A basic British political division is not between left and right, or liberal and conservative, but between Schlegel and Wilcox. What separates the two families of EM Forster's novel Howards End is that the Schlegels worry about how to make the world fairer, with occasionally embarrassing consequences, while the Wilcoxes worry about their stocks and shares. In other words, the Schlegels are afflicted by the complaint we sneeringly call liberal guilt.
Sneer ye not. Liberal guilt is nothing to be ashamed of. It's really just the political expression of that rather old-fashioned thing, conscience.
And why should our conscientious liberals feel guilty?
To "suffer" from liberal guilt means that you are somewhat uneasy about all sorts of awkward things that it is tempting to harden your heart against, like global injustice, global warming, racism. It means that you are troubled by the stubborn persistence of our class system, though you personally have done fine by it. It means you sometimes worry that you might be prejudiced against all sorts of people. It means that your vague patriotism is laced with uncertainty about whether our ancient constitution is able to be truly inclusive. It means, for goodness sake, that you fail to be completely fatly smugly relaxed about this problematic world we inhabit. Is that really so shameful and wet, so laughably mentally effeminate?
It strikes me that this kind of thinking makes sense if you accept the underlying premises of liberalism. Liberalism is highly reductionist when it comes to thinking about the good in life. What matters is equal autonomy. A lack of equal autonomy is explained in terms of privileged groups (white males) enjoying an unfair advantage at the expense of others.
If you train yourself to think in this way, then you probably will think guilt is the appropriate default setting. After all, if you are a white male you will think yourself to blame existentially for the one evil you recognise as existing in the world, a lack of equal autonomy.
To make the point clearer, think of what the non-liberal alternative might be. Imagine you recognise a whole series of goods: a stable and loving family life, an ongoing communal tradition, a morally virtuous life, a productive working life, a responsiveness to nature and to the arts, a masculine and a feminine ideal and so on.
If you did this, then there would be two significant consequences. First, the ability of "the other" to lead a good life would not be seen to rest so completely on having equal autonomy. You would not have to be a white English middle-class male to have a good life. You could do it living as a farmer in Vietnam or as a woman in Fiji. In fact, people in less liberal countries might even have certain advantages in enjoying communal traditions or family life or an enjoyment of nature.
Second, whether you were a good person would depend not on how much guilt you felt for being a middle-class white male, but how good a father you were, how loyal you were to your tradition, how morally virtuous a life you led, how much you contributed to society in your working life, what your character as a man was, your connectedness to nature or to the arts and so on.
Being wisely charitable to those less fortunate than yourself could still be part of the definition of a good man. But the default setting would not be guilt for existing as a white male, nor would this guilt be redeeming proof of your goodness compared to others.
To answer Theo's question, it really is "wet" to go through life feeling guilty for being a white male. What he really needs to do is to re-examine the first principles that he's working off, in particular the impoverished concept of the good that he's picked up as part of his liberalism.