John Scalzi wrote an intriguing piece the other day exploring the metaphor of life as a video game, specifically the premise that Straight White Males have life the easiest of all character classes in the U.S. of A., as if the difficulty setting on our game of life is set to the lowest possible increment.
My first thought was, “Yeah, so what?” Given the level of outrage, however, I thought there had to be more to it than that so I continued to explore. There were some interesting objections to Scalzi’s piece to be found on the internets.
One interesting objection was raised by Erin Hoffman who points out that Scalzi is basically co-opting Gamer culture as a noob or even outsider and using it in an extremely shallow fashion to make his point in a way that inherently disses gamers. I found her argument to be well reasoned and, while a little shrill, extremely reasonable.
Boiled down, many others argued that because SWMs sometimes have it hard too, Scalzi shouldn’t single us out as having it easy. The problem there is that Scalzi is not saying we (Yup, SWM here) have it easy, but rather that, ON AVERAGE, we have it easier than folks with no claim on those three classifiers. Society is coded with our type of folks as a baseline.
I think he’s right. There’s some deck-stacking going on out there and frankly I wish I could take advantage of more of it. SWMs built the system we all live in after all, it’s predisposed to be biased. I honestly believe the framers of our constitution did a bang up job of making it as unbiased as possible. And also that no one could have done it perfectly, or forced people to be perfect, and there are problems. And there are already solutions inherent in the system, they’re just not being followed/enforced.
My take away from Scalzi’s piece is that his point is blindingly obvious to most people, and his cloaking of it in an elaborate metaphor was unnecessary and probably caused many people to read more into it than there was, leading to a great deal of frothy madness. His audience likes the “Enlighten our reprehensibly unenlightened brothers” meme a great deal though, so I can forgive him. I can also forgive him because he so often enlightens ME. He’s a brilliant guy who just happened to do a little talking down in this case.
The final question that seems to get asked about his piece though is, “What do you want me to do about it?” The speculations on what his answer to that question might be are legion and mostly wrong.
I already knew my own answer before I ever read the piece. It was said best by Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”
There is no need to feel guilty for things you have never done (in this context that would actually fit the definition of racism and a whole slew of other reprehensible ‘isms’). There is no need to go on a crusade of political and social activism. Just don’t be a dick. Be nice to people. If you find yourself in the wrong, whether that be in a specific instance or in general attitude, just make amends and try to do better the next time.
Simple and familiar.