Ben Shapiro and the culture of conservative privilege

I remember reading the quote in which Ben Shapiro said "People who are poor their entire lives are just bad with money." Then there was the classic that if sea levels rose and started flooding homes in coastal cities, people could just "sell their houses and move" because apparently Aquaman is in the homeowners market (thanks, hbomberguy). And then recently was the comment that if a job isn't paying a living wage, you should just go get a higher paying job - like higher incomes are something you just go out and get, like milk and cheese or a MAGA hat. Shaprio called working for less than a living wage "a you problem."

The stupidity and willful ignorance of such comments should be so obvious as to not even require discussion. And yet, here we are. And tempting though it may be to pin Shaprio as uniquely obtuse, these comments show a trend that's prevalent in right-wing media: the struggles of the poor and working class are consistently framed as a failure of self-actualization. If black people are disproportionately poor, it's because of their "culture" or their attitude - not because of 200 years of systemic discrimination. If you're poor, it's because you don't work hard enough or because you aren't smart enough. If you take government assistance, it's because you're a lazy moocher taking from hardworking people and you just don't want to get a "real" job - or a job at all.

Conservatives regularly deny the existence of privilege, systemic discrimination, sexism, and racism. It's a dying cadre of (mostly) older (mostly) white (mostly) men who were born on third base and think they hit a triple. They're unable and/or unwilling to see past the limitations and biases of their personal circumstances. If I can be wealthy, why can't everyone? If I don't fear the police, why should anyone? If I work a job that pays a living wage, surely anyone else could if they just decided to!

This isn't just a myopic denial of reality. It's a tacit and passive form of racism, sexism, and classism. Conservatives don't think they're racist because they aren't burning crosses and using racist epithets; they don't think they're sexist because they think woman and men are just living out biologically (divinely?) ingrained "roles"; they don't think they're classist because they believe poor people wouldn't be poor if they were just smarter and/or harder working. But they're happy to continue to benefit from a system that has disenfranchised millions of minorities, women, and poor people.

Denying the very existence of these inequalities and mocking those who call attention to them is a last-ditch defense mechanism for their eroding influence in an increasingly diverse and liberal society. If you've seen the statistics on where political affiliation lies by age and demographic, you know that simple demographic shifts and dying boomers will dramatically shift the political landscape leftward in the coming decades.

Ben Shapiro is an obnoxious fool, but he's also the product of decades of conservative culture: denial of privilege, persecution complexes, opposition to reform rooted in the misguided notion that every ounce of their success was a result of their own willpower rather than a society that favors them at the expense of others.

They won't go away, because they aren't interested in dialogue, in empathy, in compassion. But they'll be made irrelevant, and the influence of their willful ignorance will slowly fade into obsolescence. The current rise of right-wing authoritarianism is a reactionary response to the dwindling power and influence of white Christian men. It's the last fits and spurts of an ugly, dying beast. Good riddance.


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