Rich, white, male kid. Drunk driving. Killed and maimed people. Got off with probation because he suffers from “affluenza”. Essentially, he couldn’t help doing it because he was too privileged to know better.
It’s so obvious, really, isn’t it? Shouldn’t even need saying. But. Imagine a black person, a poor person, in the same position. Would they be gently treated because society deprived them? I’m not saying I want a 16 year old kid to be sent to one of those privatised totalitarian hellhole gulags that America calls ‘prisons’ for 20 years (though it would be a sharp lesson for him in what it feels like to be an ethnic minority, since those prisons are mostly stuffed with poor people, who are mostly people of colour). I’m just pointing out the disparity.
Things like that happen in their thousands every day. I could fill up all the free memory Blogger has given me just describing, in the barest terms, things like that which happened in the last week. And these are just anecdotes which illustrate the structural violence that underlies capitalism.
I’ve been told, on occasion, that my politics are “childish”. I decide to take that as a compliment. Look at what passes for serious, mature, adult opinion and then tell me that childish ideas don’t have anything to recommend them. Besides, it’s true. At the root of all my political engagement is a boiling fury at injustice. That’s not a boast; it’s something I can’t help. I read the news every day and ‘that’s not fair’ tolls in my brain again and again. That’s the ultimate childish feeling: that rage at injustice, at unfairness, at double standards. And it’s righteous. When you’re a kid, you’re too young to have learned all the lessons of life that sophisticated adults take for granted: that the world isn’t fair and that’s just the way it is and there’s nothing you can do about it. You’re still naive enough to think life could and should be fair, and to be overcome by anger when it flagrantly isn’t. Like so many childish things, that gets beaten out of most of us, much to our detriment. We could do worse than try to reconnect with that feeling that makes you want to stamp your feet and throw your toys around.
The great advantage of adulthood is that it brings the opportunity to focus that kind of anger at injustice in the right directions, away from oneself and one’s own thwarted whims, towards the people most ill-treated, towards the most egregious double standards.
Of course, I don’t always manage it. I spend a lot of time on my own thwarted whims.