Saturday, January 12, 2019

Understanding the Most Important Phrase in Social Justice - Steven Kessler

by Steven Kessler

When "predicated on power structure" makes sense to you, you'll understand what the whole social justice game is about.

The most important phrase in the social justice lexicon is "predicated on power structure." You've likely heard that racism, privilege, and cultural appropriation – the big three of social justice – are predicated on power structure. The origin of this power structure is societal. According to social justice scholarship, society is an arbitrary social construct – meaning that society is a complete nonsensical fabrication – that is inequitably structured to favor white, male, able-bodied, cisgendered heterosexuals. The theory assumes that these people are successful in life because society is structured to favor them, and they use the inequitable structure of society to socially advance by stepping on the heads and shoulders of "people of color" or "others." These others are unsuccessful because white men are stepping on their heads and shoulders to get ahead. Should we fix the inequitable structure of society, we will restore the natural equity of the world. In theory, those at the bottom will rise to the top, and those at the top will sink to a lower social status.

To the social justice scholar, racism, privilege, and cultural appropriation are based on a simple formula: racism, privilege, cultural appropriation equals prejudice plus power structure. Therefore, only those benefiting from societal power structure – i.e., white men (and, to a lesser extent, those with any of the aforementioned demographic characteristics), are capable of having privilege, being racist, or appropriating culture.

By this logic, anything anti-white male is technically not racist, despite the overwhelming gut feeling many of us have while hearing and seeing anti-white rhetoric and actions. For example, Lebron James's recent diatribe against NFL owners: "In the NFL, they got a bunch of old white men owning teams and they got that slave mentality. And it's like, 'This is my team. You do what the [explicit] I tell y'all to do. Or we get rid of y'all." As racism is predicated on power structure, and white men are in power, as a black male, Lebron James and his comments are incapable of being considered racist.

To understand where this comes from, it is critical to examine the moral foundations of liberalism. The salient moral foundation of liberalism, in this case, is equity. Liberals believe that human beings are naturally equals, and liberals desire equitable outcomes in life. This is actually a noble belief. The inequalities that come to mind stem from slavery, racism, misogyny, and various phobias that we should all desire to eliminate.

Unfortunately, the moral foundation of equity has gone too far. It's no longer confined to the equal worth and dignity of human beings, but equity has permeated truth, knowledge, objectivity, facts, and order. Because we're all equals in life, culture, customs, traditions, and even laws exist not because there's meaning behind them; instead, they are exclusively predicated on the subjective opinions and experiences of others.

Murray Jardine explained the concept as the collapse of the idea of neutral, purely objective knowledge...any set of rules inevitably privileges certain individuals, groups, or ways of life, which in turn has led to the despairing conclusion that since reality is ultimately only a chaos of subjective interpretations, no true knowledge is possible. If we're all equals, my opinions and ideas are just as good as anyone else's. If we're all equals, than no one can establish objectivity, structure, or truth. Everything is merely subjective and a matter of perspective, including facts and knowledge. Therefore, because "no true knowledge is possible," the only way to establish order, truth, and structure in human societies is "by sheer power." 

This is where "predicated on power structure" really originates from: there's no legitimate rationale for anything we do in society, so the only reason society functions as it does is because one group is forcing another. One group is bigger and stronger than the other and imposes its will via force on the other.

An example of this is male-female reproductive norms. Traditionally, a man who seduces many women is considered strong and manly, possessing a desirable trait among men. A woman who "sleeps around" is considered loose, and there's a strong societal negative connotation to this behavior. Liberals say this is an arbitrary social construct with no real meaning behind it. This norm originates from the patriarchy, and because men are bigger and stronger than women, they are able to force women into submission. Hence, it's predicated on power structure.

Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that there's meaning behind it. Men have an unlimited supply of sperm, and, biologically speaking, a man can never know if he's the father of the child. The child may look like you, and the child may speak like you, but for all you know, he comes from the milkman. Therefore, men look to reproduce widely. Women have a finite number of reproductive-eggs. Sex, for a woman, is extremely costly because, biologically speaking, it can lead to a baby. Women are vulnerable while pregnant and during labor and recovery and are then saddled with the child up to and often through adolescence. For these reasons, women look to reproduce wisely.

It's in a man's biological hardwiring to want to reproduce with as many women as possible. It's in a women's biological constitution to reject as many advances as possible and find one mate who appears stable and trustworthy.

So now we understand the theory. Now we must ask how this theory manifests itself in practice. Remember, only white men, and to a lesser extent white women, can be racist, appropriate culture, or have privilege.

Take hairstyles, for example. If a white person has dreadlocks and a black woman has blonde highlights, only one is appropriating culture, despite the fact that they're committing a near identical act. The social justice advocate is now endowed with the ability to take the dreadlocks away from the white male while allowing the black woman to keep her highlights. The white male is yanked down, while the black woman remains in her position.

This is the hallmark of the emotion of envy. When it is not about someone rising to the level of another person, but about the lower person yanking the higher person down; when it is not about someone having what another person has, but about the other person not having it altogether; and when it is not about someone winning, but about another losing, we have the epitome of envy.

This is really what social justice is all about. This is really what "predicated on power structure" means at its core. Social justice is envy, masquerading as equity; social justice is envy, disguised as scholarship; social justice is envy weaponized.

The next time a social-justice-warrior begins discussing politics, ask the following question: are we bringing people up, or are we yanking them down? When we bring people up, it's a good thing, but when we yank them down without anyone else benefiting, it's envy. Social justice is weaponized envy, and it's time the world finally understood what it's all about.

Jardine, M. (1988). "Communitarian Thought." In Ed. Peter Lawler and Dale McConkey's Community and Political Thought Today. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers.

Steven Kessler


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