Friday, June 1, 2018

Karl du Fresne: Male, pale and stale - a despised minority

I am writing this column as a member of a despised minority. I will be 68 next birthday. I’m fair of skin and male of sex.

To put it another way, in the language of “progressive” millennials and people who, with no sense of irony, describe themselves as liberals, I’m male, pale and stale. 

There is no more crushing condemnation in the 21st century political lexicon. To be male, pale and stale is to be racist, sexist, bitter and selfish. Don Brash and Sir Bob Jones are prime examples of this wretched form of humanity. I am too, albeit of a lower order of celebrity.

It goes without saying that I can’t help being old. I can no more control the ageing process than I could dance the prima ballerina’s role in Swan Lake. Neither did I have any say over my ethnicity or sex.

Perhaps if I’d been born six decades later I might have been encouraged to decide for myself what gender I wanted to assume and to alter my sexual identity at will, regardless of physiology. But I’ve been a bloke all my life and it’s a bit hard to re-invent myself at this point in my life cycle.

Having said that, I’ve been happy being a male and never felt any desire to have it any other way. Nor have I felt ashamed about it, which is not to say I’m not regularly appalled by the behaviour of some of my fellow blokes.

Moreover, I don’t hate or fear women and have never felt that I was in competition with them, still less perceived them as a threat. So I’m not sure that I deserve the implied accusation that men like me are by definition misogynistic.

The women who have been closest to me throughout my life have been stroppy and strong-willed. If I preferred women to be submissive, I’ve been either desperately unlucky or spectacularly unwise.

But never mind all that. I’m stuck with being a bloke, just as I’m stuck with my skin colour and my inexorably advancing age. Yet I, and others like me, now find ourselves regularly being pilloried for having the temerity to express an opinion about things. It seems we’re expected to shut up.

Let’s unpick that phrase “male, pale and stale”. The first thing you notice is that it explicitly criticises people on the basis of their skin colour.

Ah, but that’s okay, because we’re white. And as I heard a moronic talkback host assert recently, only minority groups – i.e. non-whites – can be subject to racism.

You can forget all that warm, inclusive talk on the Left about celebrating diversity. The embrace of diversity mysteriously stops short of ageing white blokes. We’re the one demographic cohort against whom it’s permissible – in fact fashionable – to display undisguised and often venomous bigotry.

In any other context, attacking people on the basis of their age, sex and skin colour would be labelled a hate crime, but no one should expect the Human Rights Commission to take up our cause.

Being white and male, we are seen as being in a position of power and therefore unscathed by discrimination and immune to insult. And if we are discriminated against, we’re expected to suck it up because … well, because we deserve it.

Ageing white males are considered fair game because we’re seen as having enjoyed privilege for too long. Now the tables have turned and we’re expected to pay the penalty by keeping our supposedly rancid opinions to ourselves. 

This treats freedom of expression as a zero-sum game where one person’s right to speak can only be achieved by silencing someone else. But that’s not how free speech works.

In any case, if white males dominated newspaper opinion columns in past decades, as has been alleged, then any imbalance has been more than redressed. The media today is awash with comment that uncritically embraces the “progressive” agenda (there’s another word that’s used with no sense of irony) and sneers at anyone who stands in its path.

Am I pleading for sympathy here? Not a bit. We curmudgeonly tuataras can look after ourselves. All I’m doing is highlighting the double standards of social justice warriors who shriek with outrage at any perceived slight against a favoured minority group, but pile in for the attack when it’s an old white bloke who’s on the ground getting kicked.

One last thought. Today’s angry social justice warrior has a funny way of turning into tomorrow’s crusty reactionary.

One day the people who rant about ageing white men will themselves become old, and they can’t discount the hideous possibility that they too will morph into conservative dinosaurs, because by then they might have learned a few things about life, politics and the human condition.

Karl du Fresne blogs at First published in the Dominion Post.


Brian said...

