Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about the concept of the patriarchy, a system in which men have more power than women. People usually have strong opinions on this topic, mainly as to whether it actually exists. Whichever side you take, there is another hierarchy I would like to bring up, one to which the vast majority of us are radically blind.
It is the hierarchy of society and its norms. I term this the “sociarchy.”
Take a moment to stop and think about the people with whom you usually associate. Now, think of those whom, if you are really honest with yourself, you would rather not have anything to do with. If you are a business owner, think of the people you would, just based on status and appearance, not be willing to hire or serve.
Could it be the girl with blue hair and weird piercings for whom you refused to hold the door? Perhaps certain ethnic immigrants and refugees crossed your mind or even members of the LGBT community. Doubtlessly, the poor, the dirty and smelly, the homeless, the socially awkward or mentally ill and (ex-)convicts crossed many of your minds.
If you are truthful, you will admit some of these people popped up. But my question is this: Why?
Because the social construct known as “society” has deemed these people outsiders. They break our social norms and what we think should be acceptable, so we mentally quarter them off to not have to associate with them.
Usually, we even blame them for this, saying things like, “Well, if she doesn’t want people to stare at her blue hair, she shouldn’t have it!” Or, “If they didn’t want to be ostracized, they shouldn’t have come out to their family!”
How arrogant of us. Often, in context of the patriarchy, those who believe in it claim it encourages victim-blaming; in the sociarchy, victim-blaming openly abounds.
We see injustice happen to these people. We commit evil against these images of God and then claim we are justified because the other person made bad mistakes. Sure, negative consequences could follow when someone goes against the social norm, but that does not excuse the actions of those of us in the sociarchy.
The fact that we can sit there and judge others in such a way is a sociarchical privilege. No matter who you are, whether you believe in white privilege or male privilege or none of it, those of us who make up the perpetual “in-group” of society have a real privilege over those we deem “outsiders.”
Recently, there has been a gross display of sociarchical privilege here on campus. It was the Mr. and Miss Ole Miss elections. Nothing is more self-evidently a display of the sociarchical “in-group” than that of a meaningless popularity contest.
Ask yourselves: Would the awkward, dirty girl who is too poor to afford a dress even have a chance in that competition? Or the “strange” kid who is socially ostracized? Certainly not a boy who is introverted and smelly. Shame on us for bowing to such a terrible institution that demeans those not privileged enough to be in the “in-group.”
Let me tell you a story. A long time ago, a Palestinian king was born. But this king was not born with much pomp and circumstance; instead, he was born in a dirty, religiously unclean place. Instead of a royal crib, he was placed in a filthy feeding trough. A royal procession of the wealthy and famous did not come to welcome his birth, nor were there parades in the streets. Instead, the nasty, dirty homeless were his welcoming party.
This king was a Palestinian refugee from genocide and violence to the land of Egypt. After he returned to Palestine, he grew up as a poor, blue-collar worker. Then, surprising everyone, he went to the desert to be dunked in a river by his weird, homeless cousin and decided to become a homeless preacher like him.
Why did he do this? He said it was “to proclaim good news to the poor.” The word “poor” there (in Hebrew, the word “ani”) does not mean just the financially poor but also those who were socially destitute.
And that is what this king did. He sought out the social outcasts. He lovingly pursued the convict, the homeless, those whom society called sexually deviant like prostitutes and even the rejects of these rejects.
And he did not care what others thought of him for doing so; he believed that true love should not be afraid to bleed, even if it was social bleeding.
If we are to model the inclusive love of this king, we should not live in the sociarchy and care about petty popularity contests; rather, we should become social outcasts in love and befriend the rejects and the rejects of the rejects.
Christians: This is what the Gospel of Luke’s central message was about. Jesus was a genuine friend to the “ani.” Not only that, but he was an “ani” by birth and by choice.
Instead of caring about who wins Mr. or Miss Ole Miss, care about those in the social “out-group.” Who are the “ani” you have neglected? Prostitutes? Criminals? Refugees? The homeless? It does not matter; go love them and take on their reject status as your own.
Tripp Bond is a sophomore history major from Meridian.