Nouveau puissant

If you are truly marginalized, you are used to being misunderstood, disregarded and misrepresented by people around you. You feel vulnerable and anxious about what might be done to you. You seek allies wherever you can find them to help and protect you. You learn to understand alien perspectives, so you can make effective appeals and influence the actions of other — or at least anticipate what they might do next so you can defend yourself.

Marginalized people are forced by necessity to develop insight and empathy. This is the consolation prize of marginalized existence, and its one real advantage. This is the source of the belief that powerless people know things powerful people cannot imagine.

When I meet a person who calls themselves marginalized, but who is overcome with imperious fury if someone seems to understand them with insufficient nuance — who is willing and able (or at least feels able) to punish anyone who dares treat them with less than perfect conformity to their expectations, without any apparent fear of reprisal — whose theories about their enemies are used only only to condemn and insult them, not to illuminate their logic or make sense of their behaviors — these people do not seem marginalized to me. They show no evidence of real insight or empathy — only a presumption of omniscience. Maybe they were taught things or read books by marginal people, but they themselves seem to have missed the real point of the lessons and absorbed nothing but the vices of marginalization: resentment and intellectual arrogance.

They are like nouveau riche, who play out the grotesque image of what poor people think rich people are like.

The nouveau puissant play out the evil, tyrannical image of what powerless people think powerful people are like.

They think it is now their turn to be what, in fact, only existed in their own imaginations.

4 thoughts on “Nouveau puissant

  1. I had this wonderful interaction online recently with a black woman who calls herself Pastor Bae, who hosts church on Instagram. We had a moment of discussion about whether faith involved accepting the possibility that God may allow us to suffer or die (she was vehemently against it, but then I explained my position coming from the ED, and she lapses into what I thought was thoughtful silence.) Came recommended by a black friend of mine at work.

    Anyway, Pastor Bae and I connected. But the very next day she started posting about how white people weren’t wanted appropriating her space and her beliefs especially if we haven’t done the work to cleanse our ancestral lineage from our ancestors who enslaved her ancestors.

    Suddenly the youngness of her ministry, in all its aspects, locked into view.

    As did her many posts about her loneliness.

    This terrible ressentiment.

    She’s welcome to her space, but how does she not know that not every white person’s ancestors etc and that her black ancestors in fact etc. ?

    How does she not know that pain and death have to be in the picture if God’s love means anything at alll?

    To me, this candystore theology is intimately connected to your notion of the Nouveau puissante.

    1. There is something to be said for a belief that pain is inherent to human life and that the best we can do is learn from it and to be with one another in our pain. If we believe pain is caused by injustice and we acquire a taste for forms of justice dominated by inquisition, blame and vengeance, it can displace coming to terms with the human condition.