Blimey Karl..You wait till you’re 89 Mate!
Despised, ridiculed, a relic from a long gone age, when kindly nurses address you in the plural ...I still look around in case there is someone else in the room! And when you get out of the car and see the expression on the faces of the young, words are unnecessary or more likely superfluous? Their minds are easily read “Should be a a bloody wheel chair a danger on the road!.
Hey Ho Karl! That is something you have yet to look forward too, but the compensations are unlimited I admit. People offer you a seat on the Bus, (if there is one) you recall Buses of your day, one after another, with trains that actually reached their destination. Ah those trains that puffed and smoked, which in today’s world, would send the Greens into hysterical outbursts.
But would I like to be young again? My wife once said to me “Would you like to be married to a younger woman! My God fancy spending all that time explaining who Errol Flynn was, let alone the effect the Battle of Hastings had. Battle of Where?? (Not Hawkes Bay)
I used to look forward to driving down to Wellington which was my first encounter with New Zealand one bright sunny morning back in 1955. Alas my wife refuses to let me take the wheel in case the temptation or the history of the Gunpowder Plot brings back an Army exercise in explosives when ever I see the Beehive.
I have always had a soft spot for Guy Fawkes being the only man ever to enter Parliament with good intentions, and try to carry them out.
When they eventually write up this decade of Political Correctness Karl, us overdone, overtaxed, over the hill males will head the new book of Fox’s Martyrs!

Barend Vlaardingerbroek said...

White sexually normal males constitute the only social group against whom discrimination is not just permitted but mandatory. Those with social class strings they can pull are OK so make that White working-class-origin sexually normal males.

Dave said...

As a member of this despised minority, I have always wished that the "tolerant" left and the feminists could have had more of these "privileges" that I have "enjoyed".

That way perhaps I and half of my fellow men would not have been screwed over in the family court and had the relationship with my children destroyed simply because I was male and white.

I could write pages on all the other "privileges" that men have "enjoyed" in almost every aspect of our society which I wish the feminists could have "enjoyed". However due to the poorer health care and lower level of health research, my life expectancy is shorter than theirs and so I don't have the time to repeat it all hear. This early grave is perhaps the ultimate of these "privileges" that men can "enjoy".

Such a shame feminists don't get to have all these "privileges" also.

Unknown said...

A plus one endorsement.

Guy said...

I just went to visit a good friend who happens to be 96. He’s neither ‘pale’ (still got good colour and generally hale and hearty for his age), nor is he ‘stale’ (he still thinks clearly, has a pretty good memory, and is politically sharp). He just happens to be male. If MPS (male, pale, and stale) is unacceptable then the opposite must be the acceptable ideal—FCF, female, coloured, and fresh (apparently forward-thinking, left-leaning, not ‘stuck in the past’). Doesn’t have the catchy rhyme though. And if that’s the case, then anyone missing one of the criteria – such as colour, is out. I guess the idea is that you must have all three to qualify. As Karl has rightly said, there is a tendency to morph with age – and then realise that respecting the accumulated cultural and general knowledge of previous generations is not that bad after all.

Anonymous said...

Racism is often conflated by the ignorant with simple prejudice, which it is not. Principled opposition to unearned racial privilege is not racism. Nor is it typically evidence of prejudice.

There is only one race. The human race. Much of what is commonly referred to as "racism" is actually ethnocentricism.

And the most disgustingly prejudiced, ethnocentric people in this country are part-Maori who have chosen to identify monoculturally as "Maori," chopping whole branches out of their family trees in order to do so.

Those who believe in a single standard of citizenship, colourblind government, and the abolition of unearned privileges for part-Maori are the complete opposite of their ethnocentric opponents.

Racism is different beast altogether. It occurs where a group of prejudiced, ethnocentric individuals get together to colonise or create a system affording them separate, different, or superior rights to everyone else on the basis of group membership.

In a free society all citizens enjoy individual equality in citizenship. This is so whether some of a citizen’s ancestors arrived in a canoe in 1350, a sailing vessel in 1850, an ocean liner in 1950, or more recently by airliner. Even someone who put his hand up 30 seconds ago at a swearing-in ceremony is entitled to all the rights of citizenship. Prior arrival or ancestral longevity in the land is no basis for special privilege.

Group rights are anathema to a free society. They create two classes of citizenship where only one existed before. Group rights require the intervention of an activist government forcibly taking rights from one group to bestow upon another. As Richard Prebble reminds us: “One group’s positive discrimination is another group’s negative discrimination.”

In Preferential Policies: An International Perspective, Black American academic, Thomas Sowell records the downstream effect of government-sponsored identity politics. Touted as promoting inter-group harmony, Sowell found that wherever such policies had been tried, they invariably expanded over time in scale and scope, benefited already advantaged members of the preference group (those with the smarts to work the system), and led to increased rather than decreased inter-group polarisation. In many places they have brought about decades-long civil wars.

And of course any downstream proposal that the beneficiaries of state-sponsored identity politics revert to being treated the same as everyone else will make such groups squeal like stuck pigs. As Thomas Sowell reminds us: “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment seems like discrimination.'

I will leave it to readers to determine whether New Zealand is a racist country, and if so, in whose favour this racism operates.