First of all, let’s get our definitions straight.
Privilege: An unearned advantage given to a group or individual based on characteristics beyond their control.
Benevolent Discrimination: A benefit given to a group or individual for adhering to certain parameters that restrict their freedom. May offer an advantage or merely level the field in that area.
Class: A social structure where the population is divided into categories based on their material, social and genetic wealth.
Financial Classes: Divide caused by income. Include Upper, Middle, Lower and Welfare.
Social Classes: Divide caused by social roles. Include Governing/Ruling, Enforcing, Aristocratic, Bourgeois, Working and Slaves.
Function Classes: Divide caused by social dependence. Include Free and Dependent.
And for the record I am not a Marxist or even left-leaning. Sometimes people make excellent observations and come up with very poor solutions.
So, seeing as there are so many nuances to racism, agism, homophobia or transphobia, let’s work with a supposed case of systemic privilege that is fairly clear cut: sexism. The core definition of sexism is merely discrimination against someone due to their (perceived) gender. Some feminists would further restrict this definition to state that sexism can only be institutional, therefore individuals can only be sexist on behalf of the institution and any sexism against the institutional balance is merely individual discrimination. I shall humour this, but being such a wishy-washy definition, I shall further specify it. Individual sexism (little “s”) is where an individual acts in favour of or against an entire gender or another individual based on gender, whereas institutional Sexism big “S”) is where the Governing or Enforcing class act in favour of or against an entire gender, or where an individual or a group of people act against an entire gender or an individual based on gender and their actions are condoned, enforced or promoted by the Governing or Enforcing class. This specification avoids the circular logic present in the original argument, whereby it is proven women are victims as the sexism experienced is institutionalized, where no evidence is provided to said institutionalization except that “women experience institutional sexism and men don’t” or that “misogyny is institutionalized”. Instead, where the Governing and Enforcing classes do not promote, enforce or condone a behaviour, it shall be considered an individual act. And if you have a problem with the rule of majority or with the majority’s choice of cultural or social behaviours, then maybe you should reconsider whether you wish for free-agency or democracy before you start calling the majority a governing institution that needs correcting.
So firstly we have an interesting comparison between Gender Privilege and Benevolent Sexism. The given narrative is that as men are the privileged group, the sexism they benefit from is Institutional, Bona-Fide Sexism at the expense of women, whereas as women are the oppressed group, the sexism they benefit from is merely Benevolent Discrimination that hurts nobody and often further oppresses women. Of course, we would need to prove that. Within the standard narrative, belief in female oppression justifies belief in women as an oppressed class, which justifies belief in men as oppressors, which justifies belief in female oppression. Of course, this argument in practice is weak at best and circular at worst. So, how about we break the circle and instead use the cleaned up definition, that focuses exclusively on Governing and Enforcing actions to determine Institutionality and on whether the benefit is liberating or oppressive to determine discrimination? Well, then we have an interesting result, it turns out that men are also oppressed by the Governing and Enforcing classes. This is often rephrased as “the Patriarchy hurts men too”, but it isn’t quite so simple. For there to be an Institutional System all men benefit from, then all men should benefit from it. Instead, we find that the men who are hurt by the Governing and Enforcing classes do not, in fact, receive compensation or another form of privilege from said classes. For example, if we were to argue the existence of a Patriarchal rape culture, then men would almost exclusively benefit where domestic violence and rape are taken to court and reviewed by the Enforcers. In reality, male perpetrators of statutory rape get worse sentences, punished even when both individuals were under age or when the sex is legal but any acts on the side are not, whereas victims of women pedophiles more likely to be disbelieved than trusted and female perpetrators can even claim child support off the victim; whether the victim or the perpetrator, the male in any domestic violence case is more likely to be arrested, despite there being 0.8m annual cases of domestic violence where men are victims,shockingly close to the 1.2m where women are; in false-rape allegations there is often no consequence to the libeler; in actual male-on-female rape cases the perpetrator is almost always incarcerated for a very long period of time and kept on a registry to prevent future violations (hence why rape is down 85% since the 70s), whereas female-on-male cases are viewed as hard to argue due to legal definitions and sentences are lenient, despite the fact that even asking a female alleged rape victim to provide evidence is viewed as too much by some and that her word should always be taken at face-value. No, the system isn’t perfect. Yes, cases of past trauma or escalation are hard to tackle in court. But, on the whole, as men are perceived as inherently strong and violent and have, as far as we’re aware, committed most rapes historically, the law responds by being harsher on men than on women. In other words, depending on your perspective, the Governing and Enforcing classes are either acting appropriately (if you believe that men’s historically higher rape, assault and violence figures are grounds for unequal treatment) or overwhelmingly against men (if you believe all humans should be treated equally regardless of perceived gender and historical crime rates). Likewise, if you look at most cases of unequal treatment you see an even spread, where generally the treatment is different, but equally damaging, but where the treatment occasionally favours either group based on (perceived, real, stereotyped or politically correct) assumptions about their traits and past habits.
