explain on a universal level based on my experience" part.

There are certainly ways to say, "Hey, sometimes despite [x] restriction, if you ask nicely, you can often get around it if it's no skin off anybody's nose." But when you say, "I did this and you can too," you're universalizing your own experience, and you're explicitly suggesting that you have no enhanced rule-breaking privileges (because that's what they are) compared to lots of other people.

Moreover, he doesn't seem to understand that one person can sneak into an event; everyone cannot. If everyone took this advice, everyone would storm every party, everyone would push into every show, and all of this would be cracked down upon. He can only break these rules because other people mostly follow them; he doesn't seem to get that either. The ushers wouldn't have had a seat up front for everybody's kid.

Every operation has a little bit of give in it, made to accommodate the small number of people who won't just do what they're politely asked to do by people in an appropriate position to politely ask them to do it, which most of us do. What this guy is doing is only possible because not everyone does it. What he's discovered is that everyone will put up with a handful of me-first clowns because it isn't worth the hassle to fight them, and he's suggesting everybody go out there and test how many me-first clowns can get in before people get tired of dealing with it and close whatever the loophole is. He thinks he's the river going over the rocks, but there's a way to look at it in which he's more like the 1 part per million out of every jar of peanut butter that's allowed to be bug larvae. (Or whatever. I made that number up. I'm sure there's no bug larvae in peanut butter.)

I also kind of want to punch his blog in the throat every time someone tells him he can't do exactly what he wants to do and he says "WHAT!?"
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:44 PM on December 19, 2013 [78 favorites]


i_am_joe's_spleen: He suggested that I should just ask the assistant at the convenience store to fill my water bottle for me from the tap behind the counter.

This is a bit different than jumping ahead of a long line. You're circumventing the airport's attempt to make you pay for water, and there's a guy who has easy access to free water. Alternatively, you could fill up your bottle in the bathroom, where I'm sure they have free water for washing your hands.

But Brazilian jeitinho and the "haggle and/or bribe your way through everything" in other countries are indeed cultural differences not generally encountered in the United States. In fact, you're a fool if you don't try to barter for a better deal in some countries.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:45 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Linda_Holmes: I also kind of want to punch his blog in the throat every time someone tells him he can't do exactly what he wants to do and he says "WHAT!?"

That's just because you haven't had the luck to experience his two lifehacks that will get people to like you. SPOILER: it's all about $2 bills and waiters pads. SECOND SPOILER: you'll still hate him, because he wilfully ignores that tipping well is a whole lot more impressive than his waiters pads and $2 bills. But you'll hate him a little less because of how real/desperate he is, when you read that he was so lonely that he would play chess with "a bunch of drug addict homeless chessplayers."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:49 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Every operation has a little bit of give in it, made to accommodate the small number of people who won't just do what they're politely asked to do by people in an appropriate position to politely ask them to do it, which most of us do.


Oh, no. that give is to accommodate ... anyone but those flaming douche canoes. I could say NO to them all day long.
posted by louche mustachio at 2:51 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I could say NO to them all day long.

Heh. Fair enough, fair enough.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:53 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Iridic: Quora has pieces now?

Apparently the Q/A business wasn't going so very well, even with their "see more inside by becoming a member" ploy, so they upped the ante and started supporting more "high-quality writing," even if you're just re-posting something from your personal, rarely visited blog.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:54 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I only wonder if the term "white privilege" helps or harms by attempts to address it, really no clue.

It's a pretty good framework for deconstructing some social and interpersonal situations. I find in most cases online that it is used as a lazy weapon by white people to go after other white people in order to gain social media currency (page views, favorites, likes, whatever) .

I'm too lazy to find links but there have been a number of left-wing blog spats this year cited on metafilter that amount to nothing more than this sort of in-group social policing which further fail to engage with the issues they purport to engage in.
posted by MillMan at 2:55 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


But you'll hate him a little less because of how real/desperate he is, when you read that he was so lonely that he would play chess with "a bunch of drug addict homeless chessplayers."

Huh. The dig against homeless chess players make me like him even less, but you're right. I feel bad for him that he had to spend over $2000 to get people to like him. I made my
friends and impressed my dates for free.
posted by pineappleheart at 2:55 PM on December 19, 2013


...impressed my dates for free.

How is this done???
posted by Edgewise at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2013


...impressed my dates for free.
How is this done???


If you pick them yourself, and make a DIY home press with scraps around the house, you can impress dates or any other vegetable matter.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:02 PM on December 19, 2013 [27 favorites]


The whole thing is a categorical imperative problem, though, right? These actions suck and are wrong to do because he would never, if he could, extend the right to do them to everyone. The whole system would break down.
posted by penduluum at 3:03 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think it's funny that Metafilter is Very Mad that a man played ping-pong on Bank of America's ping-pong table without Bank of America's permission.
posted by downing street memo at 3:11 PM on December 19, 2013 [28 favorites]


People calling me "chief" wins them my immediate, automatic hatred.

This is why I call people "Buckwheat" instead
posted by thelonius at 3:15 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


We're very mad that:
  1. He has a position of power relative to most people, and that
  2. He got to play ping-pong on Bank of America's ping-pong table without Bank of America's position because of that position of power, and that
  3. Instead of recognizing that he's exploiting a position of power, he's arguing that he's smarter (rather than more powerful) than other people.
At least, I think that's why we're very mad.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 3:18 PM on December 19, 2013 [11 favorites]


DISRUPT SELMA
posted by Teakettle at 3:27 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


People calling me "chief" wins them my immediate, automatic hatred.

Whatever you say, buddy.
posted by nooneyouknow at 3:50 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Instead of recognizing that he's exploiting a position of power, he's arguing that he's smarter (rather than more powerful) than other people.

I don't see where he says this in the piece. Can you point it out? Seriously.

I think it's beyond obvious that most rules are arbitrary and stupid. I think it's strange that instead of promoting a society where none of us are bound by stupid, arbitrary rules, that the linked piece - and this thread - is primarily about telling someone that he's a Bad Privileged White Man for showing how arbitrary and stupid they are.

I also think that on the meta-level, you can basically accuse anyone of white privilege anytime, and deploy it as an argument for - I'm not sure what exactly, but the Medium piece seems to imply that the Altrucher article shouldn't have been written. Assume the lefty, social justice notion of white privilege is indeed true and analytically relevant. Given this, should I be writing this comment? I'm white and writing it on a very nice work computer with very fast internet connection that is unmonitored by my IT department, a position that I have achieved thanks surely to the countless social privileges provided to me by virtue of being white.

Do I need to disclaim this privilege, and all my other privileges, with every comment? If not, why did Altrucher need to disclaim it here? The writer of the Medium piece is white. Did she disclaim her privilege? The fact that she got an invite to an exclusive blogging platform is surely due to her connections. I went to her wikipedia page; she went to Dartmouth where presumably she learned how to write well. Does she need to disclaim this on every post, and talk about how it's only white privilege that made her who she is?

Of course not. In practice, the privilege-checking argument is deployed against the left's bete noire du jour, who is currently a 20-40 year old frumpy white male technologist. Which gives it next to no analytical value.
posted by downing street memo at 3:50 PM on December 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


This reminds me of a bit from the Coen Brothers' remake of The Ladykillers. One of the thieves points out that another is a Buddhist, and asks if he perhaps has a "middle way" out of their current predicament.

The Buddhist thinks for a moment, and replies, "Float like leaf down river of life... and kill old lady."
posted by Flunkie at 3:53 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by Catblack at 3:53 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few weeks ago I received 4 tickets to an NBA basketball game. I'd had the seats before - they were on the suite level, in this VIP area, which had free food, free beer, etc. and are more expensive than anything I can afford. Awesome!

So me and my 3 buddies get to the game and when they go to scan our tickets, they won't let us in - the barcode has already been used. I'm hoping this is some kind of mistake - maybe my friend who gave us the tickets printed the e-tickets (which can invalidate physical ones). So I head over to the ticket window. You know, the special ticket window without a line for the VIP ticket holders? After I hand over the tickets, we have this exchange:

"Oh, were the ticket-scanning guys in a hurry? Sometimes they double-scan the tickets."

"No, and none of our four tickets are working, so I don't think..."

"Well, I've re-activated your tickets, so why don't you just back and try again."

Sure enough, we inside after chatting with that guy for about 15 seconds. I can't remember ever spending only 15 seconds at a ticket window in my life! Anyway, so we finally get up to the VIP area. The place is relatively full, there's assigned seating, and the hostess looks confused for a second as I show her our seat numbers.

