A huge problem in our culture, maybe the biggest problem, is the overweening presence of (presumptively heterosexual), self-infatuated, white men. This has been a defining feature of western culture at least since the beginning of Christianity, maybe back to the ancient Greeks, although the presumptively heterosexual part did not operate as much then.
Not only are they infatuated with themselves, they expect everyone else to be as well. For much too long, women and non-white people lacked the power to tell these white men what we really think. That has been changing, slowly, in the United States and other parts of the world, for the past fifty years or so.
We can call this the Trump Problem. Few (presumptively heterosexual), self-infatuated, white men have the problem to the degree that Trump does, but a lot of them have it to some extent. One might even say that it is a prerequisite for serving as president of the United States, which is why we got such a pernicious case of it in Trump, the first president to serve after the only president yet who does not obviously fit the mold.
In early December, we saw a particularly vivid example of this kind of thinking in the news. A story broke about a white student at Columbia University appears in a video, “ yelling at a group of primarily black students that they should thank white people for inventing ‘the modern world.’”
In January, of course, we got to see the smirk that won the west.
The story of a confrontation between a horde of students from a Catholic school in Kentucky with a Native American elder captured everyone’s attention for over a week in January. This incident was a more vivid illustration of how thoroughly self-infatuated white men still control our culture. Both men issued statements explaining their understanding of what happened. But only the white (not yet) man got a fawning interview on a major television network after his parents hired a well connected PR firm to represent him.
Here we see what we might call white boy affirmative action, or cultural nepotism. We usually think of “nepotism” as operating where the person bestowing favors and the beneficiary are related or otherwise closely connected (see Jared Kushner’s security clearance), but our self-infatuated white men are very good at rallying blindly to each other’s defense, no matter the cost to anyone else, as we know with Mitch McConnell’s apparently limitless willingness to kowtow to the worst president in the history of the republic.
Conservatives despise the 1960s. That was the decade when the unquestioned authority of self-infatuated white men began to erode badly. After a decade of repeatedly beating them over the head with their own words from the Declaration of Independence, African American civil rights protesters finally persuaded Congress to enact major legislation ending at least the worst forms of legal discrimination against them.
African American civil rights protest helped spark protests by women against their second class status in the United States. Finally, at the end of the decade, the queers got in on the act and all hell broke loose. Although black people, women, and queers together easily make up a majority of the population, they have yet to coalesce into a political force equal to their numbers, partly because too many of their number remain beholden in various ways to self-infatuated white men. That black voters only voted 8% for Trump is good news. They restated the sentiment in 2018, voting Republican at 9%.
Of course, no group has the horrors of slavery in their historical background like African Americans, which makes them more acutely sensitive to the shortcomings of self-infatuated white men, slavery being the apotheosis of self-infatuated white men.
But the erosion of the cultural power of self-infatuated white men continues apace. Its end cannot come too quickly. One could compile a long list of problems that will slowly disappear as that erosion proceeds. The sending of dick pics, which no woman wants to see, to women, at least, will cease.
The enormous problem of child sexual abuse by clergy, both Catholic and Protestant, should stop, as well as repeated sexual assault by other white men in positions of power, because the people they abuse and assault will have more opportunity and power to speak up.
Representative Ocasio-Cortez, the young woman who is in her first term in the House of Representatives, would have suffered far less obsessive attention from frustrated “conservative” men — the most self-infatuated of all — if they lacked their current, unearned, quantum of cultural authority.
The list is nearly infinite. Feel free to add your own favorite items.
The cultural hegemony of self-infatuated white men will die eventually. In the meantime, we can look out for the more amusing moments of its death throes.