All of my life, I’ve been alone. I’ve had people around me who obviously loved me, so I don’t wish to appear melodramatic. But all my life, I’ve felt like a speck of dust floating inside a huge bell jar, watching the world take place around me. The solitariness never felt “bad,” nor was it undesirable or something I should try to change. It was just my state of being. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that everyone felt like this, as equally as I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that no one else felt like this. My point is that I feel like this, and lately either the bell jar has felt larger or myself, as the speck of dust, has felt smaller; in one way or another, something’s felt disconnected.
Everyone who knows me, or has read this blog previously, already knows that I have struggled with lifelong depression. For the past couple of years, I’ve been taking medication and it’s helped. But recently, I’ve started a process that can only be described as “withdrawal,” from the normal activities I used to enjoy. This could be an indication of my depression worsening, perhaps.
For some time, I’ve been ignoring music. There came a point when I just didn’t care about music anymore. Then I stopped watching television, even the news, which I used to watch regularly. I think when the American elections were taking place in 2016, I became overwhelmed with the constant name-calling from all sides. The suspicion of humanity became absolutely unbearable; somewhere along the line I withdrew from political involvement or opinion as well. I’ve never been someone who identified with the right, but now recently I’ve become bitter towards the left as well. I’ve come to see the left-wing political regime as nothing more than a mouthpiece for stunting emotional growth; which is the amazing thing because as a facade, they present a general concern for the well-being of humanity.
This has not been what I’ve witnessed, however. Eventually it got to the point where one couldn’t utter intelligible sentences without someone bringing up racism or some other measure of intolerance. I’ve probably heard the word “racism” spoken in the last ten years more than I’ve heard my own name. In general I feel that racism as a concept is probably far different than what most people know it to be, and the (usually white) people who go around assaulting each other with the claim of being racist usually have an interior judgment that’s more likely the real concern.
Personally, I don’t feel any affiliation with the term “white”; just like I don’t feel any affiliation with any other labels relating to skin color or other identifiers. I have recognized that there are ultimate definitions placed upon me that arrived with my skin color, like a “side effects warning” issued at the end of a drug commercial: “If you’re white, talk to your doctor if you experience symptoms of assumed superiority, pettiness, thievery and occasional savageness; these could be serious indications of whiteness and should not be taken as a general indication of human experience. Common symptoms of whiteness are predisposition to revising history, stealing land and obliterating other groups not affiliated with the “white” category.” I used to accept this as fact, because that was the hand that I was dealt in the great poker game of race relations. I was expected to assume an apologetic demeanor in any interaction, which became so distracting that it made it difficult to be “present” during any situation of protest that I might naturally have been interested in, such as fighting for the rights of “others”. To me, “others” is another word for “other members of the human race,” which I do care about in all sincerity. But there is a political entity, a dark shadow that exists on the spectrum of the political left, where the word “other” does not relate to humanity as a whole, but relates to how people like me (“white” people) view everyone else who is not white. Suddenly, all white people have joined me inside my bell jar, and we are all looking outwards. It’s not possible nor necessary anymore to look at each other, or to look at ourselves. We have all been enclosed within the protective shell of glass that allows us to view without being involved, whether we want it that way or not.
Whether this is a state of our own making is an argument that might seem logical, but I have my suspicions that all races, at one point in history or another, have been guilty of feelings of unchecked superiority when comparing themselves to others. I think this is a natural state for individuals, in general; it could be said that human beings have a natural inclination to wish to view themselves superior in some way, which allows for the unchecked materialism that supports the narrative that one can “buy” superiority. Modern life is practically revolving around this narrative, and it’s never been so easy to declare our superiority than via the endless “sharing” of our current exotic or expensive experiences, our involvement in charity (donating one’s hair, for example), down to the flaunting of our children’s smiling faces, as if just the act of having created beauty makes us superior to the countless others who have accomplished the same thing by procreating. Humans want to be superior, because it establishes a meaning for ourselves. If we can prove we were here, existing in the world, partaking in the world, then it helps to fight the madness that our experience may be no different than everyone else’s; that meaning, at the end of the day, doesn’t exist.
And so to me, racism, much like the other “isms” that are out there, may or may not be real. But what’s certain is that it is definitely used now in mainstream life as a way to paint oneself into a corner in an effort to separate oneself, as well as to claim meaning. To say someone else is racist is a genius method of procuring a space of safety, directing the attention away from oneself and onto someone else. “No, it’s him or her that’s the nasty one, not me. I’m good; you mustn’t investigate me.” I’ve found this trick works with other tag words as well — “fascist” and “nazi” are also powerful terms that are easily bandied and never questioned as to their practical application. This, to me, more than any other thing out there, is what contributes to the undoubtedly real race confrontation that does exist in society. This confrontation exists any time different groups of people get to a point that they’ve managed well enough together that the only thing to do is to forget the past and move forward, as one, or forget moving forward and return to the past.