Instead of our normal seats, she leads us to some seats that are in a roped-off section that has "reserved" signs all over it. We basically have our own semi-private suite to watch the game from, which is kinda better than the regular seats (because I have little in common with the other VIPs, and I feel guilty about cheering too loud or droppin' a swear if I've had a couple of drinks). We have a great time, no problem.

Next day I mention this to the guy I got tickets from. He says "yeah, sorry, I totally forgot I actually sold those tickets months ago to someone else". I told him we got in anyway, and he just laughed. (I thought I was an elite social engineer, but yeah, it was really the just the privilege that comes with those particular tickets)

Anyway, just thought it was funny that the arena left multiple 15-seat VIP sections unsold just because this kind of thing happens often enough that they need to accommodate those privileged enough to afford these tickets.
posted by antonymous at 3:54 PM on December 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know how it is, constantly pushing boundaries inch by inch, doing things that you really shouldn't do but assuming it's OK because nobody stops you or complains loud enough for you to hear. Eventually you are finally forced to stop but luckily nobody asks you to pay for the trouble you caused.

And then some jerk comes in and starts playing ping-pong with his kid even though you had reserved all the tables ahead of time for your private party. Plus, he writes a stupid blog post about it.
posted by ckape at 3:56 PM on December 19, 2013 [19 favorites]


I bet he also downloads music for free on the internet. The scumpuppy.
posted by happyroach at 4:16 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Downing Street Memo:

The way that I'm reading this is that there are two parts of any "rule" or "contract" or "piece of the social contract". One is the stated rule, the other is what happens to you if you break the rule.

In the legal zone this is often stated that with contract law you really have two options: To follow the contract, or to pay damages".

What I think people are getting at here is not getting annoyed at this guy for noticing that the rules are arbitrary, but for not recognizing that the "damages" you pay for breaking the rules aren't the same for everyone. As a white, assumingly respectful looking, middle of the road guy he doesn't have to pay the same price as a lot of other people.

He makes a scene at the door, he gets in. A black guy might have had gotten roughed up by the bouncer and shoved on to the street.

He lies about working at the wall street journal, he gets sent back to standing room. A black guy might have been asked, "What are you doing anyway?", interrogated, and arrested for trespassing. Same with the ping ball.

I, in my younger days, when I lived in Texas liked to go downtown, walk into one of the hotels like I owned the place and just "sneak" into the hotel's rooftop pools. No one asked anything of my 10 year old self. My mexican-american friends wouldn't do this with me. I thought they were killjoys and cowards. Now I know they were not.

This guy's writing like never would realize that my friends were being wise in response to their own experience of the world. He implies that the price people are going to pay, at worst, is a little embarrassment; but for a lot of people the price is much higher. That's why I think he's rubbing people the wrong way.
posted by bswinburn at 4:30 PM on December 19, 2013 [36 favorites]


This is nothing new. My motto as a youth was "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission".
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:35 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yep, some rules are arbitrary. And maybe it's fine with you that he lies and teaches his kid to lie, in order to scam his way into an event that others had to pay. And it's fine if he takes up the table that someone else is paying for, so long as it's it's just another asshole he's taking it from, and not someone we like. If I thought he was Robin Hood, it'd probably be OK with me too. But I don't think he's a lovable rogue. I think he's a jerk who thinks he's better than the rest of the herd.

I admit that I may be prejudiced, because I'm just going by own life experiences. That's always tricky, but still, I think I recognize a cluster of attitudes and behaviors. An attitude that's less about "well some rules are wasteful if strictly applied," and more "I decide what's arbitrary." The rules don't apply to special little me. So he goes through life tossing just a little sand into the social gears, only enough to slow things down long enough for him to weasel through. He's the guy who always wants to go in without a ticket "just for a second, to get my friend." The 20-year-old guy who's "obviously" over 21, so he shouldn't show his ID. The dude with the expired coupon. Whose emission sensor should be overlooked on his card inspection. The one who's only parking in the fire lane/handicapped spot/loading zone for a "just a minute."

He's no merry anarchist pranking the system. Not even a slacktivist pleased that his leeching will hurt Bank of America. You want to bet what his reaction would be if a bunch of us showed up at his party to drink on his dime?
posted by tyllwin at 4:47 PM on December 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think the problem is that the author of the article is both right and wrong. Is he getting away with it because of privilege? Absolutely, but it is economic privilege/the privilege of confidence, rather than any other privilege - as can be expressed by the commentary above about the prevalence of this in Latin countries. You don't have to be a particular race to assume good things will come to you and to let your confidence cause them. You do, however, have to be a certain socioeconomic class.
posted by corb at 5:00 PM on December 19, 2013


One thing I've learned from my everyday job is most of getting anywhere you don't belong is merely acting like you belong. Security guard? Just give him a head nod and say "hey, what's up?" and keep walking. In my line of work, wearing all black ("show blacks") and having a multitool+wrench on you along with the right attitude will get you lots of places. Some nights if I have to pick up a check from a friend at a show I'm not working that alone will get me in. Shit, I got onto the stage at a premier opera house with that plus saying "I left my phone stage right."

Am I saying everyone should do this? No way. I live backstage and would never abuse the privilege of being back there. But the assholes who try to sneak or talk past me at shows are generally pretty wealthy and white and act like they should be allowed backstage because they're wealthy and white. I'm so white I'm nearly translucent, and there's no way I'm going to deny that white privilege is a huge part of it. My friends in the same biz who are black absolutely cannot do the things I do with no trouble at all. Likewise, an ex-GF who is a very beautiful woman in the same business has no trouble either, despite being a minority, because...beautiful woman. Again, privilege of a different kind.
posted by nevercalm at 5:12 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I think people are getting at here is not getting annoyed at this guy for noticing that the rules are arbitrary, but for not recognizing that the "damages" you pay for breaking the rules aren't the same for everyone.

Who says he doesn't notice this? This is exactly my point.

Let's say I wrote an article about how I deal with depression, which is running. In it I mention that I have Nike Frees, tights and a wicking outer layer for when it gets cold, and compression shorts so my uh, nether regions don't chafe against my thighs. I conclude by saying, hey. I had a problem of depression. And I figured out that if I ran, I might have fewer problems with depression. Give it a shot if you have depression.

In my hypothetical article, I've committed the same sin as everyone here thinks Altrucher has - I've flaunted my privilege. "Some people are disabled," you might say. "Not everyone can run!". "Some people live in shitty neighborhoods and will get mugged if they go running!""Not everyone can afford all that nice equipment! Check your privilege!"

Of course, it's not like I disagree with any of those things in the slightest. Serious question: In my article, do I need to explicitly state the various privileges that allow me to run to treat my depression?
posted by downing street memo at 5:22 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Cut the guy some slack, he doesn't know he's a dick.
posted by Renoroc at 5:38 PM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


moderately affluent white dudes who think because they are moderately affluent white dudes that the rules don't apply to them

previously and previouslier


ah ha! The mystery of why I got two favorites today on a four-year-old post, SOLVED.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:38 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


What I think people are getting at here is not getting annoyed at this guy for noticing that the rules are arbitrary, but for not recognizing that the "damages" you pay for breaking the rules aren't the same for everyone. As a white, unassumingly respectful looking, middle of the road guy he doesn't have to pay the same price as a lot of other people.

What are you getting that he does not recognize it. Does that need to be declared in every single instance that some ridiculous internet scold says it must be?

Dziura addresses that:

No, she doesn't. She comes up with completely unrelated and dissimilar situations. "Played free ping-pong on an unused table that a corporation already paid for" does not equal "got to the front of the line ahead of other people when I wasn't the first" and it certainly doesn't equal "unconcerned with racially motivated murder". This article gets stupider with more reflection.
posted by spaltavian at 6:19 PM on December 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ping Pong: the Sport of Kings.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:25 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Apropos of nothing, when is the design trend of filling my entire 22" monitor with a graphic as the "landing page" of a website going to end?
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:25 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


Who says he doesn't notice this? This is exactly my point.

and

Serious question: In my article, do I need to explicitly state the various privileges that allow me to run to treat my depression?

Hard questions, but I think they have basically the same answer: the answer is it depends on the audience you're writing for and if you've successfully signaled who that audience is.

