Politics & Media
May 03, 2018, 06:29AM

Beyond Identity Politics

We need affirmation of individualism that welcomes new ideas. 

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The way we use language has rapidly changed. Social media can be blamed, but that’s an easy target. To be sure, social media has contributed to the way we communicate with each other and one of the signs of bad communication is a constant repetition of words and phrases. They may actually mean something but the more they're repeated, the less we’re actually addressing the central problem of the very phrase.

One of those phrases is identity politics. The problem of identity politics is real. It’s part of everyday discourse and for the most part, its origin came from the nihilistic walls of academia. In the Marxist Ivory Tower, fake thinkers and intellectuals are purveyors of theoretical goods that deal out various ideological structures supposedly defining what it means to be human. The whole enterprise of identity politics is a desire to see Marxism succeed, so it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s based on a class system. Only this time, class is not defined by economics but by ideology, which pretends to offer a metaphysical definition of a human.

The problem of identity politics goes hand in hand with the problem of social media because it relies on a quick assessment of an individual human and placement of that person into a designated category. It's not as if we needed social media to “achieve” such an endeavor. We tend to be lazy and don't want to make attempts into understanding our fellow humans. As a result, we have a mental checklist that serves as a metric indicator of how liberal, conservative, black, white, or libertarian one is. In the world of identity politics, categories beget more categories until nothing’s left but a fragmentation of humanity. The ironic part of this set-up is that warriors of identity politics think they’re humanizing the other person and bringing to the front social issues that supposedly need our immediate attention.

The ideological endeavor of identity politics is never about an individual no matter how much its proponents say it is. The phenomenon is based on defining an individual solely on a definition of the group that he’s supposed to belong to. The group or the collective is what matters. Although it’s the left that’s primarily guilty of this, the right is not without culpability. In other words, it’s anyone who’s unwilling to spend even a brief moment in engaging in dialogue with another person before immediately dismissing them based on a few superficial indications.

More than anything, it’s a philosophical problem precisely because it’s in the business of denying philosophy and freedom of individual thought. We all belong or at least originate from a particular tribe, but this shouldn’t mean a disappearance of our individual voices. Think of Kanye West’s support of Donald Trump and his evisceration by the leftist and black community for not dutifully following the tenets of group think. Whatever your opinion of Trump, anyone (including West) ought to be free to express his opinion without being labeled a heretic for turning his back on the altar of ideology.

At this point, the way to move beyond identity politics is to keep pointing out individualism. This is particularly important in America since one of the founding principles is based on having the freedom to assert one's identity and more than anything, one's humanity. If identity politics is an exercise in the denial of individualism, then the necessary counter action has to be an affirmation of individualism.

Just as it's not difficult to criticize identity politics, it’s also not difficult to fight it by offering an alternative. For the most part, principles of identity politics are feeble-minded and contain no diversity of human thought. Another irony is that its advocates claim diversity as one of the elements of identity politics. This isn’t true since the perversity of ideology selects what’s diverse, limiting not only a discourse but also a real encounter between humans.

I'm uncertain on how to proceed. However, those of us who don’t subscribe to the absurdity and imprisonment of identity politics should engage in showing a real diversity in thought. This means affirmation of individualism that welcomes new ideas while recognizing the importance of past.


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