The Psychology of Privilege.

My mate Kevin was a privileged white boy. He was so privileged that none of the rules applied to him, like wearing clothes in the street or pissing behind the dumpster if he had to go for a leak and pretty soon he got in trouble with the law. Last time I saw him he’d helped himself to my apartment while I was out and ‘rearranged’ it. It just seemed trashed to me so I threw him out..

oh the ingratitude..

but I was pretty pissed off so I went round to his house at the crack of dawn the next day to find him standing naked in the living room, knee deep in shredded paper, with a can of kerosene in one hand and a box of matches in the other.

Another day in the psychopathology of white privilege.

When I was old enough to look over the steering wheel my father bought me my first car, no MOT, no insurance, no license. Every breach of the rules lost in his bestowing gift.

I abandoned it on the road side within a month. It wasn’t running right so I left it mounted up on the curb, got my stuff out the back and went off to buy a motorbike instead. No license, no experience, no insurance, no helmet. I crossed the first junction on one wheel and very nearly killed a pedestrian on the far side.

I was privileged. I didn’t have to play by the rules. But the almost-accident bought me up short and made me begin to question my entitlement.

Entitlement was what held my parents together, and the racially segregated community of which we were a part. It was their legacy to me and so I soaked it up like you do…

…being all there was on offer.

I began to realize, not only that it was all a con, but that this special-ness and privilege and being exempt from the rules was compensation for lack of love. I was given a pile of ‘Get Out Of Jail Free’ cards in lieu of affection.

It had a lot to do with the intensely patriarchal world in which I was raised. Colonial Rhodesia was an Edwardian garden party of Pimms, boaters and 9mm side arms. It was a man’s world in which women were pegged just a tad above livestock and Nature was just cover for gooks that hadn’t been cleared yet.

No surprise that the Sons of Empire mostly turned out pretty narcissistic, or completely barking like Kevin. Tin pot princelings who’d sell each other out, and their grandmothers, for any extension of rights and status, that would bring on suicidal gestures at the slightest frustration.

The motif at the local monument read, ‘ That Might have Right, and Have it More Abundantly.’

Thing is, such a compensation culture is only pitched a notch or two above what the rest of polite society is still up to. The Feminine is collectively devalued. Nature is there simply for the plundering and conventional religion is an old boy’s club that has been resting on its laurels for so long they’ve mashed it into the upholstery.

What all these Sons of Empire never got was that if the feminine is devalued then so is mothering. Their mothers. Their Ground of Being.

The problem for children in the West is that mother is invariably a dissatisfied woman.   S. de Bouvoir.

If mother is devalued but her face remains the primary mirror for a nascent sense of identity what is the child to experience of itself?

What a baby sees in its mother’s eyes is what baby takes itself to be. If the mirror is broken or distorted then baby is also broken/distorted.

‘The precursor of the mirror is mother’s face. What a child sees there is themselves. What she looks like is what baby takes itself for.’ Whitmont

Going-on-Being is interrupted. Baby cannot move forward. Its not safe enough. There isn’t enough containment. If baby is not in his rightful place, in arms, because Mum is drowning her sorrows, or back at work trying to prove her worth, or off at bingo trying to top up on some girl time, or holding baby but gingerly because she’s had her instincts and self confidence eroded to the point that she’s lost faith in her own abilities, then the need to be in his rightful place, is supplanted by entitlement as though it were the Promised Land…

Moreover, if baby is having to shoulder not only mother’s sense of inferiority,   but also projections of the Self (which mother must export given that society has afforded her no schooling or experience of owning this within her own psyche) then baby is landed with a heady cocktail of not being good enough on the one hand and Mother’s divine image on the other…

which is going to blow his own sense of self out of all proportion.

This ‘privileged child’ is then allowed to behave pretty much as he pleases,  desperate to make up for the very real but denied deprivation – and there you have a recipe for all the petty despotism imagination can conceive. Instead of individuation you have omnipotent fusion, feeling like you’re boss of the world whilst being too afraid to step out of doors, craving adoration whilst refusing intimacy, longing for love whilst not giving a shit about other people.

Its not sustainable and secretly the privileged child knows this. Which means the world feels hostile because something has to give and it sure as hell isn’t going to be himself. He’s managed to project all his shadow onto others but in the process has parted with all his decency and integrity into the bargain. So it seems like the next guy has all the goodies, even if he’s dirt poor.

The unfairness of it all eats him up till he just wants to bring the whole world crashing down in an orgy of envious spoiling. It looks like greed but actually its deeper and more dangerous, hate of anything wholesome, anything that doesn’t need or want his silver spoon, anything that can’t be bought and paid for, love, empathy, tenderness.

So its not just that he wants to be boss. He wants to burn the house down.

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Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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