Hierarchical Privilege: Is it Inherently Abusive?

Colonist Hierarchy of Shit

In a recent conversation about privilege-clinging, power-overing, and busting down – or working within – the colonist patri-hierarchical system of oppression and exploitation we’re all embedded in, a friend and I agreed that it is the ABUSE of privilege that is the problem.  But on further thought, I’m now wondering if privilege in itself is abuse, exactly because OF the nature of the colonist hierarchy: to “profit” is to exploit; there is just no getting around this.  So to move up the colonist patri-hierarchy one must abuse/exploit/oppress those ‘beneath’ them.

Enter integrity and not “selling out”.  There are people in positions of privilege who genuinely want and try to do some good.  Like lawyers who devote their professional work to trying to legally right some deep wrongs, even though this work is limited due to the oppressive, repressive and rigid colonist nature of the idea and practice of what it calls “the law.”

I am genuinely curious if profit can be made from doing GOOD in this world, i.e. if any good CAN come out of working within the very rigid confines of the colonist patri-hierarchy that has us all by the throats.  I wonder this because money is the “economic” enslaving noose around our necks that is required to survive in today’s world, not because I’m interested in maintaining this dis-eased way of life.

And when I ponder if any good can be done within our dis-eased hierarchical social structure, I am NOT talking about “incremental” changes where people think “something is better than nothing”, because usually that means “something” goes to the privileged, while the dis-privileged are left with “nothing”, as usual.  We have to think creatively, radically, and outside the linear lines and boxes imposed on us by this culture and its values.  And we must give and demand MORE than scraps!

An example:  I had an idea of approaching university classes of economics/commerce students and challenging them to come up with a way to wrestle profit away from the sex paid rape & torture industry by trying to do something GOOD with this industry (only good thing being to destroy it ASAP), like creating sustainable exiting routes OUT of it for prostituted people so they can get their basic needs met (food/shelter/clothing/medical needs/counseling), and skill-building in order to build their lives and walk the unique path they are meant to walk before they got ensnared by prostitution or “sex work” (which, for the vast majority, is neither sex, nor work).

But there isn’t any “profit” in helping people, is there?  This is why fund-raising (scrap-begging) is a full-time (and then some) job for charities and NGO’s.  CAN profit be made from helping people and doing some genuine good in this world (that doesn’t come at the expense of hurting one group while helping another)?  I really want to know this.  I don’t have a capitalist brain, so I challenge those who do to think about this and share your thoughts, if you too want a better world for ALL of us.

Those who hold positions of privilege among the colonist-hierarchy cling on to it quite hard when asked to give some of it up so that their lesser-privileged sisters and brothers can get a leg up.  This is understandable, especially when people’s identities are wholly tied to their class/economic status.  But it doesn’t have to be this way.  It doesn’t kill us to give up some power/privilege.  In fact, it is one of the most rewarding things we can do, because it’s a mutually beneficial act.  Giving up power/privilege means stepping down a rung of the hierarchy (through giving of not only “charity” but also opportunities) in order for those whose throats we must step on in order TO be on ‘top’, can move up a little bit.  If everyone near the ‘top’ did this (at all rung levels), the hierarchy would dissolve, and we’d be walking the talk of egalitarianism.

I want to know IF this is possible, and if so, HOW?  I emotionally and spiritually tire of dissecting all the wrongs of this sick culture; while recognizing and naming what is wrong is very important, it is only half the equation, and we must look to SOLUTIONS and what DOES work, then DO IT.  The solutions are likely outside of the dis-easesd culture we’re trapped in, which is why I privilege Indigenous worldviews, which are radically different from colonist ones in pretty much every way possible.  But getting back to tribal, primitive living (versus euro-colonist, so-called “civilized” but truly savage living) is very difficult given that violence is used to maintain the current colonist status quo.  I want to be wrong.  Maybe I’m thinking too linearly or black and white about this.  Maybe it’s not as rigid as the hierarchies we’re stuck in make us believe.

So how about my challenge about if/how we can profit from the dismantling of the sex trade, and other overall ways we can concretely and practically help eachother out of our individual and collective cultural hell?  Thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “Hierarchical Privilege: Is it Inherently Abusive?

  1. wileywitch says:

    One of the primary problems for all people who have to work for a living is economic rent. Without world leaders taking down banks and a debt holiday, the costs of space will always be an issue. You can’t live in the U.S. and most Western cities on a dollar a day. You may not pay more than a dollar yourself, but all the land is usually property. Except for churches, that here anyway, aren’t really doing too much for the poor and dispossessed to help them OUT of their situations. They sometimes trickle down a little.

    There was a wealthy man in Houston who donated land to the city with the stipulation that no one could be arrested for vagrancy there. I stayed in Hermann (sp?) park one night. The most stable group living there was a group of Viet Nam veterans. The veterans “policed” the park—- meaning they picked up litter and cigarette butts— they didn’t leave anything around themselves, and were very considerate of the fact that it was everyone’s park. They had lived there for years. They all did day labor, and stayed in a hotel now and then. One of them had a “hooch” he had made in an island of pampas grass. No one would know it was there if he hadn’t shown them. There was actually a good amount of space in it, and he could leave his stuff in there when he went out.