However, what about those cases where a man gets a short sentence, a wrist-slap, for a crime he obviously committed? Or where a woman is portrayed as inciting violence, despite a lack of evidence? Well, these cases tend to involve high-profile, respected or loved, incredibly wealthy men and a woman who is lower-profile, less respected, loved or known or less wealthy. In cases where such a man commits any crime, the sentence is normally lenient, especially if the victims are not as important as them. In cases where a high-profile, respected or loved, incredibly wealthy woman commits a crime, again, the sentence is lenient. In cases where the female victim is higher profile, more respected, loved or known or wealthier, the sentence is usually higher, often proportionate to the man’s own respect, profile and wealth. In short, upper class men get an unfair advantage, not based on their masculinity, but based on their power, status and wealth. It isn’t Sexism, it’s just power and wealth buying a get-out-of-jail-free card for whomever desires to commit a crime against a “lesser” human.
However, lest we throw the baby out with the bathwater, it is important to admit that the class structure does benefit some over others. Class discrimination is designed to favour the most powerful and allow them to retain their power. In Western society we have progressed from a capitalist society to a plutocratic one. This means that the main factor in determining class is wealth. A way of determining how true this is, is that people can move from one Social or Function class to another, but only within their income bracket, whereas if you remain wealthy your Social and Function class is almost guaranteed. Therefore, simply be becoming wealthy, you can guarantee yourself a permanent place in the Aristocratic and Independent classes, with a greater possibility of joining the Enforcing or the Governing classes than that afforded to the poor. However, when a wealthy person loses their money, regardless of prior fame and independence, they soon become dependent and, if like with some athletes they have also lost their means of making money, are stripped of their social class. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the cycling in and out of politicians and celebrities.
Therefore, the group of people that class discrimination will protect are the wealthy first and foremost. Those who are socially powerful or independent always fall before the wealthy classes and wealth can buy you power and independence. And, as a plutocratic society develops from the inheritance systems of a capitalist society, this means that money generally stays in families. The West was built on the successes of the Age of Empires, the period spanning from the 1600s right to the middle of the 20th century, reaching it’s pinnacle with the Victorian Empire and British Commonwealth. So important were the Empires to the foundation of the Western World that even ex-colonies are still financially, politically and socially tied with their original owners. And the British Empire, the largest and most influential of all, lives on across the World. Americanization is merely a continuation of the Anglicization that started in the 1600s. The Commonwealth is still viewed as important even though we cast it aside in favour of the European Union. English language, ideas and people are the foundation of our technological and medical advances, even when these are now carried out by countries that could easily become independent. So, if class discrimination in a plutocratic society means keeping wealth in the family and in the country, then modern class discrimination would result in an abundance of wealthy men, of White and Jewish descent, of American and British culture and education, who were walked through their education and integration into society with a silver spoon between their lips. Which is exactly the case. They are not powerful because modern society favours men. They are powerful because modern society favours the able-bodied, heterosexual, first born sons of wealthy and socially influential people. Outside of the Upper Classes, being a man offers no surplus of advantages, rather, it offers a few advantages and a few disadvantages, just like being a woman. If the Upper Classes wanted to favour men, we wouldn’t see people needing to fight to move outside their financial and social class. Wealth being their defining characteristic, the Upper Classes (Governing, Enforcing and Aristocratic, in social terms) would simply offer money and jobs directly to men who met the criteria. Who would get in the way of the people who, collectively, own the banks, the big corporations, the farms, the military and the land? It would be easy for them to overwhelmingly and openly favour men. No, they won’t favour men outside their own class for one simple reason: half the world’s population is male. Even using very liberal statistics for what constitutes a disabled person, a queer person or a transgender person, around 45% of the world’s population still makes the cut. And in Western countries, where at the least about half of the population is White, that gives us 22.5% of the population who would be “privileged”. That is 71,325,000 people in the USA. 14,422,500 in the UK. That’s far too many people for the Upper Classes to share their wealth and power with. That would allow for massive social mobility, a worse chance for their descendants, enough people to need a democratic vote. And preservation of the status quo is not a democratic thing.