The reason I think he didn't notice the advice isn't universally applicable is because the title and the conclusion of the article are written in the imperative mood. Its title is, "How To Break All The Rules And Get Everything You Want". The conclusion is, "Don't break the laws. Don't kill people. Don't steal. But most other rules can be bent. If you act like the river, you ultimately flow past all the rocks along the way" These are both written in the imperative mood, and when you write in the imperative mood you imply a second-person subject (i.e. a "you").

This, to me, creates an implication of universal applicability. Who does this advice apply to? The imperative mood here answers, "To You, the generic You. That is, everyone."

Because of that implicit declaration of universality parts of the audience who do not feel the article's advice applies to them have, in my opinion, the valid criticism, "this thing you are claiming is universal, is not."

As to your answer about the theoretical depression article then is, well, it depends on how you write it and how the article signals who the intended audience is. The details matter.
posted by bswinburn at 6:29 PM on December 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


Love this. The "WHAT?!?" stuff had me wanting to strangle the kewl guy.

Dziura's piece is the first white privilege piece I've read that didn't seem like ragebait penned by a Pajama Boy lookalike trying to score Internet Cool Points. Excellent take down of that life hacking idiot.

And I have to say ... That $2 bill and waiter pad thing reads like a spot-on lampoon of the kind of nonsense dished out by Tim Ferriss, that guy who wrote 4 Hour Work Week. Seriously? He was popular because he had $2 bills?
posted by jayder at 6:29 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


And a special handshake, apparently.

(Like a regular handshake but slimier?)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:35 PM on December 19, 2013


The rebuttal in a nutshell: "If you seem to be “getting everything you want,” you should probably examine whether you’re getting it at someone’s expense, or whether you’re just constantly, in small ways, making the world worse."

When I'm in charge, this will be made into song form and then made the national anthem.
posted by zardoz at 6:42 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


The $2 thing was comic GOLD. Like oh man, waiters are going to be SO EXCITED to see $2 bills! So excited they will long for your coming!
posted by corb at 6:44 PM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


People calling me "chief" wins them my immediate, automatic hatred.

I worked a shitty, minimum wage retail job and my boss called me "boss." I guess as a kind of ironic joke, a kind of flattery, but ultimately reminding me of that irony, that he was, in fact, the boss. Unsurprisingly, he was a douchebag.
posted by zardoz at 6:54 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ping Pong: the Sport of King Kongs
posted by Daily Alice at 7:02 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cut the guy some slack, he doesn't know he's a dick.

He just has dickfluenza
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:25 PM on December 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


Exactly, MillMan. I'm worried about the term "white privilege" because one could reasonably agree that discrimination is wrong but believe in exploiting "the system". Just because racism casts a shadow over the issue doesn't make racism the root cause. I'd prefer a more apt term like "interpersonal corruption" that pinpoints the real unfairness better. And I'd love a good meme-vs-gene-like analog between "institutional corruption" and cancer.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:15 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Great article. With this and the Corey Robin piece from yesterday, MeFi is on some sort of awesome FPP roll of articles that point out simple truths in refreshing, to-the-point ways. As for the comments...does anyone know of a discussion venue that's kind of like MeFi, except you can have an interesting discussion about privilege without all the people who don't want to believe in it throwing a wrench in the gears?
posted by threeants at 8:29 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


This kind of article (the response) is really starting to piss me off. I feel like it's almost not even OK to say it but whatever. White person writes article about how white person (themselves or someone else) gets lots of great things in life because they're white. Then there are a lot of examples of how the nonwhites (like white people, nonwhite people are extremely varied in terms of ethnic background, class, perspective etc but these articles are all nonwhites are same - and basically assumed to be poor or service class, like, all of us.)

Like, did these black people with unfortunate stories really need to be trotted out as examples for white people to tell other white people how great they have it?

I understand it's supposed to be sympathetic and instructive, but as a nonwhite nonmale, I feel like it's just like really negative. I don't know, why exactly do I not look like an employee at Bank of America? At what skin tone is the cutoff to not look "white collar" anymore?

I've almost never been mistaken for service class. I've gotten through lines quicker because I seem friendly and smiley.

I've had people tell me when they are talking about minorities they are "not talking about me" (I'm Indian American and grew up upper middle class, like many Indian Americans do).

Is that supposed to make me feel better? Because I'm just like the white people now?

Sorry, I know this is supposed to be helpful stuff, but I feel like it's really negative. Every time I open one of these articles I feel like it's telling me how much my life must suck.
posted by sweetkid at 9:29 PM on December 19, 2013 [13 favorites]


The reason why this matters to me is because "white privilege" suggests that there is something extra that white people are getting that they should not have, rather than the fact that there is something that non-white people are not getting which they should be.

This is fallacious reasoning because "white privilege" is rigorously defined as unearned advantage and conferred dominance. Whatever you think the phrase "suggests" is simply inconsistent and incorrect with respect to this definition, and tells me you don't actually know the term that well. And that's not surprising (that most people use these terms incorrectly).

It's a cute inversion that may provide value as a thought exercise, but I believe it is problematic to use as a default perspective.

This is an anachronistic analysis because "white privilege" was originally, and correctly so, invented to turn the tables, so to speak. To claim that it is a default is a total exaggeration. That it enables the injection of race politics into every conversation? Not remotely the reality.
posted by polymodus at 9:59 PM on December 19, 2013


Let's say I wrote an article about how I deal with depression, which is running. ... In my hypothetical article, I've committed the same sin as everyone here thinks Altrucher has - I've flaunted my privilege. "Some people are disabled," you might say. "Not everyone can run!". "Some people live in shitty neighborhoods and will get mugged if they go running!""Not everyone can afford all that nice equipment! Check your privilege!" ... Serious question: In my article, do I need to explicitly state the various privileges that allow me to run to treat my depression?

Here's why this analogy doesn't hold at all.

For you, running really is the way you deal with your depression. Running really is what works for you, you know that, and you don't hold a mistaken belief about it.

Now let's say you ran to a doctor and the doctor gave you a magic pill that took away your depression. Uh, yeah, technically you ran to get there, but it wasn't the running itself that took away your depression. It was the magic pill.

If you went around afterwards saying it was just all your awesome running that did the trick, you would be incorrect, and people would be right to point out that it was not your running that did the trick but your magic pill.

In this case, Altucher believes you can "get everything you want" just by going ahead and taking it. He clearly believes that he gets the results he does just because he is such a bold, charming rake who's unafraid to break rules. (Running.)

But in reality, Altucher is getting the results he does because of he is of a social class which, all else being equal, receives gentler and more deferent treatment from society. (The magical pill).

He's writing a blog post explaining how he gets the results he does, but he's wildly incorrect and seemingly oblivious about how he actually got them. That's annoying.

Nobody is saying that everyone needs to append a huge disclaimer about all their possible areas of "privilege" onto anything that they write. However, if you take it upon yourself to publicly explain how to achieve a particular result, and you are actually wrong about how you achieved that result, it's fair for other people to point that out. And if one of the actual reasons why you achieved that result is that you had a particular advantage, it's relevant for people to bring that up. When you're cooking, you don't have to list all of your ingredients every time. But if you're soaking everything in butter, while you claim your food tastes so good because you did a bunch of Tibetan chants over it, it would be fair and relevant for people to bring up the butter.

Altucher's post was a great example of the saying "he was born on third base, and thinks he hit a triple." If you are explaining to someone how to achieve a particular result - in this case, "how to get everything you want," it follows that you believe you got the result because you took a particular action - the result was your own achievement. The reason Altucher's blog post was so annoying to me was because he clearly thought he hit a triple - that he is simply so bold and daring and charming etc and he will explain to us how to do the same. In reality the treatment he received has nothing to do with his awesomeness, it is simply what people of his social class can get away with, all else being equal.

When you are on the OTHER side of that treatment from society -- when, all else being equal, society is just a bit more hostile and challenging to you when they are more deferent to someone else, that is pretty annoying.

And it's damaging because there is a lot of work to be done to achieve fairness of opportunity in society. When people perpetuate the idea that these kinds of soft forms of discrimination don't exist, that they are just simply awesome baseball players, then you start hearing people talk about how discrimination against social groups is over and they are all just a bunch of big complainers.

I am coming here from a position of being born on third base in many of the same ways as Altucher. Because of the way I look, talk, and dress, I am generally not seen as a threatening figure of suspicion. Being female, I also generally have some advantages over Altucher - I don't have to worry about being arrested for interacting with children I don't know, I'm often not searched as stringently in places where people get searched, and so forth.

