When You Walk into the Valley
John Metta

Simply excellent John Metta, thank you. Your writings invariably trigger cascades of better comprehendings for me.

I make a distinction between “teach me the steps” (that’s on me, not someone else) and my being given feedback that my thinking/doing/talking is creating discomfort for someone else (not the obvious stuff that I damn well ought to find out on my own, but the more subtle and insidious stuff that eludes me, often because of the obliviousness that often accompanies privilege…note: I’m an old white man and have spent a long time being stupefied by my culture and my own failures to challenge it.).

Does that make sense? At some point, in any relationship, those involved have to communicate their likes/dislikes/needs/wants, etc. to others so that adjustments can be made and/or discussions ensue.

It’s not possible to engage with other folks without such sharing (at least I don’t think so anyway, but, I might be doing it all wrong, ya know?).

Hell yeah I damn well ought to know hitting someone on the head is painful and they should not be expected to teach me to not do that…but…at some point (beyond what’s easily discernible/known for anyone who takes the time to work at discovering it) there has to be some give and take about what feels good and what doesn’t.

It’s my job to figure out how to “do the steps” to do more feel good stuff and less feel bad stuff but sometimes I need a signal about what feels warm and fuzzy to someone else and what doesn’t. Not the big stuff, but the more subtle and tricky stuff.

Hmmm, I think I’m figuring out something as I write this. Maybe the give and take mostly has to do with actual real personal relating (friends, lovers, colleagues, etc) and the stuff we need to find out on our own is what anyone half-way conscious ought to know about respectfully relating with another human being including knowledge about the history and context of the particular social identity they were stuck into.

Hmmm… Maybe that stuff that anyone ought to know is the very stuff that the system of privilege (regardless of which system of oppression that supports it) works to hide from us and that’s the stuff that it’s our job to dig out own our own. Does that make sense?

The doings/thinkings associated with privilege (and apologies for a word that is perhaps too often used but less often understood) is often difficult to detect for those who carry it (white privilege is often dang hard for white people to “see” and male privilege is often dang hard for males to “see”…that’s a feature of “privilege”, not a design flaw…I think).

It’s incumbent on anyone/everyone who carries privilege to work hard at becoming more aware of it…but…I’m going to screw up and be oblivious sometimes…like everyone else…that’s when some feedback is appreciated…and maybe even necessary. But that ought to be in the realm of “fine tuning”, not figuring out how to take baby steps.

Sheldon Kopp touched on some of this stuff in his Eschatological Laundry List, I think.

Hand holding…no…absolutely not…grown-ups gotta do their own work and you’re spot on about the absurd silliness of anyone expecting someone else to do their work for them (that’s privilege, actually). That doesn’t mean that I’ll get it just right all the time and someone willing to let me know I’m screwing up can be deeply appreciated and useful.

Writing out this comment helped clarify some of this for me so…thanks much for your writing/thinking…I invariably learn when I read your work and struggle with grasping it. At least I hope I’m learning. (my apologies if this is totally off…it means I’m in deeper doo doo than I have any conception of).

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