No one who occupies a ‘relatively dominant position’ in society — and in the eyes of the woke, that would include not only the usual suspects of white, heterosexual males, but also Indian-heritage people like Priti Patel and ‘cis’ women like Holly Lawford-Smith — can ‘appeal to their experiences and call them “lived experience”’, says Lindsay.
That is because lived experience, fundamentally, is not experience as we understand it. It is not individual engagement with reality and situations and challenges, and the impression, often long-lasting, that such engagement can leave on the individual. That is experience. Something we all have, something we all tussle with, something we all are shaped by. No, ‘lived experience’ is the filtering of one’s engagement with life through a pre-existing script of systemic oppression. It is the subjugation of experience to orthodoxy. It is the negation of the openness that human experience requires — openness to risk, to change, to transformation — in favour of forcing one’s every experience into a narrative written by others for expressly political ends.
In this sense, ‘lived experience’ is the opposite of real experience. It is not the individual opening himself up to the trials or risks or joys of life and through them learning more of himself and more of the society in which he lives — the true import of human experience. Rather, it is the individual closing himself off to such possibilities in preference for reading his life through the preordained ideologies of the new ruling class. This warps experience. It makes it less real, not more; less reliable, not more. ‘Lived experience’ is not a good guide to the truths of the 21st century. It is our duty to be sceptical of it.