Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting

The Winklevoss Twins
Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, as played by Armie Hammer in The Social Network. I'm well aware that these two are even more priviledged than your average Straight White Male, but they are the perfect illustration. I'm also aware of the hyper-realistic implications of choosing to illustrate the point with a picture from a stylised film, rather than a picture of the actual Winklevoss twins. Umberto Eco has written whole books on this subject.

Via Kottke, a fantastic explanation of white male ‘privilege’ using the metaphor of role-playing games. If ity hasn’t already become a meme, then it should be.

Okay: In the role playing game known as The Real World, “Straight White Male” is the lowest difficulty setting there is.

This means that the default behaviors for almost all the non-player characters in the game are easier on you than they would be otherwise. The default barriers for completions of quests are lower. Your leveling-up thresholds come more quickly. You automatically gain entry to some parts of the map that others have to work for. The game is easier to play, automatically, and when you need help, by default it’s easier to get.

It’s essentially a pop-culture way of thinking about John Rawl’s ‘veil of ignorance‘ from as described in his Theory of Justice. I think this will be useful for debates around political correctness, like the Diane Abbott palaver a few months ago.

Formerly, the meta-data for this blog was simply “white middle class heterosexual English man” which was my attempt to make a similar point. See also, this piece of juvenalia where I spoke of the British as “privileged, Platinum-Plus humans”, a line I now realised I subconsciously ripped off from The Onion. Indeed, The Onion followed up on the theme with the fantastic ‘Judge Rules White Girl To Be Tried As Black Adult‘ sketch.

Update

At the New Statesman, a report on a growing “men’s rights” movement.

Neal Stephenson Misses a Trick

Neal Stephenson, by Flickr user jeanbaptisteparis

I’ve just finished REAMDE, Neil Stephenson’s latest tome. It continues his tradition of book titles which look like words from the dictionary, but aren’t, like Cryptonomicon and Anathem. It also continues the welcome trope of being centred around geeky heroes: Lawrence Waterhouse (codebreaker) and Randy Waterhouse (programmer) in Cryptonomicon; Erasmus/Ras, the science-monk in Anathem.

All three books have elements of the thriller genre about them. In all three stories the main characters find themselves forced to trek halfway across the globe (and beyond) to save the world and their own lives. Furthermore, the protagonists use their skills to affect the outcome of their adventure. However, REAMDE compares unfavourably to the other two books, in that these technical skills are secondary to the more worldly talents of gun fighting. It therefore reads much more like a Tom Clancy process thriller, than a book that examines the implications of new ideas and technologies on how we think. Continue reading “Neal Stephenson Misses a Trick”