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First World Oppression

Happy Valentine's Day, Yemeni kids! At least you never knew the horror of growing up transgender in Thatcher's Britain (PBS Newshour screenshot)

A note this morning from reader London Harry:

I hope you’re well. I thought you’d be interested by a situation I witnessed earlier this week which, I think, neatly encapsulates how contrary to basic humanitarian principles the radical individualism which suffuses just about everything in modern Britain and America is.

Readers of my contribution to your 2018 series of posts on political mental maps might recall that I’m in my last year at a posh boys’ school in London, and that I broadly affiliate with the liberal Right. My school isn’t at all a bubble of progressive liberalism – in fact, it’s alma mater to more than one eminent Brexiteer – but it does run awareness campaigns on a lot of trendy issues.

It’s LGBTQ+ History Month, but school condensed commemorations down to one week as most boys are currently more preoccupied by GCSE and A-level revision (I write between maths past papers). Last year the overburdened maintenance team unintentionally flew the rainbow flag upside down, which is apparently a Hate Crime. They haven’t repeated the mistake this year.

In Assembly at the start of the week we had two guest speakers. The first was a transgender children’s author. She (male-to-female transitioned) was booked to speak about her experiences growing up under Section 28, the Thatcher-era legislation which banned all discussion of gay and transsexual issues in British schools, and how it’s really important that her genuine childhood traumas aren’t inflicted on the next generation. Fair enough, all things considered.

She spent about twenty seconds on topic before devoting her remaining ten minutes on stage to a passionate celebration of… herself. We learned that she’s very rich, and very famous, and very successful, and very talented. I’m sure I wasn’t alone among audience members in wondering if this woman’s own life story contradicts the idea that transgender Britons face systemic oppression.

The other speaker was from a charity which is contributing to the humanitarian relief efforts in Yemen, home to some of the most authentically oppressed people in the world. The photos of etiolated toddlers he showed us and his request for our school’s assistance in raising funds for basic foodstuffs and medical kit made the former speaker seem not only absurd but tasteless.

This for me sums identity liberalism up. Even if inclusivity, diversity, awareness etc. are boundlessly good things, at the last analysis they do absolutely nothing to alleviate poverty, hunger, squalor and violence in the most hellish parts of this world. Yet today’s social progressives conceive of them as the ultimate end of political action, rather than initial steps towards the greater good. It represents a terrible lowering-of-sights – from the idea that economic elites should actively help people practically unable to help themselves to the idea that they should passively chat about (‘raise awareness’) the plight of middle-class people somewhat lacking in self-belief.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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