I enjoyed this post by Max Rashbrooke on writer James Patterson and podcaster Joe Rogan, both of whom claim to be oppressed by woke activists.
These are perilous days indeed for a near-billionaire author who outsells Stephen King and Dan Brown combined, and for his fellow victim, the host of a podcast downloaded 200 million times a month. But jibes like this, though satisfying, only get us so far.
Rogan and Patterson are expressing a fear increasingly held by older males: that society no longer seeks their views. Indeed, they feel their opinions to be scorned and denigrated.
As the cliché goes, when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. But Rashbrooke makes a more nuanced point, which is that what these highly privileged and successful figures describe as “silencing” is not what’s being asked of them.
For the most part, though, what I hear is a request for something subtly different: humility. It’s not the speaking that’s the problem, it’s the dominating: the need of so many men to hold forth at length, to speak over others, to assume theirs is the most interesting and most important voice.
As I wrote about Lizzo the other day, what is often described as cancel culture isn’t; it’s people asking high profile figures to try and be better people. But all too often the response of the person criticised, particularly if he’s a cisgender straight white man, is to throw his toys out of the pram. Heaven forfend anybody point out that he’s incorrect, or that the world is more complex than he understands it to be. As Rashbrooke puts it:
for a certain class of highly educated men, the speaker’s authority is all – or most – of what they have. Strip that away, and they are left bare, exposed, even humiliated.
Humiliation is a horrible feeling. But the reaction to it by highly privileged people demonstrates that for them, it’s also a rare feeling – whereas for the marginalised groups they complain about or in some cases even attack, it’s everyday reality.
This frightens them deeply because they, like us all, are social beings, reliant on the regard of others; not to be heard is almost not to exist. (A point, of course, that traditionally marginalised groups have often made.)