Tuesday, 27 September 2011

First world problems.

Cross posted from my usual spot.

This may seem to be a similar quality of issue as this is titled but I have a bit of a rant.
The number of people who work well within the sphere of leftwing, humanist, caring, respectful groups blogging and tweeting who continue to choose to use the phrase " white whines" astounds me.
Can they not see how shite it is to be continuing the trope that only white people are that shallow. Or that only white people have that level of privilege, or that only white people will read their twitter and appreciate that they appreciate their privilege and therefore it doesn't count.
I've made a couple of comments on twitter in the hope it would stop. (not that I have any sphere of influence but sometimes these things are picked up on.) But it hasn't.
It's really pissing me off.
Here are some alternatives to 'white whine'
"1st world problems"
"important to me"
"small yet annoying"
"bee in my bonnet"
"yuppy angst"
"Acknowledging my privilege" (yes it may sound pompous but let's be honest about what we are doing here.)

So there ya go.
Short but sweet.
I've left you with a solution, not just the problem.

Off ya go.


stargazer said...

i don't really have a bun in this fight, but none of your alternatives take into account the fact that the majority of the world's wealth and power resides in countries which have a majority white population. there is a racial element to that borne of historical and current reasons. the term "white whine" recognises that in a way that other terms don't.

obviously all white people aren't shallow and non-white people whine about trivial things. but i guess it's like the argument that while all men aren't rapists, not by a long shot, all men benefit from the fact that some men are. i think you could make a similar argument on this issue.

having said all of that, i do sort of agree with what you say. us brown folk don't have a catchy little term for our privileged whines, so yeah, you white people shouldn't have one either! :P

ZenTiger said...

All of that white trash consigned to the dustbins of non-recognition...

katy said...

When I hear people use the term I sometimes wonder if a lot of it is actually about using self-deprecation to show off? In this way it reminds me of American acquaintances who never quite believe that US news/media etc, while influential, is not the centre of the cultural universe in NZ.

"the majority of the world's wealth and power resides in countries which have a majority white population"

Obviously two of the three largest economies now are China and Japan, while China is a new addition and has a larger population, Japan has had a high per capita income for many years with the average person having access to material and social resources out of the reach of the average NZer. However, you would never hear a NZer acknowledge that it might be possible to have a good life in Japan, though presumably the conditions would be even more conducive there to a "white whine". I am also trying to imagine the university students I used to teach or friends in Japan ironically wallowing in their "yellow" privilege but I think first world privilege must take different form in that country.

stargazer said...

take one exception to the general case and pretend like a problem doesn't exist? japan doesn't negate all of africa, asia, middle east. some of which is growing yes, but still they don't have the same level of power and influence on an international scale & the vast majority of them (including china) have a much lower per capita income.

ZT, missing the point. and i'd say your term actually is racist.

Hugh said...

"you would never hear a NZer acknowledge that it might be possible to have a good life in Japan"


katy said...

"take one exception to the general case and pretend like a problem doesn't exist?"

No, that wasn't the point I was trying to make, I was attempting to engage with the discussion. While the concept of Western privilege doesn't fit I do think it is interesting to consider how first world privilege might manifest itself in East Asia.

I notice the way that Japan and more recently urban China tend to be invisible in these kinds of discussions, or when it is argued that they are actually part of the west. However, I don't know that it is useful to ignore, for example, the influence that China's growing wealth gives it in the world and how this might manifest itself in the minds of local people. I have a friend who studies the attitudes of young Japanese to the role of that country in foreign affairs, war, diplomacy etc, it is interesting to consider where the differences are to young people in wealthy "western" countries.

katy said...

Hugh, to be fair that probably applies to all of Asia... and the rest of the world... except maybe Melbourne ;)

Hugh said...

I think you'd have to include South Korea and Taiwan. And when we talk about South Korea AND Taiwan AND Japan AND urban China, we are talking about a pretty enormous number of people. More than the entire population of the USA. I think these people definitely have First World privilege, even if they don't have Western privilege. I've certainly seen it in Japan, although perhaps Japan is unusual in that it's been wealthy longer, so these attitudes have had more time to "bed in".

They may not be part of the West, but they are definitely part of the First World.

katy said...

I wondered about South Korea and Taiwan; while the standard of living is high I wasn't sure about the level of influence that they seek and have internationally, obviously they are both countries that are pretty preoccupied with conflict situations close to home though I guess this also must have an impact on how locals think about material privilege.

