Friday, November 19, 2021

Can We Please Stop Using the Term "Identity Politics"?

One thing neo-Marxist collectivists understand is the power of language. They know that if they can redefine concepts, they can manipulate how we think about things, and thus infiltrate their worldview into billions of uncritical minds. It's a strategy straight out of Orwell's 1984.

The collectivists do this redefinition game constantly, across a wide swath of issues. Take "progressive" (a term I always put in sarcastic quotation marks), which they use to assert they are in favor of some undefined social progress -- which, when actually defined, means a neo-Marxist, social-engineering agenda. Or "liberal," which long ago used to mean favoring freedom, but which today means the opposite: subordinating individual freedom to politically defined, coercively imposed, collectivist ends. "Gender" has supplanted "sex," because the former can be proclaimed subjectively and inflated infinitely, while the latter has an objective biological basis in one's chromosomes and genitalia (which are now dismissed as merely "assigned" at birth, apparently at the whim of the attending medical personnel). "Hate speech" is a term invented to criminalize, hence censor, any expressed opinion that conflicts with that of the collectivists. The charge of "hate speech" rests on psychologizing: ascribing malicious motives to opinions one doesn't like. Similarly, "hurtful speech," a term which attempts to criminalize any expression that allegedly hurts someone's proclaimed feelings.

Again, there is no objective, fact-rooted basis for any of this. But once personal subjectivity is elevated to the status of moral-legal supremacy, then anyone's mere assertions acquire the weight of unquestionable legitimacy.

What offends me most is that many people, including those on the so-called political right, tacitly accept this wholesale hijacking of language without critical consideration or pushback.

A while back, for example, I took issue with the term virtue signaling. This term was actually minted by the political right to criticize the common practice by "liberals" and "progressives" of making a public, symbolic show of their various philosophical and political commitments. Yet the term "virtue signaling" tacitly accepts the premise that what those people are practicing is, in fact, virtuous. That concedes morality to their motives and their causes -- exactly opposite what the political right intends. I suggested the term be replaced with virtue posturing, which indicates the behavior is a phony claim to virtue.

A similar way the political right tacitly, thoughtlessly concedes the premises of the political left is when they use the term identity politics. This term is intended to criticize the left's constant focus on race, sex, and ethnicity in their arguments and agendas. However, what their use of this term actually does is tacitly accept the premise that one's "identity" is equivalent to one's genetic attributes -- and nothing more.

But "identity" is individual, not collective. When we "identify" something, we distinguish it from everything else by focusing on its unique, particular attributes. Your identity is not my identity. But a so-called identity resting on widely shared attributes, like race or sex, is no "identity" at all. It is homogenized class membership.

Using the term "identity politics" thus concedes that identity is, in truth, nothing more than collectively shared attributes. It tacitly ratifies our thinking about identity in terms of groups and classes -- which is exactly the goal of the collectivists. In addition, it is too narrow a term: "identity politics" reduces to mere politics what is actually a much broader worldview and outlook.

Today's "woke" collectivists want to obliterate individualism -- seeing and judging people as individuals -- and instead to substitute tribalism: seeing and judging people as members of DNA-based groups, classes, and collectives. We need to employ language that makes this clear.

To that end, I suggest critics of collectivists use terms like racial tribalism/tribalists or sexual tribalism/tribalists to specify the mindset and worldview they oppose. "I oppose identity politics" is vague and misleading. However, "I see and judge people as individuals, not as racial and sexual tribes" is an easy-to-grasp, appealing, and ultimately winning position.

One caveat: There is a subset of collectivist tribalists on today's political right, too. It's understandable that they'd be uncomfortable with my suggestion that we identify ourselves as individualists who are opposed to all forms of tribalism. But those of us who are individualists can, by publicly rejecting "racial tribalism" or "ethnic tribalism" or "national tribalism," at least get right-wing collectivists to identify themselves. It's always good to know who your real friends and foes are, and it's time we smoked them out.


Rex Little said...

Regarding "hurtful speech"--these people honestly believe that hurt feelings are equivalent to physical harm. Around ten years ago I got into a discussion on this topic on a blog dominated by leftists. I mentioned the old saying we all learned as kids, the one which begins "Sticks and stones. . .". From the reaction I got, you'd have thought I advocated kicking puppies and drowning kittens.

(And Hi, Bob. My real name is Steve Klein. We knew each other 50 years ago when I lived in the Boston area.)

Robert Bidinotto said...

Hey there, Steve! It's been soooooo long. I remember you and those days. If you'd care to get in touch, drop an email to me at: RobertTheWriter(at)gmail(dot)com. I'd love to catch up.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's collectivist or tribalist politics, not "identity" politics.

Thank God I'm not yet at the stage of life at which people can walk up to me and say "Remember me? We knew each other fifty years ago when..." The worst I can plausibly suffer is "Remember me? We knew each other forty [or maybe forty-five] years ago when..." A decade here and a decade there, and pretty soon you're talking real temporal passage.