I am a white, 50-something, male. Tried not to be but failed miserably. Trouble is, you see, I'm white, I'm 50-something and I'm male. How did it happen? No-one knows. There I was one minute, rolling through my 40s; blissfully unaware of any negative stereotyping. Next? I join a group that's blamed for 97 per cent of all global problems, from the tyranny of racism to the blight of misogyny. I'm pretty much a symbol of everything wrong with the world.
Not that I'm complaining. Perish the thought. Was once sent on a seven-week assignment to the Caribbean, arriving only to find all my luggage had been lost en route. All there was left were the clothes I was wearing, and my laptop bag and phone. Did anyone back home give a hoot? "Who cares - you're in the Caribbean", was the response. Wasn't until I sat back down and had a rum cocktail that I realised they were right. Who cares when you're in paradise?
Feels a bit like that in the world of the white, 50-something male. I mean, you dare not complain when the entire environment seems so tailor-made for your comfort. Yes, things might have changed a little but not nearly enough to reverse the decades of privilege doled out to this group. Many WFSMs still benefit from the selfishness of our white 50-something forefathers. To whinge about discrimination would be churlish.
On the other hand, it's been fascinating to be judged on something so completely random, and so outside one's control. Viewpoints attacked, stances decried and protests dismissed, wholly or partly because of the combination of gender, skin colour and age. To be white, male and 50 is like winning the treble, only - instead of a bucket of cash - the prize is widespread scorn. Or maybe it's the bucket of cash and the scorn. Guess that's the issue.
Still, it's a silly way to look at things. Especially when you consider today's WFSM's were born between 1953 and 1962. The earliest (such as John Minto) were 22 years of age when Rob Muldoon became PM; the most recent were 22 when he was finally rolled. Many fought the authorities of the day on abortion rights, homosexual reform, welfare, the 1981 Springbok tour and New Zealand's nuclear-free status. Hardly establishment men.
Seems many of us have our own take on WFSM syndrome. The other day an anti-abortion campaigner accused me of suffering from it because I supported the right for pregnant women to choose. Reckoned it was typical of WFSMs - just trying to arrange society for their own particular convenience. That's right: forget those who want to ram their personal convictions down others' throats; the real concerns are the WFSMs who support choice.
It still seems faintly absurd, really, having your views weighed, not on merit or reason but against an arbitrary demographic to which you belong. It's a bit like hearing people dismiss arguments on the basis of "PC madness". The last cry of the truly desperate. The Coarse Art of Debating, chapter one: When all attempts at justifying a stance have failed, best simply smear your opponent on the grounds of some utterly illogical stereotype.
Anyway, would like to put this on the record: I'm really not sorry for being a WFSM. True, would definitely prefer to be a white, 40-something male and I'm happy to not yet be a white, 60-something male. But you have to play with the cards you're dealt. Just happens that I'm white, 50-something and male. A symbol of tyranny and injustice? Maybe, in some people's eyes. But at least they have a choice.
» Read more of Richard Boock in the Sunday Star Times.
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- Auckland Now