This can go only one way or the other. Historically speaking, entire civilizations have been swallowed up, and no longer exist as they were, having transformed into something else altogether over time (whether this was a conscious choice or not). You’ll find that there is no pocket community of Hittites to speak of; no group of Byzantines or Phoenicians that congregate together on the East Side. You’d struggle to locate a group of Scythians in your neighborhood, walking around in their ancient clothes and speaking to each other in a language you don’t understand. They’re gone; their languages gone, their clothing gone. Instead, they’ve morphed into other cultural identities that we know today — “Asians,” “Europeans,” and so forth. In reality, racism is no more than a relic handed down to modern-day people that was practiced, even then, to give those ancient peoples a sense of superiority. I believe that ancient India may have been the earliest example (if one goes by the ancient Sanskrit texts) of an assigned superiority directly connected to one’s shade of skin. So this idea is not new; people have been participating in it for centuries.
Even then, people wanted to be better, rather than be equal. And we inherited that, without question — even now, we speak of “Great Empires” with the definition of “greatness” measured in the amount of land conquered, the expanse of territory controlled. Many leaders are remembered for their ability to give their followers a narrative of superiority, of belonging — each person a small but important part of something profound. Unsurprisingly, many of these leaders claim a connectedness to the sacred, which only furthers their claims of superiority — and the superiority that can be claimed by those following them.
Surely something so closely linked to humanity’s past, so hugely central to our psyches is nearly impossible to identify in the every day. In Britain, the choice of one’s newspaper communicates something about oneself, just as nowadays in the United States, the news channels one chooses to watch serve as a message communicated to others about one’s superiority. We make these choices regularly, in the things we watch (or don’t watch) on television, the music that one listens to (or doesn’t). I believe this is why I stopped participating in these things, because merely interpreting the messages that others were sending out about themselves was an exhaustive exercise that I had to forego. Moreover, the skepticism required by both the left or right, in order to scrutinize the genuineness of the news, was an indefatigable task that I could not continue. Instead, I am comforted by silence. Sometimes I open the window and listen to the birds outside. There is a peace in tuning out, and I haven’t missed the noise, or the work involved.
But even in me expressing this is a way of telling you I’m superior to you, is it not? Of course, that could be one interpretation. I can’t deny that I do acknowledge a conscious notion — unvoiced internally, but if it was, would probably say “I’m plugged into the real meaning of life, now that I’m not wasting my time on petty things anymore.” The centuries-old quest for superiority is deeply ingrained, like a ghost that hovers, haunting me even when I’m openly declaring my awareness of it.
If not superiority, then what? That’s my question. Can we find a new quest for ourselves? Or can we alternate the course we’ve been on in some way? Why not create a a quest that accepts we need superiority, if only to be gained by claiming we are superior to our ancestors? And need this quest be a bad thing? Shouldn’t humanity, in truth, pursue the attainment of superiority in a way, to be better human beings than we were a decade ago, a century ago, a millennia ago?
At my children’s primary school, they have a system of “awarding good behavior” by stamping pages in a daily planner. They call this system “positive discipline.” I get irritated by this because often my daughter will compare how many stamps she has to the amount of stamps that others have been given. I’m unconvinced that good behavior is something that needs recognition, especially not by someone paid to stand at the front of the classroom, who should be imparting information, not passing judgment about how good is good enough for a stamp. Many are the times my daughter has been given “warnings” for petty things that I feel are unconscious things she shouldn’t be concerned with at six years old, like fidgeting or daydreaming. And I’m not sure why I, the parent, can’t provide all the recognition required of my child’s good behavior, or the discipline in regards to dealing with so-called bad behavior. I’m unsurprised that the entire system has funneled downwards, distilled into a message of competitiveness that I don’t want my child to learn in this way. So I’ve had to take this situation and turn it around, shaping it into a message that I DO want her to learn, which is this: concentrate on getting more stamps than you did the week before, not getting more stamps than someone else got. I feel it’s important for her to know she has to concern herself only with making progress according to her own measurement of “success”, because I know there are other children who finished last year with 1000 stamps, and my daughter “only” had 800. To me it’s a ridiculous waste of time, and an unhealthy direction of children’s attention. But if I’m sending her to this school, I have to accept this part of it. So my way of accepting it is to adapt it into a positive message for her. Competition is a real thing in life. The need to feel superior is a real thing; it gives meaning in a world where we define ourselves using a yardstick of success that was not of our own making. So knowing this yardstick exists, we must not become burdened under the weight of it. Instead, we must learn to wield it; we must grow strong enough to lift it, and then finally after mastering it, we may leave it behind. OK, she can learn to play this little game of stamping a book as a reward, I thought to myself, gritting my teeth. But I’ll be there to tell her that the stamps don’t mean anything, the book doesn’t mean anything, the “good behavior” doesn’t mean anything, and even the teacher giving the stamps doesn’t mean anything. And so she can play the game, quietly competing only against herself.
