I’m sick of misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic and racist white people.
I’m fucking sick of all those white people (and the overwhelming majority of them are white) who complain that their country of residence is not their country anymore, because now they suddenly have to endure all those other people, women, people of colour, LGBT people, refugees, etc…, entering their space, living in their neighbourhoods, going to school with their children, taking their jobs.
Warning: Rambling rant about Trump, Brexit, the AfD and entitled white people follows:
In recent months, we have been hearing a lot about how cosmopolitan liberal elites has supposedly lost touch with ordinary (white) people and ignore their fears. Because obviously every fear, no matter how irrational, needs to be taken seriously. We’ve been hearing how the media is failing those ordinary people by not representing their point of view – even though we’ve seen rightwing populists expound their views at length in every talk show and news program out there.
We’re constantly being implored that we must listen to those angry white people and their grievances. And you know what? I have listened to them. It’s kind of hard not to, since they’re literally everywhere, including among your neighbours and family, yelling how no one is listening to them. And I’ve come to the conclusion that what these angry white people really are is entitled. They’re practically brimming with entitlement, coupled with the fear that somebody else somewhere may be getting something they think they’re entitled to.
Last year, a brave journalist interviewed some protesters at a Pegida march in Dresden to find out what those people’s grievances were. There were people complaining about broken streetlights not being repaired (and refugees are to blame for that exactly how?), people complaining how their little prince or princess didn’t get into the school they wanted, people complaining about the pension system and so on.
But one old woman in particular stood out. She complained that the refugee home got a brand-new washing machine for free, whereas she had to make do with an old one. Never mind that the washing machine at the refugee home is either a machine donated or the cheapest and crappiest model available at the local big box electronics store. Never mind that refugee homes have one washing machine for twenty or more people to share (and unlike that old woman, I’ve actually been inside a refugee home). Never mind that most refugees come from failed states and outright war zones like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Mali, Eritrea, etc… and have often had their homes bombed to smithereens and lost everything they ever owned. I teach German to refugees and I’ve seen the cellphone photos of houses, businesses, cars, libraries lost in the war. But all that didn’t matter to that old woman. Because here were people getting a free washing machine, while she didn’t get one. That’s pretty much the epitome of entitlement.
And that old woman isn’t the only person who thinks like that. Wherever you look at angry white people, you find a rampant sense of entitlement. Entitlement to good jobs, cheap flats, high pensions, free washing machines. Witness how many voters in former East Germany, France, Britain, etc… switched from voting for far left/Communist parties to voting for far right xenophobic parties. It’s hard to parse, because lots of voters all over Europe apparently did a 180 degree turn ideologically. But to many of those people, it’s not about ideology and has never been. It was about voting for whatever party promised to get them what they feel entitled to, while denying it to the other guy. Just as the fall of the Wall 27 years ago today was less about freedom than about bananas.
A lot of those people talk about returning to some golden age in the past, often the fifties, where things were better and everybody knew their place. But whatever golden age these people want to return to never existed or it existed only for a select few, while it was a stifling conformist hell for everybody else.
I wasn’t alive in the fifties, but I remember growing up in the 1970s and 1980s and believe me, a golden age it wasn’t. I’ve never known a world where people worked the same job at the same company for forty or fifty years. Yes, it apparently still happened to some people, but it was getting increasingly rare even by the 1980s. My father, a middle class engineer, changed jobs and companies seven times in my lifetime and at least once more before I was born, and he was far from the only one. The industrial die-off that so many pundits are lamenting now was already in full swing when I was a kid and teen. Regardless of what Norbert Blüm said, pensions were never secure, which was bleedingly obvious to everybody with eyes. Coincidentally, my Mom who started working in 1958, told me that good jobs were scarce back then, at least for women, and she had to take what she could get. Add to that a stifling atmosphere where everybody who was different in any way was viewed with suspicion, where I was badly bullied at school – by students and some teachers – for being “spoiled” and “bragging”, simply because I was different and had seen a bit more of the world than my classmates.
So yes, I’ve seen your golden age. I’m a straight white middle class girl from a nice middle class family in a semi-rural suburb attending a school that was approx. 90 percent white Germans with the non-Germans mostly white European immigrants. I’ve been there and trust me, it wasn’t golden. And if it wasn’t golden for me, then imagine how much worse it must have been for someone who was LGBT, an immigrant, a person of colour, disabled, etc… Sure, it’s far from perfect today, but still so much better than it was. Is it easy? No, but then it never was.