However, modern ideologies completely ignore this. They go one of two ways. Either they look for a scapegoat and then do nothing but complain, or they fight against a scapegoat someone else has found for them. In the first case they appear to do nothing. And, on an individual level, this is true. However, as a group they further beliefs about said scapegoat and encourage others to adopt the scapegoat. Neo-Nazis pick Jews, Communists pick Capitalists, the poor pick the police and the police pick the criminals. And by far the most widely accepted scapegoat is the White, heterosexual man. This makes sense because whenever we look at the rich and powerful, whenever we look at those who make and enforce the law, that is what we see. Capitalists, criminals, enforcers, Jews, Whites, men, heterosexuals. However, as discussed, extending this supposed “privilege” to the rest of society doesn’t work out. It is only the wealthy that run the show. And the reason these scapegoats aren’t actively refuted? Well, then somebody might start wondering who is actually to blame for an unjust law, for a violent assault, for poverty. As long as the population finds its own red-herrings, then the ruling class won’t need to plant any information, enforce any obedience or be seen to hurt anyone. The use of these scapegoats is not opposed or attacked by the ruling elite because the ruling elite benefits from their existence. And if that isn’t the very definition of something being condoned by the Enforcing class, I don’t know what is.
The other advantage of the scapegoats is that they rest somewhere between visible and intangible. There are enough people of various races, faiths, social groups, political sets, etc, for most people to see them, to read about them, to talk about them. Looking at men and women, we will almost certainly have a daily reminder of the existence of both. However, when we latch onto a scapegoat we turn a broad category of people into an intangible thing. Using the example of men and women, we are to believe there is an intangible, unobservable Patriarchy that benefits all men, especially White and straight men, bar the one or two we know personally to not benefit from it. It is assumed, though few people have had the complete social experience of both genders, that all else being equal men have it better and women have it worse. That a man who fails had more advantages, or enough distinct advantages to give him an edge over a woman who fails. That a man who succeeds should have his success questioned. That a woman who succeeds, even through “positive discrimination”, is infallible. We can at once blame an entire gender for the current problems suffered by the lower classes, without having any evidence linking said entire gender to the cause of those problems. We just assume, based on the mistaken belief that, were everything left alone, the whole world would be equal, therefore every difference is more evidence for discrimination. An example of how far South those assumptions can go is when angry, poor, White youth attackl poor Jewish property owners under the assumption that, the banking system having been created and maintained by Jews, all Jews must be in on it and all of them must be to blame. Another example is how juries on average give women lenient sentences for the same crime that a man generally gets severely punished for, or when Communists and Anarchists damage franchise property at great expense to the community and little expense to the company.
But what do all these examples have in common? Well, not only are they misguided people using a scapegoat to blame for their problems, but the victims or the people most hurt are usually people of their own Financial class. Black and White youth on welfare are more likely to be angry or aggressive towards each other than towards wealthier or more powerful members of their own or the other’s race. Working class Nazis are more likely to assault working class Jews than people in the actual banking systems or the media. Middle class radical feminists are more likely to attack or unjustly treat middle class men than politicians or military higher-ups. In short, not only do we scapegoat a whole group of people, but the red herrings we victimize are more likely to be people exactly like us. People who live near us, who went to our same university, who work with us, who go out for drinks with us, who’ve faced the same struggles as us, who’ve seen the same horrors as us, who have the same fears as us. When a modern ideology chooses a scapegoat, regardless of how few people believe in it, it can still impact those who are close to us and make them vulnerable. It is highly unlikely to impact those who can and do actually hurt us. However, oblivious to this, the followers of modern ideologies seek a redistribution of power within their class confines. The men want the slight advantages women have: assumed parental custody, right to determine reproduction, freedom to choose military service, assumed moral integrity. The women want the slight advantages men have: assumed loyalty in social and work settings, freedom of expression, assumption of sanity, respect for biological urges. And both sides largely blame the other for their situation. After all, if a young woman is viewed as an impermanent employee and therefore overlooked for promotion, and a man is free to wear whatever he wants on a night out and besides dress-codes is treated the same as any other man, then surely the men are privileged and part of the system preventing women’s promotion? Of if a man is forced to pay child support for a child he is no longer legally allowed to see, and a woman is free to pass over the draft, then surely the women are privileged and part of the system preventing men’s reproductive choice? In reality, however, whilst these legal differences need to be addressed, the system that creates them is neither Patriarchal or Matriarchal. It is Plutocratic. Why is a woman who is young and fertile passed over for promotion? Assuming all things are equal, she could someday get pregnant, take maternity leave or even have a few years out of work, leaving the company with a senior role to fill and a lot of money wasted on training and certificates. Why is a man who cannot see his children given the responsibility of paying to support them? Assuming he desires to surrender his children, that would leave a single mother who cannot afford to get a full-time job due to childcare costs, bonding time and other problems, who will need State support at some time or another to guarantee that child does not suffer. Taking the money away from a citizen is better than giving full responsibility to the State. The Plutocracy demands a constant flow of money from the hands of the poor into the pockets of the rich, with a slight trickle back down to keep the poor working and spending.
