‘Equality Keeps Us Honest’: Rebecca Solnit on the Ignorance of Privilege

Donald Trump caricature by DonkeyHotey (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In a muscular essay in LitHub, Rebecca Solnit pares away the trappings of power to poke at the needy, grasping, isolated core of Donald Trump, who can’t be satisfied with all the money or sycophants in the world.

Equality keeps us honest. Our peers tell us who we are and how we are doing, providing that service in personal life that a free press does in a functioning society. Inequality creates liars and delusion. The powerless need to dissemble—that’s how slaves, servants, and women got the reputation of being liars—and the powerful grow stupid on the lies they require from their subordinates and on the lack of need to know about others who are nobody, who don’t count, who’ve been silenced or trained to please. This is why I always pair privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving, though you know not for what, if you have ceased to imagine others exist in any true deep way that matters. This is about a need for which we hardly have language or at least not a familiar conversation.

Read the essay