Nobody’s Asking White Men to Hate Themselves

Well, maybe somewhere there’s somebody who wants white men to hate themselves, but it isn’t me, and it isn’t anybody I know, even though most people I know are liberal to a fault.

I bring this up because of an article I stumbled into, written by a guy who says he’d be a natural-born social justice warrior except that he’s a white man, and those other SJWs out there hate him and say mean things about white mandom. He says,

The problem is that I no longer wish to be a subject of the social justice ideology.  I like Plato, I like Shakespeare, and I am interested in John Milton.  I think reason and logic are still valid.  I don’t think my ancestors were purely evil patriarchs, and if they were, I still love the ideas and culture they left me. In the humanities and academy at large, I find that the very things I love and cherish as part of my tradition and culture are under attack.

Accepting that I am subject and can never be a true ally, I find that I am moved to align more closely with the movement that would not have me tear my culture to the ground and burn it in the name of justice.  So I ask you, please make room for me in the conservative tent; If not your tent, then your voting bloc.  I am one of many nameless who has fallen to the “law of merited impossibility.”

Not being aware of any movement to suppress Shakespeare, never mind reason and logic, I kept reading for an example of what this guy is talking about. The one example provided  was a complaint by a couple of UC-Berkeley students that their humanities courses amount entirely to studying the thinking of dead white guys and leave out the perspectives of women and nonwhites. And, of course, the problem here is that for many centuries of western civilization only white guys were paid attention to, so theirs are the only “thoughts” left us in the western civ curricula. It’s a variation of the Saving Private Ryan problem — people complained about the film because all the soldiers in the Normandy Beach scene were white. But they were — at the real event, I mean. The U.S. military was racially segregated at the time, and I see no purpose being served in pretending that it wasn’t. It’s good to be reminded of these things, actually.

On the other hand, there’s a real problem in some academic studies in which perspectives other than those of dead white European guys are still being frozen out. For centuries, women were locked out of contributing to both eastern and western civ, but that doesn’t mean current, well-documented gender bias in academia can be ignored. And the philosophy departments of American universities continue to shortchange Asian philosophies. I have read that even major universities with highly regarded philosophy departments have no faculty who specialize in Chinese philosophy, for example. American students who want to focus their graduate studies on Chinese philosophy often are told to go to Hong King or Singapore. When one Asian-American student wrote a widely circulated article complaining about this, a prominent U of Chicago professor wrote, “And should we really add East Asian philosophers to the curriculum to satisfy the consumer demands of Asian students rather than because these philosophers are interesting and important in their own right?”

And, of course, it’s panels of white guys whose education is limited to the standard Dead White Guy curricula determining what is “interesting and important.” The student who complained about the lack of Asian philosophy had written, “Philosophy, it is often claimed, deals with universal truths and timeless questions. It follows, allegedly, that these matters by their very nature do not include the unique and idiosyncratic perspectives of women, minorities, or ‘people of culture.’” It’s the default norm syndrome, in other words. The experiences and perspectives that vary from the universal default norm (white maleness) are aberrations and not worthy of consideration.

But let’s go back to the guy who imagines Plato is being pulled off library shelves to make room for Simone de Beauvoir. It’s been obvious to me for a long time that the way Americans are educated, from Kindergarten on, has a European bias that makes no real sense any more. It’s possibly not as blatant as when I was in school, where “world history” was a trajectory going from Egypt to Greece to western Europe to North America, and anything else was just ignored. It is argued that this is where “our” culture comes from, so American students should know about it. And that’s fine, but I thought the purpose of education is to teach us what we need to know to understand and appreciate the world, and leaving out perspectives other than European is not accomplishing that.

Awhile back, when the Eurocentric nature of American higher education was first challenged, guys like Harold Bloom mounted a spirited defense of The Way We Have Always Taught Stuff by defending the western canon. But I looked and looked and couldn’t find anyone arguing that we shouldn’t study any of that western canon stuff any more. The argument was that there’s other stuff of huge value that western academia ignores because it doesn’t come from the Eurocentric tradition, and we should be looking at that, too. But the old keepers of the White Male Western Civ Flame react to these suggestions as existential threats. If we take Zhuangzi seriously, somehow Plato is diminished. If white men  aren’t allowed to dominate higher education, somehow reason and logic will be lost, a perspective that is neither logical nor reasonable.