What irks me most about the angry entitled white people that now things are finally getting better, they want to roll everything back again, whether in the US, the UK, Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Turkey, Russia, Poland, Hungary, Australia, etc… This post isn’t about Trump voters or Brexit voters or AfD voters or Hofer voters or Orban voters or Le Pen voters or Putin supporters or Erdogan supporters, cause at the root they’re all the same, angry and entitled people terrified of the future. These people want to destroy the world for everybody else, just because they cannot hack living in a modern globalised world. They want to retreat into their little monocultural bubbles and want to force everybody else along with them. And I for one am fucking sick of it.
We’ve heard angry and entitled white people whining over and over again how those cosmopolitan liberal elites don’t care about them. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, because I find myself giving less and less of a fuck about angry white people and their concerns, even where they have legitimate grievances.
For example, there recently was a report about an initiative to finally close the wage and pension gap between former East and West Germany, because even 26 years after Reunification, wages and pensions in former East Germany are still lower than in former West Germany, which is a bloody outrage, if you think about it. But as I listened to the report, I found that my first impulse was thinking, “Fuck them. Who cares what happens to those AfD and Pegida supporters?” And I felt ashamed, because at that moment I was no better than those nice and progressive Americans who didn’t give a fuck about the victims of hurricane Katrina or the Deepwater Horizon spill on the US Gulf coast, because hey, they’re all racists down there. Never mind that Katrina hit blacks worse than whites and that New Orleans was a vibrant, diverse and LGBT friendly city. Even though I’m fucking angry at Mississippi and Louisiana, the only part of the US where I actually felt at home once upon a time (and Kentucky, too, where I spent a memorable six weeks as a teenager) for voting for that shithead Trump. I also find myself feeling the same sort of resentment towards Dresden, home of Pegida and the city where my grandmother was born on this very day back in 1919. If she’d lived, she’d be 97 today. I’m not sure what she’d made of all this – she had demetia for the last few years of her life and kept forgetting even the fall of the Wall, the gift history decided to give her for her 70th birthday.
All this talk about the alleged divide between the liberal cosmopolitan elites, whoever they may be (I am apparently one of them, though I’ve never felt particularly elitist), and the ordinary people, whoever they may be, is driving a wedge into society, every society. And before you buy into that shit, ask yourself who profits from driving this wedge into society, who profits most from making those most likely to give a damn about poverty and the growing gap between the rich and the poor resent impoverished white people. Hint: It’s the very people who thrive on resentment, the very people who’d just love to dismantle whatever social protections there are left. Once more, poor people of whatever racial and ethnic background will be hit the hardest. But at least for the angry white people among the poor, those who might once have advocated for them might well say, “Fuck that lot.”
I’m angry at Trump voters and Americans in general today, just as I was angry at Europhobic Brits on Brexit day. I’m fucking angry at stupid and entitled white people who would burn down a world that wasn’t perfect, but at least pretty good and getting better, in favour of some imaginary golden age that never existed and will never come back.
I’m also scared, because now that the UK and the US have fallen to the forces of resentment and xenophobia (not to mention Hungary, Poland, Russia, Turkey) the parts of the world where I could imagine going, if things get bad here, has shrunk once again. I’m German, I know all about the rise of the Third Reich and I’ve always had a hypothetical get-out plan at the back of my mind, should things ever go that way again, ever since I was a teen. I strongly suspect I’m not the only one of my generation with such a plan, though most of us don’t talk about it. Things are still okay here at the moment, but we have a federal election coming up next year, a whole lot of angry and entitled white people and a xenophobic far-right party that would take away my livelihood, if they could, currently polling at 10 to 15%. The part of the world where things are good, where I could feel comfortable, even if I wasn’t born there, is steadily shrinking. And while being a Star Wars rebel and blowing up metaphorical Death Stars might have looked romantic and appealing at fifteen, it no longer does at forty.
Still, I fear we have no choice but to fight the forces of resentment and xenophobia, whereever we are. Help and support those who feel threatened and scared. Try to reason with those angry and entitled people that can be reasoned with and ruthlessly cut off those who cannot. Make it very clear that racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, xenophobic talk is not acceptable. Even if it’s Uncle Bob who’s a swell guy, if he isn’t spouting hateful nonsense. Especially if it’s Uncle Bob.
Of course, if you cut off Uncle Bob, you might quickly find yourself disinvited from Christmas or Thanksgiving dinners, because a lot of people would rather accomodate the crusty old racist than those who refuse to deal with him or her. But ask yourself, are those really people you want to spend time with? Because most of us have long ago learned not to give a flying fuck what people think about us. Uncle Bob, however, he is a raging conformist and he cares. So let him and his ilk know that their racism, their sexism, their xenophobia is not acceptable.
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