Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Most White Privilege-Evoking Song of All Time?

antonius antonius ut mihi

Probably not, but I heard it, or the more uptempo recorded version of it, on the radio the other day and it made me think of it, and I don't remember any other song having that precise effect on me. It does seem to have everything the most socially advanced people truly hate packed into one four minute sequence. And if these same people think white privilege is obnoxious and an obstacle to civilizational advancement now, I guess they can be glad they weren't around in the 40s, because they were really kicking it back then.

I also associate the song with this movie, The Harvey Girls, which I have not seen apart from a few clips on the internet but which in general seems to be a celebratory film about white people pouring almost giddily into the American west and carrying all of the most vulgar aspects of their civilization with them whole hog, oblivious to any idea of respect for nature or the effects on the indigenous population as we would understand those things. The Harvey Girls themselves of course were waitresses in the chain of Harvey restaurants that sprung up along the railroads specially chosen for (and, it might be noted, fondly remembered for over a hundred years later) their whiteness, attractiveness, and feminine pleasantness, the contemplation of the latter two of which is offensive to a whole other host of modern sensibilities. The privilege on display here is most remarkable for its purity. These people really seem innocent of any idea (or at least unconcern about the significance of such ideas, if anyone had them), that they are depicting and celebrating all kinds of things that large numbers of later and more evolved people would consider to be morally, as well as aesthetically, repugnant. The assumptions about the social order, the nature of men and women, the universality of the worldview and peculiar desires of white middle Americans with total unconsciousness of that of anyone else having existence in any kind of serious manner strike us--even me--as almost brazen, insouciant. It's hard to imagine anyone today being able to believably project themselves in quite this extreme manner, at least no one I would ever be likely to encounter.

On the other hand popular culture does project some uncomfortably unconscious, and I suppose heavily 'white' assumptions, in other ways, a lot of which are connected with wealth or other attitudes towards food, health, technology, professionalism, and those kinds of things that a certain segment of the population has gone in for heavily over the last twenty years or so. I don't really relate to these people at all however, and it is almost certainly why I never like any modern movies or books (the Breadloaf conference was full of this over-wealthy, rather languid crowd when I went there too), because they are populated with characters and are written by authors whose mindsets are not recognizable to me in any way.

The white privilege meme seems to be coming up more even in my sheltered life. It think in its current incarnation, being a target of antagonism and disdain, rather than respect and aspiration, it is a wiser move for people like myself, and my children, to embrace it if people insist upon its being an issue rather than to devote ourselves to mitigating its effects. But I am out of time to elaborate more on this now. I probably won't be back until after the new year.

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