And the allegedly Wise Men who keep the flame are too blinkered to see this. It’s like the whiny white guy extolling the virtues of “his” culture, as if somehow Europe was a continent inhabited only by men. As if a whole lot of what is unique and wonderful about American culture  didn’t emerge from African American culture. Obviously this guy is has emotionally invested a whole lot of his self-worth into his race and gender, so challenges to his racial-gender dominance sound to him as if he’s being asked to hate himself.

Of the whiny person who complains that he won’t be a liberal if that requires hating himself, I put him in the same boat as white racists who snarl that liberals want them to feel guilty. Guilt is of no importance to me. Guilt does not so much as butter toast. All I want is for guys like him to see that the default norm syndrome exists, and is holding all of us back, including white guys. It’s possible he would find Zhuangzi’s perspectives enriching, if he ever learned what they are. It’s possible that if he stops clinging to race and gender as if that’s what makes him special, he might actually like himself more.

Related: Jonathan Chait recently stepped in a pile of doo-doo by complaining about “political correctness.” He said PC is an attempt to stifle free speech. Actually, I’ve come to see whining about PC as an attempt to stifle free speech. Lindsay Beyerstein responds.

24 thoughts on “Nobody’s Asking White Men to Hate Themselves

  1. ANCIENT WHITE GUY’S RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Only because ancient women’s and minorities opinions, weren’t allow to have a say.

    There is much wisdom in EVERY culture.
    In college, in the early 80’s, I took a class in American Black women’s studies.
    I was the one white guy in that class.
    And I learned a lot!

    And, I remember reading Bertrand Russell’s book, “On God and Religion,” in my very early 20’s, and the profound effect it had on me and my life.
    It opened up my eyes!
    But, I’d love to read another culture’s book “On God and Religion.’

    I’ll be ordering your book soon, maha!
    I’m expecting my SS Disability check any day now!!!

    And, I’ll throw a little cash in your kitty-kitty, as well! 🙂

  2. I have lots of thoughts about this and what I have to say may not make sense but I will put it out there anyway. I have studied Chinese philosophy as part of studying Chinese medicine. In some ways it is completely opposite to Western ways of thinking as in the song: “East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet”. The west is yang and the east is yin. They may never meet but I contend we need both ways of thinking. I see it as the east is more spiritual and the west is materialistic. We live in a physical world but our true essence is spiritual. Sort of like the saying: We are spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body. But being so attached to the physical can lead to completely ignoring the spiritual. Not good. I keep remembering Maha’s words: ” We are all Buddhas but since we don’t recognize it, we can be jerks”.
    Another observation: Most people have heard that Native Americans regarded themselves (the red race) as being caretakers of the earth. They also regarded the other races as being caretakers of the other elements. Yellow race, air (or breath) Black race, water (or emotions) and White race, fire. Fire (which is yang) rages and destroys everything in its path. This is my symbolic interpretation of what has been going on in the world and when yang does not yield to yin, it eventually collapses into the yin state. This is not desirable but is nature’s way of maintaining balance. What we need is for the yang influence (white, male) to yield to yin influence (female, water). Of course there is resistance because of the power structure but water can put out fire. Then perhaps the Phoenix can rise from the ashes. So the question is how can we{humans) help nature in maintaining balance?

  3. he’d be a natural-born social justice warrior except that he’s a white man

    Mr SJW seems to be putting up a straw-man argument, and so he is forced, against his will, to be a conservative. I call BS. He’s more interested in his heritage than he is in any kind of social justice.

    There was an interesting commenter over at Ian Welsh’s blog a few weeks ago, a real defender of white guy and European culture. What made him different is that he he came from a very liberal background, his parents very much embraced multiculturalism. Grew up in West LA, and was very articulate and brought in a lot of depth in defending his opinions. He was basically rebelling against his upbringing and was very convinced that European culture was superior to all others.

  4. “satisfy the consumer demands of Asian students ”

    The use of the term ‘consumer’ instead of ‘academic’ or ‘educational’ tells me that this person has completely lost the plot when it comes to higher education.

    • I’ve had run-ins with professors of philosophy and, worse, “spiritual studies” who really did have a knee-jerk bias against non-western, and they really can’t see it. There’s nothing more painful than a Eurocentric philosopher analyzing Asian philosophy, in fact. They basically toss out anything that can’t be squared with what they already know, which means they can’t “see” it for itself.