This is parallel to where humanity should be heading, in my opinion. Let’s get better at being human beings, can’t we? And I don’t mean by pointing a finger at someone else, who has probably actually done nothing more than voice the “wrong” opinion about something inconsequential (seriously, when was the last time someone actually demonstrated a REAL act of immorality, such as discriminating against someone for a home loan, etc, which can be exercised against anyone based on skin color, age, gender, etc? If this furore was over something that was actually taking place, I could understand, but as far as I can see it is nothing more than an endless cycle of blaming and shaming of insignificant or nonexistent faults, which makes the real task of improving the state of all humans that much more difficult.)
As I said, it’s the left that perpetuates this, and I am fully expecting to receive a barrage of comments regarding my obvious whining about my situation of whiteness. But this isn’t the case; I refuse to recognize that I have a situation of whiteness.
Can we stop placing this false narrative alongside each other? I don’t want to play this stock part of “white” person anymore. I don’t want to stop anyone from being as successful as they can be. I have never cared, nor will care about living next door to anyone regardless of skin color or other such unimportant identifiers. Despite the stupid beliefs out there about “white” people, it would not bother me in the slightest if I had someone of color as my boss, neighbor, etc etc. (And let those quick to judge be aware: I’ve phrased this exactly in this way for a reason; yes, I’ve said “it would not bother me” and not “I’d be happy to” for the plain reason that anyone being happy to live next to someone else, merely because of their skin color, is stupid. I said “it would not bother me” because I mean just that — it would not bother me if the person was black, just as it would not bother me if they were white. Why should the person’s skin color be any concern of mine, or have any bearing at all on my level of happiness?)
This is the way it should be. I’m not going to go out of my way to befriend someone just because of their skin color, just to prove to onlookers that I’m not “racist”. I’ll be someone’s friend if they are a good person, whatever they look like, because otherwise you’re not someone’s friend in a genuine sense, are you? Why would a black person want to be friends with a white person, just so the white person could say they had a black friend? What does the black person get out of being friends with them — what would be the point? So white people should stop condemning other white people when they admit they don’t have any black friends. Having black friends is not the scientific proof that you’re not racist, so there should be a termination of this belief, once and for all.
And furthermore, the left could do with giving up the notion of “white privilege,” because I know for a fact that America fought a war over that and the law says it doesn’t exist anymore. The more people chuck around the two-syllable effrontery of “white privilege,” the further we are from recognizing the truth, which is that society has actually come a long way. We should be proud of what America’s become, not ashamed of it. We should look back at how much has changed, rather than looking at everything else that apparently needs changing. Did the left forget the 8 years that just passed of having a black President? Isn’t that an indication that in general, things have come a long way from the days when blacks couldn’t vote, or worse, were slaves? Standards of living for black people have gone up, not down; more blacks have obtained college educations than ever before. I’m sorry, I’m just not seeing “white privilege” when I look around, because that would mean that I have access to something that blacks don’t, which isn’t the case. And I’m glad about that. No one should be privileged because of skin color, which was the case at one point in the history of our nation, but not anymore. (as an aside, I think something that does exist is Western privilege, which is happening right now, by virtue of you sitting and reading this alongside your other internet tabs for the latest tennis shoes or smart phones, while people on the other side of the world are actually sitting in factories, sewing those leather shoes or sticking microchips in those phones, trying to eke out enough money to buy food. If people want to feel guilty, there are true situations of inequality that exist out there; I just don’t think racism in America is one of them.)
If that offends people, then so be it. The truth is, I don’t have to prove myself to anyone — except myself. I can improve myself, such as by befriending someone (black or white or anything else) when I can choose not to; I can choose to seek out companionship in this bizarre bell-jar situation, knowing that the request for companionship can be rejected at any time. I can choose to take the risk, knowing that I can be improved by the involvement, and I can help improve someone else, as is the nature of human connection. Taking that step is brave, and unnecessary, when to stay where I am is safe, and there is no current pain. Therefore reaching out to anyone, regardless of skin color, is an act of improvement that I can choose to pursue.
Accepting myself is also an act of improvement that I can pursue. I can choose to accept myself as flawed, and choose not to pretend those flaws aren’t there, but instead move forward, flaws and all. That’s my choice. I have chosen to walk away from the little game of stamping good behavior, because I cancelled my subscription to the belief that someone else can determine whether my behavior is good or bad.
Let’s stamp our own books. Let’s do better now than we did thousands of years ago. I’m not superior to you and you’re not superior to me. The color of my skin is inconsequential to everything, and should be, just as everyone else’s is.
I only want to strive to be superior than I was yesterday. In abandoning a political identity, I feel I’ve taken a step towards self improvement.