|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2011-10-21 10:33:00
|Current mood:||awaiting the incoming bombs|
|Entry tags:||explaining the inexplicable, it's different for usaliens, political polemics, the personal is political, venting|
USAlien Privilege - Unpacking an Online Knapsack
This is something which has been coming out of a bit of reflecting I've been doing about online culture, and about privilege and the nature of it. One of the more esoteric forms of privilege is what I'll call "USAlien Privilege".
I should define my terms. A USAlien (to coin a phrase) is a citizen of the United States of America who has never been required in their ordinary lifetime to deal on a day-to-day basis with anyone from a different cultural background to their own, or to interact on a regular basis with anyone who isn't a fellow citizen of the United States of America. (Fellow alumni of alt.fan.pratchett would probably recognise the term "Merkin" as a synonym).
USAliens tend to conduct themselves as though there is no other way of doing anything aside from the way that it's done in TheirTown, USA, and will also tend to regard any suggestion that other ways of doing things either exist, or might possibly be preferred by persons not living in the USA as either utter falsehood, heresy against any extant deity, or at worst, utter treachery (optional subtype: communist/socialist). They do not understand cultural references to anything other than the hegemonic aspects of US culture, and will tend to regard such references with suspicion at best, outright scorn at worst. Their knowledge of other cultures is rudimentary, to say the very least, but they will expect persons who have never lived in the USA to have a level of knowledge of US culture equivalent to their own (if not greater).
It's a frequently encountered form of online privilege, because the USAlien will automatically assume that they have the right to have everything repeatedly explained to them (often in tedious detail) rather than engaging in any active learning of their own. As a member of a non-USAlien culture, a person from outside the United States of America will be expected to supply this knowledge, in convenient bite-sized chunks, without query, and without any expectation of having any of the oddities of US culture explained in return.
Some little manifestations of USAlien privilege which can be highly annoying to those of us who aren't US citizens:
* The whole "everything revolves around the USA" mindset.
* "Everyone shares our holidays"
* "Our politics are the world's politics"
* "Our issues are the world's issues"
* Actually, the whole "we are the world" mindset in general is highly annoying, to be honest.
* "If it's done this way here, it's because this is the One Right Way of doing things".
* Historical context? Wot dat?
* If it isn't happening in this particular USAlien's back yard, it isn't happening anywhere.
* The entire circular gospel of US Exceptionalism (The United States of America is a special case because they are The United States of America because they are Special because...)
* Moderation is for wimps - everything happens at the extremes
* The idea of supplying an external frame of reference (for example, for timezone-specific data) just Doesn't Occur.
It all gets a bit wearing, to be honest. Particularly since, as per the standard rules of argument vs Privilege, the less privileged person is automatically In The Wrong the moment they point out either that the privilege exists, or that the privileged person is talking from a position of privilege. I can expect to have my own country and my own culture 'splained to me by USAliens (and never receive even so much as a "sorry" in response, should I take it upon myself to correct them) and be expected to take it without comment. I can expect (and have received) a screenful of abuse as a result of offering an alternative scenario to a rather esoteric aspect of US culture, and I will be expected, again, to take this without comment, and often to apologise to the person who is abusing me for having offended them through my ignorance.
If at times I seem to be a bit overly-aggressive in waving my (non-US) nationality around, it's because I've learned to do so as a way of preventing such abuse.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/23652.htm