But Altucher implying to a general audience, "Just go ahead and TAKE what you want and you can get whatever you want," would be similar to my saying "Just go ahead and GIVE that little girl a lollipop, and you can interact with any little kid you feel like interacting with!" I think many men would recognize that as a total lack of understanding of reality, an absurdity, and really bad advice. People readily understand it when men potentially face far worse consequences for the same action, overall, than women do. I don't see why that understanding cannot be extended to different scenarios where some social groups could not get away with things that others could.
posted by cairdeas at 10:04 PM on December 19, 2013 [40 favorites]


This kind of article (the response) is really starting to piss me off. I feel like it's almost not even OK to say it but whatever. White person writes article about how white person (themselves or someone else) gets lots of great things in life because they're white. Then there are a lot of examples of how the nonwhites (like white people, nonwhite people are extremely varied in terms of ethnic background, class, perspective etc but these articles are all nonwhites are same - and basically assumed to be poor or service class, like, all of us.

This is a very awkward thing to say, but in part, it may be that white people sound racist for complaining about people of other ethnicities, so if you are going to complain about someone, it's best to stick to other white people.

Like, where I live, there are a lot of programmers. A lot of them are incredibly sexist and awful. I believe that a lot of it is the influence of the person's culture or subculture. In many cases, it's the subculture of white American who spends too much time on Reddit and Family Guy. In many cases, it's an utterly different subculture.

But in most cases I am not going to bring up what those subcultures are if they're not white. Could you imagine? I would sound like a Nazi. I am not. But it is very difficult to criticize a culture/subculture that you're not part of, even if your criticism is about something valid.
posted by cairdeas at 10:19 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I know this is supposed to be helpful stuff, but I feel like it's really negative. Every time I open one of these articles I feel like it's telling me how much my life must suck.

Non-white guy here. Sweetkid, you hit the nail on the head.

As sensitive as MeFites are about things, I sometimes get the feeling I'm being told how oppressed I'm supposed to be. It's kind of a weird thing when I hear such things from an outsider, and seems to come from a pretty privileged place, itself. I get the sense a lot of folks kind of realize this, and sometimes temper their concern with some humblebragging about their modest roots or lifestyle.

It's no big deal, really. I appreciate the awareness. But I read the Altucher piece, and found much more to identify with than not. I've been known to do the exact same kind of thing on occasion. I mean, I can tell you being told "You are not on the list" is like begging me to bend the rules. I think sometimes I can get away with it precisely because I'm not white. How's that for privilege?
posted by 2N2222 at 10:56 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


You try queue jumping in my neck of the woods we put you in a wicker man

With some bullet ants hopefully.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:18 PM on December 19, 2013


I don't know, sweetkid and 2N2222. The thought of visible ethnic minorities taking umbrage at whites empathizing with the plight of oppressed minorities makes me suspect there's a bit of denial on the part of the offended persons. (Disclosure: I am a visible minority with my fair share of privilege.)

You seem to be saying something like "Why are people talking about how 99% of black men cannot finagle their way past velvet ropes when my own colored self and all of my elite/skilled/beautiful minority comrades certainly can."

In my opinion it is just and good to talk about the travails and injustices of oppressed people in relation to the privilege and entitlement of racial and socioeconomic elites without mentioning EVERY SINGLE TIME that some visible minorities are themselves socioeconomic elites.

It must be tough to be reminded that people who share your minority appearance are in the main oppressed, but if it helps: yes, you and people like you should not be viewed as people without access to privilege.
posted by mistersquid at 11:37 PM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


Funny, when this was going around the BBS world back in the 80s it was called Freebage, which Jason Scott classifies under /SCAMS/.

The ultimate classic is called The Story of the Super Bowl Hoark. [text file with .hac extension, your browser handling whereof may vary]

It's gigantic, it's stupendous, it's..it's... it's downright fucking big! It's the culmination of all the football season wrapped up into one game that would be exploited and smeared all over every television viewer's retina's across the entire world! Whew.. At some time during the week preceding this weekend of jock fantasy, it was suggested by one of us that we should drive down to Miami and sneak into the Super Bowl itself. We naturally agreed....

...

As we approached the line we saw a kid coming at us, apparently he had been turned away. He mumbled something about "invitation only" so we freaked. This seemed like something cool to do. The three of us got in line and planned to just cram ourselves through. The line was kind of thick, so we were packed in just right. When we got towards the front I noticed that we were
the only people not holding little cards, invitations. I didn't worry though, the most that they could do is tell us to get out, which is what they did to me and Wade. Drake, however, somehow snuck by and got in.

Me and Wade then went to another part of the area where the exit was. In a few minutes Drake came out and had a yellow wristband on his arm. The same kind of yellow wristband that Wade and I had in our pockets from a local bar! It was incredible! We put the bands on ourselves and went up to the entrance. When going through, we made sure that we didn't go by the guy that told us to get out before. It was only a matter of seconds before we were all inside the fenced off area.

posted by dhartung at 12:53 AM on December 20, 2013


The $2 thing was comic GOLD. Like oh man, waiters are going to be SO EXCITED to see $2 bills! So excited they will long for your coming!

My favourite bit:
3) When I was dating, I would carry a thick wad of cash. A $100 bill on top, $2 bills filling out the whole wad. Time to pay for dinner, I'd bring out the wad (impressive), peel off a $100 bill (pathetic) and then amaze by tipping with non-stop $2 bills. "Where did you get those?" people always ask. Give a cryptic answer. "I do some projects with the government."

Extra tip: it helps to go to the same restaurant the night before the date so everyone who works there is excited, anticipating what you will do.
posted by jaduncan at 4:02 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is absolutely not class privilege that lets you get away with these kinds of things. I was dead broke and lower middle class and talked my way into exclusive events all the time. You just have to be a well-spoken, well-dressed white male and you can get away with all kinds of shit, from cutting lines at clubs to avoiding speeding tickets, to getting jobs. As a white male, your life is full of second chances and lucky breaks that you did nothing to deserve.
posted by empath at 4:11 AM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


He's writing a blog post explaining how he gets the results he does, but he's wildly incorrect and seemingly oblivious about how he actually got them. That's annoying.

But what I'm saying is - my hypothetical running and depression article commits the exact same sin. I've chalked up my depression alleviation to running when in fact it is partially due to white privilege (according to the analytical framework of the modern left). This dude chalks up people's willingness to bend the rules for him to his willingness to ask, when it is in fact because he's white-privileged.

If you really and truly believe that privilege is this "invisible knapsack" - something we're born with, something we can't avoid any more than we can avoid breathing oxygen - then it plays into every situation we find ourselves in. I'm typing this on a $1500 laptop - white privilege. I'm going to ride a safe, clean bus to work in a minute here. White privilege. I'm going to work in an office with a beautiful view of Washington and the Potomac River. White privilege.

Given this, I'm open to this charge any time I share anything publicly about my life without acknowledging this privilege. And so in practice the privilege-checking argument becomes a way for upper-middle class white people to take other upper-middle class white people down a peg, using the plight of whomever - the poor, the working-class, the black, the gay, the trans - as a convenient means to an end. I'm the son of working-class teenage parents, and that bugs the fuck out of me.

When people perpetuate the idea that these kinds of soft forms of discrimination don't exist, that they are just simply awesome baseball players, then you start hearing people talk about how discrimination against social groups is over and they are all just a bunch of big complainers.

I really and truly do not understand why people are reacting to this way to the original article. The man never said, or wrote, anything like this. It seems like a giant leap in logic to go from "some good things happened to me" to "you deserve the bad things that happen to the rest of you".

It would be one thing if this guy said, everyone just needs to do what I do. Even though that might not be the worst thing in the world, given that surely everyone has some capacity to bend the dumbass rules that unnecessarily constrict their behavior. But he didn't suggest that everyone do this. He didn't call anyone lazy or stupid for not doing it. He said, here's what I did. It helped me have a good night with my daughter. The rules he bent didn't displace anyone, or infringe on anyone else's rights (except maybe Bank of America's).
posted by downing street memo at 4:45 AM on December 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


If Bobby is about to exercise white privilege, how many six sided dice should Bobby roll, with any 1 representing failure, to provide an equal probability that Bobby will not get to enjoy said privilege as a person of female and minority ethnic status. Define any notation that you use and show all work. (Apologies, just passed stats final).
posted by fraxil at 4:53 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Given this, I'm open to this charge any time I share anything publicly about my life without acknowledging this privilege. And so in practice the privilege-checking argument becomes a way for upper-middle class white people to take other upper-middle class white people down a peg, using the plight of whomever - the poor, the working-class, the black, the gay, the trans - as a convenient means to an end. I'm the son of working-class teenage parents, and that bugs the fuck out of me.

