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Ian O'Doherty: 'The idea of 'privilege' is just original sin by another name'


Painful tragedy: David Cameron's six-year-old son Ivan lost his life to Ohtahara syndrome a year before Cameron became UK prime minister

Painful tragedy: David Cameron's six-year-old son Ivan lost his life to Ohtahara syndrome a year before Cameron became UK prime minister

Painful tragedy: David Cameron's six-year-old son Ivan lost his life to Ohtahara syndrome a year before Cameron became UK prime minister

This has been a rather difficult week for British newspapers, although they won't be receiving much sympathy from their readers.

The Sun has once more provoked more calls for a boycott following their story about the murder of two of cricketer Ben Stokes' family in New Zealand.

The Guardian would normally be the first to go after The Sun. After all, they seem to despise the average Sun reader - it being a pro-Leave paper catering for the working class and all that. In this instance they were so busy covering their own backsides they couldn't find the time to climb up to their preferred seat at the top of  moral high ground.

The reason? Well, in one of the most tone-deaf editorials in years, they decided to sneer at David Cameron. Nothing wrong with that, you might say - and under normal circumstances you'd be right.

But in this instance, the paper attacked him... over the death of his son. His new autobiography discusses Ivan, who was born with a neurological condition, Ohtahara syndrome, which finally claimed the boy's life when he was just six years old.

He writes that: "Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for the reality of losing your darling boy this way. It was if the world stopped turning."

The uniquely painful tragedy of having to bury your own child is so awful and almost incomprehensible that it can usually be expected to soften even the hardest hearts and cause an outbreak of empathy.

Not at the The Guardian, however, which wrote: "Mr Cameron has known pain and failure in his life but it has always been limited failure and privileged pain. His experience of the NHS, which looked after his severely disabled son, has been that of the better functioning and better funded parts of the system."

Then, just in case anyone thought they might have any shred of sympathy, they added that he might be better able to understand the impacts of his policies, "if he had to look after a dying parent rather than a dying child".

It was breathtaking stuff; vast in its arrogance and flamboyant in its lack of even the most basic humanity.

On the other hand, it also introduced us to a new phrase, "privileged pain".

Do rich people not feel pain at the death of a child? Are those who weren't born into excruciating poverty not allowed to have emotions and feelings?

Following the inevitable backlash, the paper removed the offending lines from the website and said it "fell below our editorial standards", but seeing as it was written as an official editorial, it would appear that they have a loose grasp of who decides those standards.

But we should also remember that such a pretty vile sentiment didn't just pop out of the ether. That's because 'privilege' has now become the most weaponised word in the English language.

Usually hurled by bitter inadequates of no consequence or achievement, here's how the politics of privilege plays out - if you're a straight, white male, you're at the bottom of the hierarchy of suffering because you're the beneficiary of "white male privilege".

Straight white women are next on the list, and while they can complain about straight men, gay men, in turn can complain about those women enjoying their "hetero-privilege". On the other hand, gay women can then accuse gay men of being the beneficiary of "male privilege". Still with me? Good, because there's more.

Transgender people can accuse absolutely everyone else of having some form of 'privilege' which is denied to them. In fact, trans-activist Munroe Bergdorf even had the chutzpah to assert that "you can be homeless and still have white privilege".

That must be great comfort to the tens of thousands of homeless people who can settle down in the splendour of their cardboard box, taking comfort from the fact that they are benefiting from their skin colour.

This is what happens when a society becomes divided along tribal lines.

It's also a reminder that while the West is now a culture largely removed from traditional religion, we still have certain psychological needs.

After all, blaming someone for being born into a particular set of circumstances is about as textbook a description of original sin as you can find. 

Just like original sin, you must also go through a process of repentance to atone for your privilege, which I assume in this case means giving Munroe Bergdorf your cardboard box and apologising for your life of luxury.

The reason they wrote those lines about Cameron was because that is the way whole swathes of the intelligentsia now discuss things - through the medium of 'privilege' and, like some twisted version of Maslow, the hierarchy of acceptable suffering.

But as they discovered to their hugely entertaining (for us, anyway) embarrassment, those of us who still live in the real world, as opposed to the crazed fever-dream environment of the painfully woke, see such notions of 'privilege' as a load of obvious nonsense spouted by cynics and believed by fools.

Then again, I suppose as a straight, white man, I would say that, wouldn't I?

Indo Review