    They watched over me, told me the rules, and took me with them to a local church for breakfast (ramen (edible “shit”) and beverages in plastic bottles that were called out by their color).

    A street was on the Herman land, too. A mentally ill man had been living on that median/berm for seven years when I saw him. A middle-classed man I spent some time with told me how long he’d been there, said sometimes he would disappear for a week or two then be right back there.

    • Feminist Rag says:

      Hi wileywitch. Interesting story about the park. What you say reminds me of what Native Activist and decolonist John Trudell was saying in the 70’s, and what Native people have known from day 1 of European invasion: that it’s all about the Land. There are radically different concepts of living with the land between cultures, where Indigenous people generally see Land as a gift that must be worked with and shared, with no concept whatsoever of “ownership”, whereas the predatory colonist mentality/culture is all about theft and conquest and “property” and “ownership”, which begins with the Land, and trickles down and infects every single aspect of life and how we live, right down to the kind of sex we have, like in the case of prostitution, and men thinking they can pay for ownership of female bodies by the hour. The dominant euro-colonist culture is so dis-eased and so wrong, and its language of English is so limiting and loaded to try to think our way out of it. I often get overwhelmed thinking about it all as I wonder how I can escape prisons that are in my tiny little life, while always aware that other people have much worse prisons.

  2. “Sex industry.”

    You must mean commercialized rape.

    Survivors of prostitution are the only people who experience severe, long-term PTSD at a higher rate than combat veterans.

    Who flips burgers because it’s so enriching and rewarding and fulfilling and challenges their human capacity? So few that the first person who suggests it’s in any way representative of the human population in general can expect to be asked how it’s worked out for them.

    No, it’s done to pull a wage – a wage that does not compensate the tedium, the boredom, the burn splatters, asshole coworkers, absurd shifts, and the bosses that perpetuate all of this, let alone the time – precious time, one of a handful of truly finite things in life.

    Prostitution is a lot like this, except it happens inside your body. It means agreeing to cooperate with someone who’s “in the mood;” whether or not you are is irrelevant. Your sexual interest in the buyer is unnecessary. Ultimately, they are renting your body so they can use it as a masturbation meatsock.

    Privilege. You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

    Privilege is simple; it exists in the void created by infringing on the rights of others. It occupies the space where someone else’s rights belong.

    For example, I have the human right to not have anything put in my body I don’t want there, period. Whether or not my access to my right is infringed upon to create privilege – in this case, the privilege to reduce me to an incredibly elaborate masturbation aid and use me accordingly, discarding me after (victims of prostitution are the definition of disposable) – is beside the point. I have that right. Like all rights, it is a human right, and it is perfectly universal. It requires those who purchase human bodies for consumption be willing to conflate cooperation with consent to do so; this allows them to avoid an uncomfortable, unflattering reality of what they are doing.

    Because the power to force access to my body at their convenience is why. It allows the client to “feel” their own “power” – which is only experienced relative to my subjugation.

    The more powerless I am, the more profoundly forced to ignore my will and accept theirs even temporarily, moving around inside my body – the more fun for him.

    And it sounds like you haven’t heard of the Swedish model.

    The Swedish model redefines victims of prostitution as exactly that: victims of violent crime. Clients are socially punished with stigma, or assessed incredibly steep fines. Anyone found acting as a pimp/madame or otherwise coercing victims of prostitution is charged with a set of far more serious violent crimes.

    And if the Swedes copied a line from Merseyside and declared all crimes against victims of prostitution to be hate crimes, I’d be booking my flight already.


    • Feminist Rag says:

      Hi screaming banshee, love your name, and loved every word of your brilliant, haunting, and bang-fucking-on commentary.

      Commercialized rape industry is exactly it — I’ve corrected my terminology in the OP, thank you.

      Re. privilege: I think both of our hearts are in the right place around this concept, and I think you very clearly & coherently hit it where you say “Privilege is simple; it exists in the void created by infringing on the rights of others. It occupies the space where someone else’s rights belong.” Love this.

      I am familiar with both the Swedish model and the Merseyside model, and though I support both of these with all my heart, as I said in my post, I see “the law” as a colonist tool of oppression, repression and depression which is never about prevention and all about punishment. Law does not address the core rot that springs forth as desire within dis-eased men so deeply disconnected from their humanity that they think it’s okay to pay for the “privilege”, “power” and “access” to rape and torture girls and women for their selfish, sexual greed that that they think is sex. Law doesn’t fix or address that kind of Spiritual/mental/emotional sickness. Culturally radical paradigm shifts do, which I suppose begins with individuals. Which all takes time. That said, I think the legal language of hate crimes is brilliant to use for prostitution because if we can challenge the predatory colonists with their very own legal rules and definitions and frameworks, then they have to comply. Unless they decide to move the goal posts, which happens a lot when oppressors are caught with their pants down. But one step at a time, we can’t predict the future, we can only work with what we have now, and keep dreaming BIG, and working towards those dreams, and sharing and building on them with others.

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