I'm not upper middle class, but I recognize privilege.

Anyway, you seem contented enough. Why should it bother you so much what liberals think? Why should you be bothered with what is privilege "according to the analytical framework of the modern left"? Do you really think you'll achieve something by arguing?
posted by krinklyfig at 5:00 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thought of visible ethnic minorities taking umbrage at whites empathizing with the plight of oppressed minorities makes me suspect there's a bit of denial on the part of the offended persons.

I think what I personally find offensive is that to me, it seems like people being racist as hell, while waving a big sign over your head saying I AM NOT RACIST FOR REAL.

I'm Hispanic. I don't know what I look like to white people, but other Hispanic people generally recognize me immediately on sight as Hispanic, and usually address me first in Spanish rather than English. I don't know if that means I'm "visible" or not.

But I've had more than one white person tell me that I'm not actually Hispanic, because I have a large vocabulary, or occasionally dress very nicely, or can afford to do such-and-such thing. When I got together with a group of Hispanic women for mentoring, some of my white acquaintances expressed indignance - that wasn't for me! That was for real Hispanics! The ones who are poor and oppressed and don't speak English and look kind of grubby!

And that idea itself is, at least to me, ridiculously racist. It's suggesting that you can't be your own ethnicity unless you're poor and downtrodden - which actually goes a long way towards erasing actual instances of minorities in power or in leadership, if every time someone gets there, white people feel like it's cool to erase their heritage or status so that other people have no role models. Sometimes I wonder how deliberate it is, but I'm sure on the large part, it's unconscious.

When white people "empathize with the plight of oppressed minorities", they are not actually empathizing. They are playing Lady Bountiful. They're not accepting that minorities are just like them and have a wide variety of members socioeconomic classes. They're thinking that the only minorities they are choosing to care about or acknowledge are ones that are manifestly lower on the socioeconomic scale than themselves - people that they can unconsciously feel that they're better than. They're not "helping" because they empathize. They're "helping" because it makes them feel good to be helping rather than being helped.

Which is one reason I think I'm really uncomfortable with the "white privilege" argument. I think some people may mean it well, but when some people take out that argument, it feels more like humblebragging. "Yeah, I feel really bad that I got all these things because I am white and thus better loved! Sooooooo bad! By the way, I'm better." And by insisting that whiteness is the element of privilege there, rather than class, it's consciously or unconsciously re-emphasizing a barrier that doesn't actually have to exist. (And yes, it is class privilege. If you're a white guy who dresses relatively decently and knows how to do so, you are someone with the class privilege of being able to dress decently and know how to fake class markers.)
posted by corb at 5:39 AM on December 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


But I've had more than one white person tell me that I'm not actually Hispanic, because I have a large vocabulary, or occasionally dress very nicely, or can afford to do such-and-such thing. When I got together with a group of Hispanic women for mentoring, some of my white acquaintances expressed indignance - that wasn't for me! That was for real Hispanics! The ones who are poor and oppressed and don't speak English and look kind of grubby!

This is indeed an appalling level of racism, but I'd argue that it's also (ironically) a measure of white priviledge. They very often get to be the ones who define who can be considered part of the condescending Eloi and who are part of the patronised Morlocks, and themselves start off somewhat closer (in the eyes of many) to the former group.
posted by jaduncan at 6:01 AM on December 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


And I've been to Central American countries where light skinned Hispanics themselves have an appalling amount of privilege in their country, especially over people of native descent, where race and class are pretty inextricably intertwined.

I think it is important to note that who is privileged and who isn't isn't universal, and the degree of what you can get away with as a member of a privileged class also depends on where you are. I grew up in a part of southern Maryland where racism wasn't even particularly subtle. Other peoples experiences may be different.
posted by empath at 6:20 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with framing things as privilege is that most people (especially privileged ones) see "privilege" as something you are given. They will argue that no one's given them anything (even if that's false, which it is nearly every time). Most of white privilege is not being given something. You don't have to worry about things other people have to worry about. And if you don't have to deal with these things, ever, you don't know they exist. Articles like the one the author is commenting on are from people who have never dealt with anyone who isn't like them, so they assume all people have the same experiences. Since I'm winning and you're not and we're both completely equal, black woman, it's clear that I am simply better at life than you are.
posted by Legomancer at 6:26 AM on December 20, 2013


Benny Andajetz: This is nothing new. My motto as a youth was "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission".

As an adult, I have come to learn that way might get things done faster, but it can cost you a lot more (financially, and in time) in the end. Still, people repeat that damned line as if it made things better.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:53 AM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


- People calling me "chief" wins them my immediate, automatic hatred.

- Whatever you say, buddy.


I'm not your buddy, pal.

(I'm not your pal, friend.)
posted by filthy light thief at 6:54 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


im not your movie reference you filthy light thief
posted by rebent at 7:01 AM on December 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


corb: "When white people "empathize with the plight of oppressed minorities", they are not actually empathizing. They are playing Lady Bountiful. They're not accepting that minorities are just like them and have a wide variety of members socioeconomic classes. They're thinking that the only minorities they are choosing to care about or acknowledge are ones that are manifestly lower on the socioeconomic scale than themselves - people that they can unconsciously feel that they're better than. They're not "helping" because they empathize. They're "helping" because it makes them feel good to be helping rather than being helped."

How dare you tell anyone else what they're feeling, especially with the "white people" generalization. Seriously, that is a steaming pile of bullshit right there.

Of course the "white people" you're talking about -- essentially, anyone that acknowledge that racism exists -- know that there are rich people of all colors and backgrounds, but unlike you, they also acknowledge the existence of racism in our society that keeps these other backgrounds from being represented proportionally, and don't take the fact that there are more than zero racial minorities in the top 1% as evidence that we live in a Colbert-ish "I don't see race" meritocracy.

And, I'm sorry, but the racism you've encountered while being Hispanic, but not a racist's idea of what a Hispanic person is, doesn't do anything to disprove existence of white privilege, or somehow suggest that the whites who care about racial privilege are the real racists. Whites in the same economic class as non-whites are, in the aggregate, more privileged, because the privileged whites who are doing the hiring will be more likely to give them a chance in a job interview, or they're more likely to have a privileged white relative who can help them out, or they can just walk down the street without being stopped and frisked, so the dime bag in their pocket won't put them in jail.

Class and race privilege are not "either/or", they're "both/and". The existence of the former does not disprove the existence of the latter.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:37 AM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Anyway, you seem contented enough. Why should it bother you so much what liberals think? Why should you be bothered with what is privilege "according to the analytical framework of the modern left"? Do you really think you'll achieve something by arguing?

I care because I think it deeply cheapens anti-racism to play it like it's some kind of parlor game, or a way of asserting status over others, and I want people to stop making arguments like this, and/or for people to stop rewarding arguments like this with, say, links from Metafilter.
posted by downing street memo at 7:39 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read the linked articles in the order in which they appear here, meaning I read Dziura's critique of Altucher's blog post before reading the blog post itself. With the references and links to some absolutely horrific "killed for being black" stories and Dziura's trawling through Altucher's blog history looking for any comments that could possibly be construed as racist, I was mentally preparing myself to read something truly awful by the time I got around to reading the blog post in question.

By the time I finished, and realized that the bit about playing a couple games of unauthorized ping-pong was actually the worst offense Altucher committed, I checked the page to make sure there wasn't a "Page 2" link I was missing where the really terrible offenses were.

I have a particular dislike of the behavior Altucher celebrated in his blog piece, I'm sure due in large part to a near 20-year career in sales where a good portion of my job is dealing with "Those policies are for other people, not me" types. As someone firmly implanted in Guess Culture, I absolutely want to crawl into myself whenever I am in the presence of friends or family who exhibit, "Rules are just arbitrary...let's just go ahead and do it/ask for it anyway" behavior. So it is not because I am a fan of Altucher's philosophy by any means when I say that Dziura would be well served to better understand the concept of proportionality.

