This week I posted a thought regarding the Oprah interview with Meghan Markle and (former) Prince Harry. It read:
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s combined net worth is estimated at around $50 million USD.
The British monarchy’s estimated net worth is, at least, $88 billion USD. Can we stop acting like their problems are our problems?
Can we admit intersectionality has material limits?
Following this post I was accused of being “judgmental,” of downplaying racism in all of the social classes, and of “making fun of mental health.” In fact, my post made no mention of Meghan’s mental health. It did not say racism wasn’t a problem regardless of class either. And there was nothing inherently judgmental about it. But for some reason, it was a trigger for an avalanche of comments and even personal messages that consisted of attempted shaming, virtue signaling and straw man fallacies.
There is little doubt in my mind that Meghan Markle experienced racism after entering the royal family. This is an ancient system founded on the feudal idea of the “divine right” of one person ruling absolutely over all others and enforcing a cultural hierarchy of strict class boundaries based almost exclusively on the myth of genetic pedigree, after all. How anyone could think racism isn’t a major feature of this institution is beyond me.
But there is a gigantic elephant in the room that most Americans, including most liberals, refuse to acknowledge: capitalism. Most of us have been conditioned to sympathize with the celebrity and wealth class. This is no accident. Billions of dollars are spent to achieve this goal. This is not to say that we should not naturally identify with famous people. We are all human beings after all. It is to say that there is an entire industry which artificially reinforces this identification. And to continue to ignore this or its enormous influence would be foolish.
Americans have been inured to adopt the erroneous view that everyone is on a level playing field. That wealth doesn’t make any real difference regarding access to care or other material supports. By this logic, the person living on the street, eating from dumpsters, and avoiding the cops, is in essentially the same position as the wealthy stock broker who suffers from PTSD in his Manhattan penthouse. It is such a feat of staggering cognitive dissonance and illogic that it is almost impossible to explain.
Without a doubt racism, homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, mental health issues, and other social maladies are experienced by all human beings across all class and caste distinctions. Meghan Markle is no different in this regard. But to suggest that her experience with these things is the same as a person with little or no material wealth is simply ludicrous. And calling attention to this fact does not diminish Markle’s experience with racism, depression or suicidal ideation in the least. Money and wealth may not buy happiness, but they give a person access to far more options for comfort and support. Of course, she may have been told not to seek out help by members of the royal family, but she was not a prisoner. The UK is not Saudi Arabia, a medieval kingdom where princesses ARE actually held against their will.
On a more personal note, the post didn’t just trigger something for others. The responses triggered something in me. I was suddenly finding myself feeling a sense of panic. I am familiar with that feeling because I have dealt with mental health issues myself throughout my life. Depression, anxiety, despair. I have dealt with them all. I was sexually assaulted a long time ago, so I know what PTSD is. I had a time in my life where I did hard drugs as an escape, and they almost made me go mad. I even contemplated suicide a few times. So to be accused of making fun of mental health felt even more insulting and hurtful. And it was for the sole reason of daring to bring up those forbidden topics in Western circles, wealth disparity and capitalism. That was just too much for me to be silent about.
I have had times in my life where I was flat broke. Where I experienced mental health crises in the United States and had no health insurance to cover the costs of any kind of meaningful treatment because I was between jobs. I know what that kind of desperation feels like. In contrast, I have had times where I had some money in the bank and some access to good care. There is no one on earth who can tell me that the two experiences are the same. No one who can suggest that the wealthy have it just as bad as the poor. And it is insulting, not only to me, but to billions of working and poor people to suggest so.
I will admit that my post may have been flippant. And I have empathy with Meghan Markle. For the racism she endures and the mental health crisis she went through. But the bulk of my compassion and solidarity goes out to (and will always go out to) those who have no material wealth to speak of, most of which are people of colour. Far more than those caught up in a system that has manufactured a false supremacy of lineage. On a dying planet, I think humans have the creative acumen to come up with a better arrangement. So if that makes me “judgmental,” then I will wear that badge with pride.
Kenn Orphan March 2021
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