Japan and China are more active internationally and travelling in South East Asia, for example, it is difficult not to be struck by the level of engagement there and I understand that it is similar in parts of Africa. JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) is one of the largest aid organisations in the world, for example. Interesting to consider how such investment internationally is sold politically.

In terms of China, obviously there is a big difference between living in Xinjiang and living in Shanghai (which according to the last PISA rankings pretty much has the best education system in the world now in terms of student outcomes), however, people in different parts of the US or UK also have quite different prospects.

Hugh said...

I was really only thinking about wealth, not about international influence etc. On a purchasing power parity basis, Taiwan has actually surpassed Japan in the last year, and South Korea is pretty close.

Regarding international aid, I've actually gone to the trouble of seeking out Japanese narratives about international aid, and sad to say, it's all fairly familiar - there's a lot of barely restrained praise towards Japanese citizens for their generosity and treating the problems of the Third World as extraordinarily simple.

I saw one Junior High textbook in particular which had some really dreadful stuff about a Japanese program to promote literacy in Bangladesh.

katy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
katy said...

"there's a lot of barely restrained praise towards Japanese citizens for their generosity and treating the problems of the Third World as extraordinarily simple"

Yes, this is the point I was trying to make, I wonder if narratives develop in the same way in places where there isn't the same license via aid or investment to develop a sense of superiority and privilege. Note how China has more to say about how the US conducts it's business now, for example.

CJ said...

Stargazer, your comments are racist.

stargazer said...

cj, no they're not.

JC said...

Right Stargazer, because when somebody accuses you of being racist, you examine their argument on its merits, rather than just assuming you can't POSSIBLY be racist because you're SUCH a nice person. I mean, everybody knows racists don't ever work for charities, right?

If you were a little less convinced of your own unimpeachable moral credentials you might get more sincere engagement when you post.

JCCJJCCJ said...

And please don't tell me to "read what I posted", I read it just fine.

Sometimes what you write can be interpreted in ways other than you meant it. That's how most racism starts. Of course you never MEANT to imply one race is worse than another! And we all know intent is what matters, right?

LudditeJourno said...

CJ, JC, JCetc,
at the moment, there is nothing for stargazer to engage with - so asking her to promote "more sincere engagement" is kinda a non-event. What, precisely, are you struggling with in what stargazer has written? In what ways is she arguing that one race is better than another?
Here's my argument - no doubt the economic power base of the world is shifting, as some commenters notice, towards some of the South East Asian economies like Japan and China. But what about other forms of power? Mass media? Ideas of beauty? People who are seen as "important" or influential? Even Hugh the kinda thing you're talking about with the ways we think about "aid" and "development" - influenced by western ideas or South East Asian ones? I'm no expert on this, but seems to me the western white world holds extraordinary privilege in these worlds, despite other global changes.
Now I'm getting off post so I'll stop.

stargazer said...

thanx LJ.

that was exactly the point of my comment cj. you just make an assertion without any evidence or argument and somehow you expect that it should just stand i should just accept it because you say so? my comment was simply highlighting the absurdity of yours.

i didn't say or imply that any race was worse than the other. i simply pointed out that there are historical and current contexts of cultural domination and colonisation. these have happened and are continuing to happen, even if you would like to pretend that they aren't.

Brett Dale said...

I have never heard the term white whine in my life until now, Im guessing a white whine is old people complaining what time Coro Street is on?, that the call centre worker didn't have an english accent? Too much traffic? No blue top milk at countdown??? things that arent important??

What's important to someone is important to them, giving a color to a whiner is probably not good form though.

Hugh said...

LJ, Japan and China aren't in South East Asia. South East Asia is Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia etc.

Having said that I still don't really understand what you're asking me.

Scuba Nurse said...

Just to clarify.
The use of the term white whines tends to be a jokey follow up to "my iphone keeps spell checking the wrong words" or "Im sick of all this travel for work", or similar.
It is great that posts open conversations, but if this goes anyfurther off topic into critisising individual's comments then I will just close the comments. Im working 14 hour days at present and cannot moderate fully.
Please direct comments towards the post, and topic rather than people.

Scuba Nurse said...

and this isnt a handmirror moderation policy, this is mine.
Ive just gotten out of a great dose of depression and will not allow too much negativity around me and my work.

katy said...