I understand the point she was trying to make in contrasting Altucher's blog post with the "killed for being black" stories (White people are frequently given the benefit of the doubt in a way minorities are not). But while ackowledging the tragedy of the latter, I don't think it is really fair to compare a "Stranger knocking on the door to somebody's home in the wee hours of the morning" story to a "Guy asking to play ping-pong on a reserved table" story.
posted by The Gooch at 7:47 AM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Which is one reason I think I'm really uncomfortable with the "white privilege" argument. I think some people may mean it well, but when some people take out that argument, it feels more like humblebragging. "Yeah, I feel really bad that I got all these things because I am white and thus better loved! Sooooooo bad! By the way, I'm better."

corb, I hear what you're saying regarding the privilege of claiming white privilege. It's one of the reasons I disliked the "Stuff White People Like" meme which to my mind was a way of decisively colonizing culture in the name of neoliberal whiteness.

I also can see what you're saying about the problem of racial empathy, but I do not extend that to mean all whites are helping themselves when empathizing with oppressed minorities.

Allies are important to righting social injustice and one if the first steps in helping people who are not like yourself is to understand their experience is different than yours in terms of empathy.

Claiming empathy can be self-serving, sure, but for many well-meaning and -acting people who genuinely empathize with others and do not use minorities as rungs in their personal ladders to socioeconomic domination--these people are often thoughtful, enlightened, and self-effacing. We all know people who work selflessly to promote the welfare of others without recognition or reward.

These are the people I'm thinking about when I say "whites empathizing with the plight of oppressed minorities".

It takes all kinds.
posted by mistersquid at 7:48 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not make a waiter's pad out of rubber cementing one edge of a stack of $2 bills and blow everybody's mind?
posted by Jonathan Harford at 8:11 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]



You seem to be saying something like "Why are people talking about how 99% of black men cannot finagle their way past velvet ropes when my own colored self and all of my elite/skilled/beautiful minority comrades certainly can."


I didn't say that, and that's like the most unsympathetic reading of what I did say.
posted by sweetkid at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


They're thinking that the only minorities they are choosing to care about or acknowledge are ones that are manifestly lower on the socioeconomic scale than themselves

I don't agree with the rest of what you said corb - I do think people writing articles like this are trying to help and not at least consciously just doing this to feel better about themselves - but yeah, I think part of my frustration is that there's a sense of ignoring the perspective of minorities (or anyone) who want to say that there's a more nuanced sense of privilege in our culture besides nonwhite - oppressed, white - oppressor.

Just the fact that someone chose to frame my opinion as "I'm in denial" and saying that I think I'm more beautiful and skilled than other minorities (what? where?).

So - white people can talk about their experience with privilege, but if a member of a minority group does, they're in denial and bragging? Because all minority experiences are identical?
posted by sweetkid at 8:36 AM on December 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I do think people writing articles like this are trying to help and not at least consciously just doing this to feel better about themselves

I seriously, really admire this impulse to take people at face value and give them the benefit of the doubt that their motivations are sincere.

But I think if you spend some time in social justice land - across the entire spectrum of it, from the Gawker/Jezebel/Awl axis to otherkin tumblr rings - you'll notice a common theme that the uneducated are never heard from, the poor are very rarely heard from, and the minorities (racial, ethnic, religious, sexual preference, gender identity, whatever) are generally only heard from if they are educated and not poor. It's generally a big circlejerk of people who grew up upper-middle class and rich, who live in Brooklyn or San Francisco and went to fancy schools. Minority perspectives are honored as long as they can be expressed in the right idiom and to the extent they can be used to attack the class enemies of the hip white people who dominate this set. Right now, those enemies are white male technologists, white male financiers, and conservative white rednecks.

In fact, I think an interesting illustration of this is the way that poor conservative white rednecks are treated in this space. (I want to make clear that I'm talking about popular discussions of privilege and intersectionality and not the theory itself, which I think acknowledges what I'm about to say). I think it's clear, for instance, that my family - early 18th century German immigrants to Pennsylvania, who moved to the "frontier" of Western North Carolina in the mid 1700's and stayed there until the 1950's - have significant institutional barriers to success in America. My people were mountain people, eking out a hardscrabble living on tough, barren land. That meant my ancestors couldn't go to school until the 1920's or so. That meant an attraction to crime to make ends meet, to get over (my great-grandfather was a bootlegger, for instance). That meant conservative, biblically-inerrant Christianity and an attraction to the politics of self-sufficiency (because self-sufficiency is a way of life - not some abstract concept - when you live on a fucking mountain).

For me, it's meant that despite being quite well-educated, and a generally intelligent person, I do not speak the language of my coworkers and contemporaries. I consciously changed my accent and diction when I moved to DC, a city teeming with hypereducated sons and daughters of privilege. On a deeper level, I lack the...diplomatic?...ways of speaking that I think wealthier, higher-class people grow up with. At work and elsewhere, I'm blunt and say exactly what I mean without couching it in "acceptable" language. This has - without question - harmed material outcomes for me, in my life. (Not catastrophically, obviously).

When other members of other less-privileged groups fuck up - when they commit murder, or beat up their girlfriends, or whatever - you'll see the social justice-sphere call significant attention to these mitigating circumstances. And they are right to! But when my people fuck up, they're idiot rednecks who've invited the heaping scorn they're about to get, mostly from people a whole hell of a lot better off than they are. Look at this Duck Dynasty guy. He said something that was mean, and hateful. But he doesn't believe that thing because he himself is mean and hateful; he believes it because there's a social superstructure that's made it highly probable that he would encounter a range of life experiences that would lead him to those beliefs. No matter; nothing gets you those sweet pageviews and retweets like making fun of rednecks. On the other hand, Kanye West made an album full of nasty sexism and racism against Asians, and the commentariat has lapped it up with few reservations.

Now I don't mean to suggest that my personal lack of class privilege, or my family's history of rural poverty is at all equivalent to, say, being Trayvon Martin and shot to death in your own neighborhood. Not at all. And it'd be easy to dismiss what I've just said as "WHAT ABOUT TEH WHITEZ?!!", and maybe you will. But that would be tremendously stupid. The left has a question: "What's the matter with Kansas?" In other words, why don't poor whites vote in accordance with their economic interest? This is why: they know for a fact that their lives are difficult, but they see a left wing that minimizes their struggles and mocks their culture. Why on earth would you ever want to vote for people like that?
posted by downing street memo at 9:52 AM on December 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Beautiful, DSM.
posted by jayder at 10:20 AM on December 20, 2013


downing street memo, I can only tell you my own perspective.

I spend zero time in "internet social justice land;" I think it is a circle jerk and an echo chamber full of confused teenagers who have a lot of certainty but don't actually understand much.

There's a whole universe of people out there who are working on issues related to social justice. These people are actually out there doing stuff and they are not sitting there making memes on Tumblr.

Please don't judge the entire world of social justice based on a set of stupid websites. Those websites are not where serious conversation is happening and they are certainly not where serious work is being done. It is happening in the real world and being carried out by adults.

Coincidentally, I brought up a complaint about "male technologists" in this thread. So I want to tell you that when I complain about "male technologists," it's not because I saw a meme on Tumblr created by an angry 19 year old and thought, "oh, this is the kind of person we're supposed to hate today."

If I'm going to complain about "male technologists," it's because I am surrounded by "male technologists" in my professional life, and I expect to deal with the following:

-This kind of thing. When they would rather leave a problem completely unsolved than follow simple, clear instructions - from me - on how to solve it.

-When I make a suggestion, nobody really responds to it, and then 5 or 10 minutes later a "male technologist" makes the exact same suggestion, often using my language verbatim, and the other "male technologists" fall all over themselves with enthusiasm about what a great idea he has.

-When I have to work in an office space with a 5'x2' liquor advertisement depicting a bare-breasted woman on the wall.

-When I have to listen to hilarious jokes about "sammiches" and bitches in the kitchen.

-When, in general, I have to deal with people who are determined to prove that I am dumb and worthless and are always on the lookout for me to fail or be wrong.

-When I have to deal with people who don't see women as anything other than a set of tits and basically don't interact with women ever unless it's a service worker or they're watching her in porn, and that lifestyle reinforces their attitudes towards women.

-When I play sports with some guys - friendly, low impact sports - and they take out their aggression towards me in a "hilarious" way. Like playing fucking badminton so aggressively towards me that I was left with a bunch of welts on my body from getting hit with the birdie. Did you know it's possible to hit a birdie so hard you leave a welt on someone? It is.

If I walk into an environment like this, while a man walks in at the same time, we will be treated differently from the very beginning. It is just the plain and simple truth. That is what I am talking about, when I talk about privilege.