  5. maha,

    The European “Yang” – thanks, grannyeagle – can never comprehend the other philosophies of the world’s, “Yang.”
    It’s sad, but true.

    One is based on supposed mathematic and logical principles – or, so they believe – and the other, one supposedly mystical Oriental/other lines of thought.

    At this point, I’m ready to abandon Western philosophies, and studying others.

  6. I have studied Chinese philosophy as part of studying Chinese medicine.

    Did you study Chinese medicine formally, at a school? Where? I ask because I’m very interested in this.

    What we need is for the yang influence (white, male) to yield to yin influence (female, water)…So the question is how can we{humans) help nature in maintaining balance?

    Two comments: In America (and worldwide, but especially in America), women have been gaining power, beginning with the suffragette movement, the feminist movement, and so on. Especially as machines have reduced the need for human (male) labor. This is a long term trend going back over a hundred years, and of course its trajectory has yet to complete. And America is a leader – of individual rights – in this area.

    The other commment involves the cross-pollination of the materialistic west with the spiritual east. This is also a long term trend that’s been going on for at least a hundred years. Yogananda (the example I know best) came to America in the 1920s, as part of a string of gurus bringing the wisdom of India to the west, that continues to this day.

    Conversely, Yogananda longed to see the scientific, materialistic efficiency of the west transported back to his home country, which was very backward at the time. In our time India is transforming itself in this way, it’s a major force in software, for example.

    It’s amazing to me, that in my lifetime concepts like: karma, meditation, yoga, reiki, subtle energy – are now household words (even if most people barely know what they mean). In my youth, almost nobody had heard of these things. I’m sure MahaBarb can comment on how Buddhism has likewise taken root here in the last fifty years.

    Many ancient cultures have the concept that could be called “the ages of man”. That there’s a bronze age, silver age, golden age, and so on. In India, these ages are called “yugas”, and while there’s some disagreement as to how they’re reckoned, Yogananda’s guru posited that we transitioned to “dwapara yuga”, which is an Age of Energy, about a hundred years ago. This is when Einstein realized that matter is energy. One of the consequences of this age, is that space and distance are abolished. That’s why you have this cross pollination of cultures going on at this time. It’s also why you have call centers overseas for American customers. The internet is a facilitator and a product of this age.

  7. Arrgggh.

    I am so thankful that all the white males I know personally– many, of varied ages and from varied regions of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere– understand and accept that history was biased, that the bias needs to be corrected, and that it has nothing to do with them personally.

    More importantly, because the white males I know are intelligent, fair, decent people (unlike Mr. SJW, as his words reveal), they are respected and accepted as they deserve, the same as for any woman or person of color.

    The problem with Mr. SJW, or the primo-idiot Chait, or any of these other whiners, is they aren’t satisfied with being the same as a woman or person of color. White Male Supremacy is dead, and these guys are its death rattle.

  8. P.S. I love Shakespeare. In many ways he was a proto-feminist.

    Really, it all comes back to what Jamie Lee Curtis said to Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda: “Sure, Otto, apes read philosophy– they just don’t understand it.”

  9. Moonbat: Yes, I graduated from the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine in 1987 and received my CA acupuncture license in 1988. To practice Chinese medicine requires a different perspective from Western medicine. Today, in China, they have incorporated Western medicine alongside their traditional medicine. I wish we could do that here in the U.S. but it is not accepted. Although I have seen a lot of changes in attitudes over the years. These things change so slowly. You seem to have more knowledge in the Indian system than I do.
    I remember back in 1983 when we had the Harmonic Convergence and the transition into the Aquarian Age, I read that it is the time of the return of the Goddess. And I do believe it is happening, it just requires raising of the consciousness to a critical mass and probably we will think it is happening overnight. However, patriarchy is not going down without a fight. The movement of the stars and planets is so long compared to our short time here on earth. But things do change and the Tao is the unchanging element behind all change.
    I say that yang needs to yield to yin because that is the way of nature. They are not competitive but complementary. Just as day must yield to night and summer to winter and vice versa. Nature has no problem with this but along comes humans who want to control or manage nature and the environment. It is not working very well. Ancient societies realized that we are part of nature not above it.

