Straight old white man
Stan Grant (wonderful man) is currently hosting One on One on the ABC. He is exploring the notion of IDENTITY with various more than interesting guests. It has made me think about what sort of tribe I identify with, it has made me think about who am I as a human being, it has made me think about who am I?
On the surface I am a straight old white man. Gosh … on the surface … so easy to vilify. Think Trump. Think Putin. Think Australian CEO’s. Think power imbalances, think historical power elites who use their strength and financial power to keep out the ‘others’ and protect their own entitlement.
But that is not me.
I look at my skin. It is white. I look at my age. I am old. I look at my sexual orientation … it is straight. Big fucking deal … none of that defines who I am as a human being.
Because of my appearance people tag me in a certain way. A privileged person. A person who has benefited from the early brutal invasion of Australia that demolished a beautiful and wonderful Aboriginal culture.
Yet … yet … yet. I was born on this land in 1952. I am of this land. I know no other land. Early last year when I drove out to Uluru and placed my hand on the Rock it spoke to me and it accepted me and it said (no matter how you got here) you are of this land. The Red Dirt is under my fingernails, the air of this land is in my lungs. This is my land and I am part of it. I do not belong anywhere else. I have nowhere to go back to.
I am a Survivor of extreme childhood sexual abuse. If you simply see me as a straight old white man then you are dithering yourself in stupidity.
Your skin colour means nothing to me. Your sexual orientation means nothing bad to me. The nature of your heart … however … ah … that’s where we start to address the real things.
If you have a good heart … then you are of my Tribe.
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I’ve been following a program on SBS/Viceland called Alone where individuals are dropped in remote parts of this planet with basic survival gear and the one who lasts longest wins a cash prize.
There’s no faking, this is reality TV at its best and the individuals do all their own film recording – they are alone to confront the elements and nature and to survive !
What comes through is that no matter how experienced we as individuals may be at survival techniques,no matter how we may shun the rest of the world. After a few weeks of being alone we start to miss people, particularly the people who are closest to us but overall it demonstrates how we are tribal creatures. How we need each other to survive, that men and women complement each other and that small groups of people working together can ease the burden of survival on the individual : that the family unit can be a source of strength and resilience.
It illustrates, sometimes graphically, that for us to survive other creatures have to die and that is a proposition that is not always easy to confront.
At this testing time we need each other more than ever, but wear a mask and wash your hands and don’t eat each other.
Take it easy all !
Keith, I am not going to diminish your suffering, or the harm that has been done to you. There is, however, a simple truth I wish to point out here to all who may read this.
Refusing to see colour is a refusal to see the extra difficulties society imposes on those who are not white. Refusing to see sexual orientation, or gender, or disability, or many other differences, is also a refusal to see the added difficulties society imposes on those people. You think being a straight white man hasn’t made your life easy, but think for a moment how much harder it would have been if you were neither straight, nor white, nor a cis male.
That is what privilege is: not what you experience, but what you don’t.
I wish you all the best and hope you find some peace in your ongoing journey through life.
Hi leefe … thanks for your comment. Identity is such an interesting and personal thing & I’m really enjoying the Stan Grant series. Viewing it reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago … I’d penned an article about the Invasion of Australia and an Indigenous person wrote in with some humour to say that the article was a pretty good effort by a Typical Old White Man.
Naturally, it made me think, well, what is a typical old white man? Is my identity, is how I see myself, defined by what somebody else says my identity is?
It is not a case that I refuse to see or acknowledge certain realities regarding colour/gender/disability … my eyes can see those things … and my brain understands the difficulties that society imposes on people. As well, there’s no point denying that if anybody sees me shuffling about in the Supermarket I visually present as a skinny old white man. But that is not my identity … that is simply what I look like. The disabilities I carry from my earlier lived experiences are certainly quite personally annoying and while they certainly shaped my identity in part they are not the full sum of ‘who’ I am.
When I meet someone for the first time (a reasonably rare event because I’m quite a hermit), yes, I do see the visual picture they present … shape, size, eye colour, skin colour, hair colour, gender, happy face, sad face, and all of that … but none of that tells me ‘who’ they are. Finding out the ‘nature’ of a person can often be a wonderful experience.
You are dead right about something leefe … because I was born white on this country, and I had no choice in that matter, certain things like race discrimination are not part of my daily lived experience … I don’t know personally what it feels like to be judged all the time because of the colour of my skin. Other people do know what it feels like on a daily basis.
Being a white man in this country has not made my life hard. Other things made my life hard. You are right about the wrongness of the inherent privilege thing.
Appearance defines who you are to Australia’s definition of ‘society’ (thatcher’s) and white male is top dog in every corner of Australia. There are a few places where he only thinks he is but even there a black male has white society’s stamp of power and accordingly its disapproval ergo intervention and retrenchment of the stereotype of Aborigines as one ‘tribe’. As long as they keep their mouth shut europeans are one tribe but Aborigines are hundreds of tribes and hundreds of different appearances. Yet are not treated as individuals for that is bestowed by old white men on themselves and young white men.
Why ‘ nothing bad to me’. I spend 3/4 weeks with 2 families of conservatives and homophobes. They only see the sex and miss completely the love. It is so tragic.
Nailed it, Keith. Beautifully written.
Was once taught by a leading psychologist that we are born with an empty brain. She describes it as a birdcage. From our first breath, we take all around us into the cage. Over time we learn to put the information in order. Over time, this information forms who we are. Good things happen, bad things happen. Makes us all different. With the right insight, the help of others, we can learn not to let the bad control us. We do have choices. Not easy, as I damn well know.
Useful to contemplate whether you would be writing here like this, despite early sexual abuse, had you been born Aboriginal female, for whom it is after all routine. Along with little or no education( writing) and a life of endless childbearing and work (no time for self)
“If you have a good heart … then you are of my Tribe.”
One of nature’s miniscule minorities, that tribe of yours.
Presser#1 is typical, introducing another, but equally valid, topic in an attempt to diminish you and your posting.
Is it not good enough to take each matter on its own merits without the oneupmanship of: “yes but…”
No “…good heart…” there, but typical of the behaviour of a huge portion of human society.
In this season of manufactured “goodwill” I nevertheless wish you all the Very Best for the Festering Season and the coming years.
You’ve got a lot of ‘blessings’ to catch up on 😉
Yes, beautifully written, Keith, Thanks for sharing! 🙂
Hi Wam … given your love of Space … did you see the ‘conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn? I did not. Regards Keith
Hi Pressor#1 … white/black, male/female, many people have shared my experience. Our communal hearts know what it feels like. Dead sure you and I could have a very honest conversation. Regards Keith
Male, pale and stale? That’s me so I don’t go out if I can help it. That way I don’t meet people and don’t need an “Identity.” Try staying home – it has sure helped me cope with all the guilt that everyone heaps on me.