So, if you truly believe - no, it doesn't make sense for you to ever talk about privilege unless you bring it up all the time in every situation and always give a disclaimer about your privilege whenever you talk about anything!

-- this is my attempt to say, I am treated in a markedly different way in some situations for no other reason than my social category. It affects my work life, and my personal life, strongly. It's important to bring it up and keep it out in the open.
posted by cairdeas at 10:40 AM on December 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Please don't judge the entire world of social justice based on a set of stupid websites. Those websites are not where serious conversation is happening and they are certainly not where serious work is being done. It is happening in the real world and being carried out by adults.

Oh, I want to make it clear that I'm not doing that. I am talking very specifically about popular (typically online) discussion of these things, which I think is unquestionably dominated by snarky left perspectives that originate in an "i'm-better-than-you" mindset. And I think my comments make clear that I have a relatively strong grounding in the academic and activist formulations of these ideas, although I might disagree with some of the specifics.

But I want to reiterate that the snarky, superior world of social justice is the one that the non-clued-in set of people see. It's the one they judge a large set of anti-racist, anti-homophobic, etc efforts by. The haughty nature of this world is nothing but fodder for demagogues who exploit it to turn people against these efforts more broadly.

And yeah, I have no doubt that you actually work with douchebag programmers who run their lives like they're getting instructions from a lad mag. I know a few, myself. But I think again, in the popular world I mentioned above, the brogrammer has become an archetype, a meme of sorts, to the point where it's an object of hatred even for people without direct experience of that particular strain of nerdy male chauvinism.
posted by downing street memo at 10:58 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It is absolutely not class privilege that lets you get away with these kinds of things. I was dead broke and lower middle class and talked my way into exclusive events all the time. You just have to be a well-spoken, well-dressed white male and you can get away with all kinds of shit,

Knowing how to do well spoken and well dressed is exactly class, much more than actual financial status. I was broke sometimes in college and had a "working poor" level of income in grad school, but remained middle - upper middle the whole time.

One of favorite parts of Social Justice is when the actual minorities show up and interrupt the white people status signalling, cause yeah it definitely does sound to start like a humble brag the degree of proclaiming White people the ever lasting top shit of the universe. The common charge is that the bad guys fear the threat of minority equality, and it's like, well if so at least they respect minorities enough to see them as competitors...
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


the snarky, superior world of social justice is the one that the non-clued-in set of people see. It's the one they judge a large set of anti-racist, anti-homophobic, etc efforts by. The haughty nature of this world is nothing but fodder for demagogues who exploit it to turn people against these efforts more broadly.

I think about this a lot. It is actually very exciting and surprising that so many of these sort of byzantine, academic leftist ideas have gotten such a popular foothold to the point where there COULD be a wide-ranging cultural backlash, but I think one is coming very shortly and it's gonna be a bummer.

Though, anecdotally, I think it's less because of something like tumblr, specifically (which while exasperating, ultimately still feels like kind of an exercise in communal, populist-ish education) and more in the vein of websites that mine outrage and buzz for profit. 13 Weird Ways White Guys Cut In Line That You Need To See To Believe or whatever the joke here would be.
posted by StopMakingSense at 11:28 AM on December 20, 2013


downing street memo, there's a kernel of truth to the point you're trying to make, but you're hiding the ball in a few key areas that end up trading veracity for rhetorical impact.

The first thing you're doing is overstating the amount of slack we cut members of what you call less-privileged groups when they fuck up. I... don't even know where to begin on this one, but let's start with the crack/powder cocaine mandatory minimum disparity, or racial disparities in discretionary sentencing, or the fact that whites get clemency and pardons more than racial minorities do. Or let's look at what it was like for anyone wearing a turban or a burqa to fly in an airplane, shop at a grocery store, or simply take a walk with their family after 9/11, just because some men who nominally shared their faith or manner of dress participated in a terrorist attack. How much slack have we cut these groups?

Meanwhile, Mr. Duck Dynasty is going to suffer no harm from his outburst in GQ. The show is in re-runs right now, and he'll have his job back when they resume taping for the next season. Yet his defenders talk about how his freedom of speech has been abridged. Because he has a Constitutional right to a reality TV show? Where's mine?

On the issue of "social superstructure" that you allege is being used as to excuse the behavior of poor urban minorities but not being taken into account by critics of downscale rural whites, I think it's important to point out that the people who are trying to improve the lives of the urban poor are doing everything they can to change the superstructures of gang violence and inadequate educational opportunities to a more positive one, while "conservative white rednecks" (as you call them) and their defenders are insisting that this superstructure is a part of their "way of life", or somehow inextricable from their religious beliefs.

Superstructures are made up of other people, and by educating and improving the lives of people, you can change those superstructures, yet the cultural conservatism of rural White America makes it resistant to change in ways that hurt other people. You can't use the superstructure as an excuse and then allow people to cling to it because it's their "way of life."

Finally, with respect to the What's the Matter with Kansas discussion, we're fast approaching a time where Democrats won't have to market themselves to Kansans or any other demographic, because the Republicans have given up on reaching out to anyone outside of the party's mostly-Southern, mostly nativist base. I'm not saying that parties shouldn't do their best to do right by all Americans and not just their base, but you also have to apportion some blame to the party that's completely ignored the concerns of other demographics, and has, in fact, used appeals to racial anxiety to do so.

I happen to think that the same programs that help urban poor can also help the rural poor, but it sure looks like you're trying to blame the team that supports helping all poor people just because some rural poor people don't like programs that also help urban poor people. That's what the Tea Party is really all about, but somehow it's Democrats' fault that they're not doing enough to reach out to rural voters?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:48 AM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of favorite parts of Social Justice is when the actual minorities show up and interrupt the white people status signalling, cause yeah it definitely does sound to start like a humble brag the degree of proclaiming White people the ever lasting top shit of the universe. The common charge is that the bad guys fear the threat of minority equality, and it's like, well if so at least they respect minorities enough to see them as competitors.

I actually nodded along to this.

Look, I don't enjoy feeling like I'm siding against progressives but this stuff is really getting kind of uncomfortable. It's a kind of paternalism that people don't seem to want to identify as such.
posted by sweetkid at 11:52 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess I haven't spent enough time in "social justice land" to see any of these alleged instances of white people trying to whitesplain to minorities that they're Doing It Wrong. I'll take you guys at your word, but at the same time, can't we simply agree that anyone who does this is just kind of not getting the point of "social justice" if they're directly ignoring the lived experiences of minorities?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:18 PM on December 20, 2013


The first thing you're doing is overstating the amount of slack we cut members of what you call less-privileged groups when they fuck up.

I think we are operating under different conceptions of "we". I didn't say "society" offers minorities more slack, I said "the popular left" is quick to explain away the fuckups of minorities by reference to structural influence. I said that this is right, and correct, but never extended to identified enemies of the popular left. Which makes me question the degree to which these beliefs about structural influence are sincerely held among members of this set.

The rest, we'll have to agree to disagree on. Although I'll just note that I think you're making a serious analytical error in assuming the conservative, nativist ideology shared by many poor whites to be outside the superstructure. It isn't.
posted by downing street memo at 12:58 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK, I'm going to have to call bullshit. I cited several issues where you're wrong about there being any slack cut *at all*, by *anyone*, and you're trying to tell me it's just me mistaking who's cutting the slack. Who's excusing fuck-ups by poor urban minorities, but criticizing poor urban whites for fuckups of a similar scale? Where are these hypocritical White Knights you keep talking about?

And my point about superstructure is that superstructures change as enough people change, so trying to quantify whether an attitude is part of the superstructure or not is a distraction. If an attitude or ideology is causing someone harm, it needs to be confronted, and, where it's incompatible with life in a civil society, eliminated. The left, generally speaking, is focused on improving conditions for people and trying to break the cycle of gang violence, the school-to-prison pipeline, etc. What is rural America trying to do except defund the political commonwealth that benefits others while preserving the parts of it they like, such as farm subsidies and defense spending?
posted by tonycpsu at 1:21 PM on December 20, 2013


I missed the edit window, but that should read: "but criticizing poor urban rural whites for fuckups of a similar scale" .
posted by tonycpsu at 1:28 PM on December 20, 2013


Cairdeas: The reason Altucher's blog post was so annoying to me was because he clearly thought he hit a triple - that he is simply so bold and daring and charming etc and he will explain to us how to do the same. In reality the treatment he received has nothing to do with his awesomeness, it is simply what people of his social class can get away with, all else being equal.
This, a thousand times, this. AND/OR, in reality, what has happened has caused/is causing serious issues for other people that are simply not noticed by him. The waitress having to pay for his meal because he sent it back "because it wasn't truly vegetarian." The security guys getting scolded or fired because of his shenanigans getting past the gate. The person who ends up being late because he cut in line ahead of her.