However, most modern ideologies fail to grasp this. Why? Because the scapegoats are both present and intangible. “Indians” are both people you know and a vague, elusive group. The Upper Classes, however, are invisible and intangible. Besides the figureheads (current celebrities, top politicians) and the few who appear in the news (either in a fall from grace or as exemplary citizens), we know of very few of them. In fact, besides one or two political figures and a handful of celebrities, how many of the aristocratic, ruling and enforcing classes can you name? How often do you see them outside of the news? They aren’t a real presence in your life. Therefore, we assume they’re as fictional and unimportant as Johnny Bravo or Ramona Flowers. Or we assume that their power somehow fits into our world view. Did you know, the Rothschilds are Jews, therefore Jews must be the problem. Philip Hammond is a man, therefore men must be the problem. Constance Briscoe is a woman, therefore women must be the problem. And hey, Obama’s Black or mixed-race, a Man and heterosexual, so take your pick.
However, if we completely disregard our red herrings and look at the actual suffering of real people, as broken down by class, we see the more disturbing pattern. Are Black girls’ rapes more often unreported or dismissed? Or is it the rape of Poor children in poor, underprotected neighbourhoods? Are White men more likely to shoot Black men? Or do the Enforcing classes create laws and employ the Bourgeois and Working classes to suppress, terrorize and cull the Poor, Welfare and Criminal classes? Are East Asians being elevated to “model minority” status by the “secret society to keep money White”? Or are East Asians bringing more money with them whenever they migrate and passing down more money to each generation, and writers trying to adjust this into their narrative? Is the glass ceiling holding ambitious women back? Or is the Aristocratic class open only to those who are willing to conform and maintain the status quo?
Likewise, there is a correlation (though not as strong), between being in the Dependent class and being hurt in a manner that is condoned, enforced and promoted by the Governing and Enforcing classes. In other words, if you are Upper Class, but your income and safety still depends on a few individuals rather than on your entire class, those whom you depend upon and those on good terms with them will cause you harm and attempt to evict you from the Upper Classes. Almost everyone outside the Upper Classes is dependent on them. Within the social classes generally the Governing and Enforcing classes hold most of the power, whereas only a few Aristocrats and Bourgeois do.
However, this leads to a final conclusion. If men from the Bourgeois class are given slight advantages over women from the Bourgeois class, if the women also receive slight advantages and if these advantages do not promote social mobility or eliminate their disadvantages, then what both groups experience is, where enforced, condoned or promoted, Benevolent Sexism. A man who gets a promotion because he’s unlikely to get pregnant, yet is still at the beck and call of the company, wholly dependent on the Upper Classes and checked by a number of disadvantages designed to keep him dependent is not benefiting from a universal Patriarchal structure. He is being given a reward for accepting his burden and continuing to pass money up to the Upper Classes. Likewise, when a wealthy, Free woman is caught with a vast amount of drugs and her alleged male dealer is sent to prison whereas she is on house arrest for a week, she is not being subjugated by Benevolent Sexism, rather, she is receiving Unearned Class Privilege.
But, whilst the money trail needs to be followed to see where the power is, that doesn’t mean obtaining power lies in the acquisition of money. As I said earlier, you can be Upper Class and stripped of your Aristocracy, or rich Bourgeois and living a life of dependence. Class mobility isn’t so simple as obtaining wealth. Oftentimes we focus on employment and income as the only way of redistributing wealth, assuming that if we redistribute it enough, eventually the power will be pried away from the current upper classes and evenly spread out. As if that would be allowed to happen. As I’ve explained, the main purpose of the current Plutocracy is to keep the wealthy wealthy. When money is power, the powerful make more money. Sure, you may be able to climb. But living on an income of 300k is more expensive than on one of 250k. And there will always be a limiter, something to stop you from passing through to the top unless you plan on maintaining the status quo.
Therefore, modern ideologies’ focus is wrong. Their focus on money creates a sense of despair combined with a belief that you can make it and defeat the status quo if you only try. Their focus on the narratives of gender, race, sexuality, etc creates infighting within each class, inhibiting social mobility and allowing everybody to continue earning and spending for the Upper Classes. In fact, presenting yourself as a victim is considered more reward-worthy than trying to improve your lot. Victims give the media an example to use, to prove the scapegoat real. Victims create conflict and tension and lead to long debates about whether women are oppressing men or men are oppressing women. So we follow the usual narrative of blaming a broad category of people and an invisibly system, all whilst holding our Rulers and Enforcers up as either the ringleaders of this invisible group or as exemplary human beings who have transcended our sinful nature and escaped discrimination.
But perhaps, if our apples are going missing and our neighbour’s apples are going missing: someone else is stealing the apples.