If You’re Reading This, You Are Not Oppressed
Nothing bugs me more than when my fellow Christians and conservatives complain about how oppressed we are. Look at what happens to Christians elsewhere; we’re not oppressed. Life is unfair for us in certain particular ways but we’re not oppressed. We’re all free to enjoy a reasonably high standard of living and participate politically. By world historical standards, that is the antithesis of oppression.
Same thing with most other groups that claim oppression and victimization about everything, including feminists, LGBT groups, and minority activists groups of various stripes. Things are indeed unfair and could use reform. There are some rights not possessed, some inequalities requiring remedy, and some reforms necessary. But oppression is a very different thing.
Oppression is political suppression and exclusion, the systematic deprivation of basic life and liberty, and the conscious perpetuation of intolerable standards of living. It is not mere economic inequality, it is not the existence of opinions and voices that perpetuate narratives contrary to one’s own liking, and it is not corruption and inefficiency in the system of law and order. Oppression is far more sinister than those. Look to the lawless borderlands of the Middle East and Africa or the darkened halls of Russia and China- there you will find oppression. Look to the plight of blacks in the American South before the 1960s. Look to these- there oppression lies.
But we have slowly rooted out oppression from the American shores, and what a journey it has been. Now, in America, all men and women are free. We have not destroyed injustice- and we never will, though we must always try- but we have eliminated oppression from our system. The grave injustices still present- the plights of inner-city blacks and poor rural whites, the sad condition of undocumented immigrants, the accumulation of plutocratic power at the expense of the democratic spirit- these cannot be forgotten and must be combated with all due force and vigor.
But they are not oppression.
Anarchy begets oppression, for anarchy must be stopped and sheer force is the easiest solution. Consolidated power in any field begets oppression, as power consolidated faces no checks against its excesses. A fair penchant of centralized order mixed with a separation of centers of power is the surest guard against both tyranny and anarchy; it is that magic combination which we English-speaking peoples have been blessed to know for the last 500 years of our history, and have worked to progressively make better. It is that which has shooed away oppression, and that which has preserved our freedom.
Here’s the litmus test: If you can observe something that’s unfair, and you can speak out publicly against it, and take meaningful political action against it, you are not being oppressed. And I’d say that although there are many injustices in American society today, at the public level, there is no oppression save for that against criminals and traitors. And that oppression is called justice.
We do not live in oppression; nor do we live in liberty. To live in liberty requires a level of public self-discipline and social capital that our entitled, victimized, success-worshipping culture does not have; we are slaves to our passions. But, there being an absence of true oppression, we DO live in freedom. And for now, that’s enough.
Is privilege a thing? Of course it is. Is injustice a thing? It’s everywhere. Do we have a corrupt ruling elite and high levels of inequality? You’d have to be blind not to see them.
But are we oppressed?
No. Thanks to the enduring viability of our political tradition of liberty, the sweat of statesmen, and the blood of patriots, we live as free men and women, oppressed by no king. Indeed, there are those with powers over us; but they do not oppress us.
It is the task of our generation to reform our political system to maintain our freedom against the shadows of oppression always lurking at the gate. But it is the further task of our generation to reform our society to one of liberty- and that, in truth, is the far mightier challenge.
And fighting oppression when oppression is not there only distracts from that grander purpose.