  10. “Yes, I graduated from the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine in 1987 and received my CA acupuncture license in 1988. To practice Chinese medicine requires a different perspective from Western medicine…”

    I love ya even more now, grannyeagle!!!!

  11. Basically he’d be a social justice warrior if only there was no more injustice to war against. That or if the only injustices perpetrated were against white men, which I wouldn’t doubt he actually believes.

  12. @grannyeagle, do you recommend your alma mater in Santa Barbara? I haven’t explored the universe of these schools and so I have no idea of the lay of the land; I recently came across a Chinese woman who graduated from a school in Florida (was it Ft Lauderdale??). We have some schools here in Los Angeles, but I have no idea how they compare. I can definitely see myself kicking back in Santa Barbara…

  13. Moonbat: Unfortunately, the school no longer exists. They had to close due to financial reasons. There are excellent schools in LA. California has a very good reputation for its schools in Chinese Medicine. It was one of the first states to begin offering education in that area. San Diego has an excellent school and if I were going to enroll today, that is where I would go. I believe the name is Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. They have a symposium every year for acupuncturists to get CEUs for re-licensure. They come from all over the country. Learning Chinese medicine is a lot of hard work but very satisfying. Good luck in your quest!

  14. Thanks so much for your advice, grannyeagle. I hope I can get my life together enough to pursue something like this.

  15. Moonbat: In the meantime you might want to read “The Web that has no Weaver” by Ted Kaptchuk. It is available on Amazon. It is written for the layman but has been one of my favorite books. It was recommended to me when I was considering enrolling. One really gets a sense of the spirit of Chinese Medicine. Again, good luck!

  16. Great comments guys!

    It’s kind of ironic, when I read an article as dreadful as that one, penned by other white males, I almost do start hating myself.

    The history that I learned up through high school was so unabashedly sexist and ethnocentric that it’s embarrassing to recall. Not only were the history, science and philosophy of the far east completely neglected, but, I remember only fleeting references to scientists and philosophers like Avicenna (Al-Hasan) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), even into my college years. I learned only recently that Copernicus probably just lifted his argument for heliocentrism out of an Arab text.

    The contributions of women fared even less well, they were ignored or attributed to the man or men that appropriated them as their own. Maybe that’s beginning to change, maybe not.

    “I still like Plato, I like Shakespeare … I think reason and logic are still valid … I still love the ideas and culture they left me.”

    But, if anyone suggests that other ideas, cultures or lines of inquiry might also be valid or have merit, I’ll dismiss them with a whiney, bogus load of tripe, rather than drawing on our rich traditions to form a valid argument.

  17. grannyeagle, thanks for the pointer to “The Web that Has No Weaver” – bookmarked. Thanks again for your advice.

  18. There’s a move to stifle liberal criticism of the conservative narrative. The move is not to refute the criticism – they want some stuff to go away. Conservatives (like this yahoo) don’t want to discuss the treatment of Native Americans or the treatment of Japanese Americans in WWII. The history is irrefutable and it throws the theory of American Exceptionalism into doubt.

    This is the source of argument from conservatives about political correctness or hating on white males. They want to continue the narrative of White Anglo Male Superiority and the harsh truth is – it’s a myth.

    What’s happening is a cultural equivalent to what happened when Copernicus suggested that the universe does not revolve around the earth. Major freak out by powerful people who refused to consider the notion. As white male dominance is threatened by the concept that they are not the center of the cultural universe the denial and freak out is manifest.

    Where does this show up? Attitudes about women and a move to dis empower women. Anti Gay Rights. Resentment of non-white races. Contempt for science and academia in general which shows up in denial of global warming and the benefits of immunizations (I get the feeling I’m leaving a bunch of stuff out, but I’m tired.) The point that I’m making badly is that the force behind a LOT of the disjointed topics we hit here is the deep-seated emotional fear that the cultural dominance of white male anglo christians is in permanent decline.

  19. Everything is connected, including dead white guys.

    Actually there is such a thing as history, and much of it does come from Europe and the Middle East. You can’t change that, it already happened.

    More attention should be paid to indigenous cultures and to all the other immigrants.

    • Actually there is such a thing as history, and much of it does come from Europe and the Middle East. You can’t change that, it already happened.

      Actually there is such a thing as what I already wrote, which you apparently didn’t read.

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