Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Pop: The Ladder of Discrimination and abuse of suffering

Discrimination is bad, we have that drummed into us wherever possible. But there are often more repercussions when we act unsavourably towards certain, pre-defined groups of people. In short, there is a hierarchy to discrimination. I, as a woman, can say whatever I like about men and nobody would really care. I can use the 'man flu' line, I can claim no man ever goes to a doctor, I can claim that all men are rapists and nobody would contradict me. Men are at the bottom of the discrimination ladder. As far as I can tell, this is because they are generally blamed for all types of discrimination that happened in the past. Men as a social group are perceived to have held every last drop of power in the past and as a reaction, abuse towards them has stopped being considered abuse. This has spread down to individuals and so it has become okay to attack one man with generalisations about the gender in general, in a way that we would never be able to do to any members of any other group. 

They’ve dropped so far down in fact that we don’t even consider it discrimination. Whether the situation is legal or political or anything else, society is split into two, normal and others. Normal refers to men, while others refers to the other group in question, which is the group that we have to care about. For example, domestic violence is in general considered an awful horrible thing when it happens to a woman. When a woman hits a man in a home, its assault. Still considered a crime yes but treated as the normal standard crime, whereas when it happens to the other group – women – it suddenly becomes something special and different. The same is true of rape, which tends to be referred to as sexual assault when committed by a woman on a man. Or to put it another way, we consider a crime towards a man to be normal violence, the thing that men commit towards each other, and we add variable amounts of severity to this violence depending on the height of the victim on the discrimination ladder. 

Race is also an important consideration on the ladder, and brings with it important considerations regarding the term equality. It is considered to be a step towards equality in society that groups are allowed which block the admittance of white people, because black people are being empowered. Of course it's white people they have the problem with, so if you can prove that you’re not bog standard basic white but you in fact have a different ethnicity that just happens to look white, you’ll be included in the anti-white group – they want to be equal after all. Groups such as the National Black Police Association are allowed to exist because society doesn’t consider it a bad thing to segregate against white people, as long as this action is being undertaken by somebody higher on the ladder. 
Where a person from a lower rung on the ladder dares speak too loudly about the abuse they are suffering due to their skin colour, terms such as reverse racism will be employed to successfully put them in their place. I’ve spoken before about receiving an email from the person in charge of Operation Black Vote, considered a respectable fighter for equality, who capitalises 'Black' and not 'white' in his correspondence. The interesting thing about this email was that he appealed to my position on the ladder, by saying ‘Women's organisations often address inequality for women, thankfully they are not called sexist, but too often when organisations such as ours seek to address those inequalities that hold people back for no other reason than the colour of their skin, we are called racist.’ This is an attempt to appeal to the discrimination I must obviously suffer because I’m a woman, and a declaration that his discrimination is worse than mine. He’s higher up the ladder because skin colour supersedes gender. 

While I would never try to claim that black people don’t suffer racism, I think it’s important to recognise that white people suffer racism too and it is just as bad and just as painful to deal with. By allowing only one group of people to segregate against the other, we perpetuate the problem and ensure that we always have to treat skin colour as something important and something that matters. Another level to this is people with skin colour like mine. My skin is as pale as the average black person is dark. I can’t wear make-up, because companies don’t cater to my skin colour and I was regularly bullied for being so pale, with nicknames given to me based on this unchangeable characteristic of mine. But what I experienced wasn’t racism, it was just bullying, despite that fact that it was my skin colour and therefore my race that I was being picked on for.  It’s not even considered high on the bullying scale, because I’m considered to ‘look unhealthy’ even by medical professionals and so any abuse directed towards me is simply justified because I haven’t done something to change the shade of my skin. Essentially, my skin colour is very very low on the discrimination scale.

A common one in society today is money. Suffering that happens to a person who has not very much money is worse than suffering that happens to a person with a lot of money. Even if this has nothing at all to do with their wealth and the problem itself is unrelated, the very fact that they have money diminishes their claim. Poor people are encouraged not to take any blame at all for their situation, and are also encouraged to blame the rich and powerful. If their child can’t eat, it’s the rest of the world’s fault for being unequal and not their fault for bringing a mouth into the world that they couldn’t feed. If they drink too much, it’s the alcohol’s fault for being addictive and not their fault for drinking it. The common argument here is that they have to have something to make them happy, ignoring the fact that the money they spend on getting pissed could be spent crawling out of the hole they’re in. But this is an important side to the ladder of discrimination. When a person is put on a high enough rung they become immune from responsibility. They are left on such a high pedestal that even the very suggestion that they may have some blame for their situation is counted as a form of discrimination.

Every characteristic that we hold moves us a little up or a little down. If we smoke we move down because smokers are evil. If we’re fat we move down because fat people are government approved targets of our bile. Mothers fly up the ladder, as do the elderly. It’s interesting how many things are applied as labels to the young with impunity. Your job can have an effect on it, because a celebrity's actions are considered more important than us regular people’s actions and equally if we hold a job considered as lower class then we rise up the ladder while doctors and skilled professionals are often considered to be in a position where they need to be pulled down a peg or two.

To summarise, the ladder of discrimination works under the following rules: Your level on the ladder determines who you are allowed to abuse because anybody lower than you is fair game. The severity of a crime committed towards you is dependent on your position in the ladder – the difference between violence and a hate crime, or sexual assault and rape is dependent on where your group is positioned. How much you are allowed to suffer in a certain situation is fully dependent on it, because the less discrimination towards us matters the better our lives are perceived to be. Changing attitudes of the time are very important, because we have more or less sympathy based on what the government and the media tell us we hate at the moment. And finally, the higher a person is, the more immune they become from responsibility leading to an inability to accept any blame for any situation they find themselves in.

The truth is that we cannot fairly say who suffers more because we are all very different people. If I cut my arm, that might cause me as much pain as it would to cut another person’s leg off. If someone calls me nuts, that might hurt me so much I want to kill myself whereas to everyone else it might mean nothing. I have listened to people say that rich people shouldn’t be allowed to talk about the plight of the poor because they have money and so they could never understand suffering, they have no right to claim that they have suffered. But we are all affected in different ways and it is unfair of any of us to declare that our suffering matters more than somebody else’s. We live in our own heads and have no claim over the feelings of anyone else. Just because we perceive somebody to be in a group that is discriminated against does not mean that they hold the monopoly on suffering or that what they feel is worse. Every single situation should be considered equal in terms of suffering; whether it’s a paper cut or the death of a child because we have no right to claim our feelings are in any way more important.

At the same time, we shouldn’t be allowed to claim that discrimination against us is any worse than discrimination against another group. It shouldn’t matter how many people have died in the past, and it shouldn’t matter whether you are the minority or the majority. There should not be a ladder of discrimination, it’s appalling that anybody could consider abuse towards somebody more or less important based on something as silly as weight, or inhalation of chemicals or skin colour. The very fact that we consider violence as more or less important depending on which characteristic of the person has been singled out, is sick. Why should it matter that someone got beaten up because they’re black? Isn’t it more important that they got beaten up? Shouldn’t we all be equal under the law whatever we look like or however we choose to live our lives? Shouldn’t Blip and I receive the same protection whichever one of us hits the other? 

The goal of life should not be to climb higher than anyone else, riding the waves of popularity for our inborn and innate characteristics, until we can reach the magical immune status at the very top of the ladder where we can do whatever we like and make it everyone else’s fault unless we can at least finally admit to ourselves that all human beings want is power over everyone around them and even the nicest seeming person would step over anybody who gets in their way in order to achieve it. 


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