Downing Street Memo -- you wrote a couple of things: 0
If you really and truly believe that privilege is this "invisible knapsack" - something we're born with, something we can't avoid any more than we can avoid breathing oxygen - then it plays into every situation we find ourselves in. I'm typing this on a $1500 laptop - white privilege. I'm going to ride a safe, clean bus to work in a minute here. White privilege. I'm going to work in an office with a beautiful view of Washington and the Potomac River. White privilege.


Uh, yes. It does play into every situation. And?


Given this, I'm open to this charge any time I share anything publicly about my life without acknowledging this privilege.


Again, and?

It's true for all of us. Just as Sonia Sotomayor cannot escape bringing her lived experience as a "wise Latina" to the Supreme Court, neither can any of us escape for a moment our lived privilege. It shapes who we are, what we think, how we live, what we eat, etc. And in the long run, constantly checking your privilege is a positive mental habit.

It doesn't mean that your experience is not valid, nor does it mean that your perspective has no value. It means acknowledging that your perspective is YOUR perspective -- not a universal, timeless piece of wisdom. Which is why the original article is maddening -- because it purports to advise and instruct on the false premise that the bending of rules is a universally available option to all.
posted by jfwlucy at 1:41 PM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess I haven't spent enough time in "social justice land" to see any of these alleged instances of white people trying to whitesplain to minorities that they're Doing It Wrong.

Recently on Twitter there have been the hashtags of #NotYourNarrative, #NotYourAsianSidekick, and not too long ago, #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen. It rightfully takes to task all the white people who speak for minorities when they are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. (And often awesomely do.) No one saying those folks aren't allies; what they are saying is that we don't get to speak their stories/experiences. They do. It's about listening instead of talking.

Anyway, I'm your side. I just wanted to point out some cool tweets to read from POC & WOC! :)
posted by Kitteh at 2:20 PM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another thing I found grating about the piece was Altucher's depiction of himself as this freewheeling, cheerful, fancy-free, all-around good guy, kinda happily and savvily be-bopping through life charming his way past any obstacles that might appear in his path. This bit sort of captures it:

We made friends with everyone standing around us. The ushers. The other people who were standing room only. I took pictures of Mollie with everyone.

Something about the way he says this implies that this all-around good guy act was part of his scheme to get stuff ... It seems like it's assholish and self-centered to emphasize how much you charmed everyone around you in the audience. I dunno, it just seemed manipulative. Personally, when I'm around someone like this, who's doing the whole "look at me I'm a great guy making friends with everyone, and look how everyone loves my kid, and I've got a charming twinkle in my eye to boot," it just makes me want to cock-punch them.

I really don't think that's just a white thing, either. Where I'm from, you'd see lots of blacks try to charm their way around the rules, etc., perhaps even more so than whites. (I have an idea about why blacks would do this but it would be a derail to get into it here.) More than a white thing, it seems a male thing to me.
posted by jayder at 3:27 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem male to me at all. I have gotten around lots of rules as a working poor white woman who and smiles and is self-deprecating when necessary. Maybe more men try to do it on average, but I don't think it has much to be do with being male.

I am not particularly proud of it though, nor would I like write a self-help article about HOW TO DO IT for freebies. The times in my life that I've done it were directly related to being poor and not having the resources I needed. Not having enough food, or people not doing their job because they thought I didn't matter, or whatever. Basically, act middle-class/upper-middle-class. If you're poor, it will save you a lot of shit.

(The other major time I have gotten away with bullshit was as a student at a really good, really expensive university, that I attended on financial aid. So I "passed," or whatever. The one place I couldn't get away with bullshit was the financial aid office, where people were routinely total assholes. So I have to agree that this really seems to be about class. Racism comes in when someone sees a nonwhite person and automatically thinks "thug, poor," or whatever. Poor people are always sneakin' around and trying to get away with shit, they're the ones you have to keep an eye on. If you can prove you have money then you're "good." Kind of like the way we criminalize the homeless for even existing in some places, when no one would question the same behavior from the non-homeless.)
posted by stoneandstar at 8:23 PM on December 20, 2013


I was just reading Donald Glover's interview where he talks about how he couldn't even get into his own show with his parents because of suspicious security and police who told him to get off the sidewalk (out of the way), who didn't care and wouldn't listen when he was like, "dude, I'm Donald Glover, look it up," so yeah I do kind of hate this AND YOU CAN TOO turd who is so in love with himself that he brags in public about getting away with being a flagrant dickweed. WHAT?!?!?? Shut yer fuckin' mouth.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:29 PM on December 20, 2013


There's a difference between saying, "Here's what works for me" and "This will work for you."

There's no privilege being wielded when you're talking about your own experience in a way that acknowledges it may not be universal ("Running outside really helps my depression"). Talking about your own experience in a way that claims it's universal and therefore either explicitly or implicitly blaming any one who's still suffering of just not trying hard enough is when a hell of a lot of privilege gets wielded ("Running outside is the only thing that cures depression, and anyone who's still depressed is therefore just not trying hard enough to find the time and equipment and places to run").

Altucher explicitly claims that his experience is universal because he turns it into an imperative: Don't break the laws. Don't kill people. Don't steal. But most other rules can be bent. If you act like the river, you ultimately flow past all the rocks along the way.

Dziura rightly points out that there have been several instances where black people have not broken any laws, not killed anyone, and have "bent the rules" by, eg, knocking on a stranger's door where, I'm sure, she would have followed Altucher's advice:

I find when you act confused but polite then people want to help... I wasn't fighting or angry. So there was no reason for anyone to get angry at me.

and yet rather than getting ushered in for help that people, according to Altucher, "want" to give, she was murdered.

Which means that for some people, following Altucher's imperatives leads to immediate death. His lack of acknowledgment that different people doing the exact same things he does might have wildly different results is very much a lack of acknowledgment of his own privilege.
posted by jaguar at 11:25 AM on December 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which means that for some people, following Altucher's imperatives leads to immediate death. His lack of acknowledgment that different people doing the exact same things he does might have wildly different results is very much a lack of acknowledgment of his own privilege.

Respectfully, I think it is self-evident that just in terms of inherent danger alone, pounding on a stranger's door at 4:30 in the morning is about a million miles away from being the "exact same" thing as playing a couple games of unauthorized ping-pong on a reserved table or trying to snag a better seat at a fashion show. What I found offensive about Dziura's article was her attempt to compare these as anywhere near equivalent scenarios just so she could get her "Your philosophy didn't work out so well for these folks, did it, asshole?", dig in at Altucher (and again, I say that as someone who found Altucher's blog post insufferable and agree that it does reflect an amazing amount of entitlement and ignorance of class and racial privilege).
posted by The Gooch at 3:10 PM on December 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


trying to snag a better seat at a fashion show

He didn't have tickets at all. He didn't "try to snag a better seat"; he lied his way into the show without any tickets on the premise that people "want to help" if you act "confused and polite." The two linked accounts of people crashing their cars and knocking on strangers' doors to ask for help -- and getting killed instead -- are absolutely comparable. Not totally equivalent, no, but since Altuscher's message is basically a faux-Buddhist version of "Don't take no for an answer," I'm not sure how his advice differs from what these two murdered people did.

The point is that assuming everyone will go out of their way to help you if you're just polite enough -- which is what Altuscher is advocating when he counsels all of us to "bend the rules" -- is a dangerous assumption for many people in this country. The McBride and Ferrell cases are absolutely illustrative of that; a car accident would absolutely seem like a situation in which we'd all want to believe in the kindness of strangers. McBride and Ferrell actually had a much stronger case for finding that people "wanted to help" them, as they weren't in the process of taking things to which they weren't entitled, as Altuscher was, which shows why Altuscher's assumptions about how the world works are completely idiotic.
posted by jaguar at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Respectfully, I think it is self-evident that just in terms of inherent danger alone, pounding on a stranger's door at 4:30 in the morning is about a million miles away from being the "exact same" thing as playing a couple games of unauthorized ping-pong on a reserved table or trying to snag a better seat at a fashion show.

Seems to be the case.
posted by entropicamericana at 8:42 PM on December 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


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