Identity politics has infiltrated every aspect of modern political discourse like the virus it is. It thrives on stereotypes and total disregard for unique individual views. Dissent is discouraged by the shame that goes with being deemed a sell-out to the cause (cue Pan-Africanism and Afrikaner nationalism). It creates a prison of non-negotiable narratives and virtues. But what exactly is identity politics, and what does it entail?
A simple Google search will tell you that identity politics is the tendency for people of a particular collective to form exclusive political alliances that move away from traditional broad-based party politics. In essence, it entails a group of people that attempt to further their collective interests by banding together and saying “this is what we want”.
At first glance it does not seem as problematic as it really is, but that is exactly how it traps people in its cult-like clutches. It seems alluring when one does not consider the suppression of dissent and the invalidation of views based on arbitrary grounds.
It has always boggled my mind why individuals need a collective identity to determine their own. It is as if people are blind to the fact that one does not choose one’s collective identity ascribed to them at birth. Black people carry the burden of either supporting apparent “pro-black” narratives or be deemed sell-outs. Afrikaners have to be proud of the Boer way of life and everything that goes with it, or they will be labelled ‘Volksverraaiers’. False dichotomies are at the order of the day.
Members of involuntary collectives, such as racial collectives, are ascribed traits and virtues whether they share them or not. Stereotypes are strengthened in this manner and individual views are invalidated by preconceived notions of what a person is ‘supposed’ to believe.
This stereotyping entails grave consequences.
Ideas are evaluated based on who airs them, rather than the merits of the ideas themselves. The collective identity that is determined by whatever stereotype, is deemed as more important than individuals and their respective unique identities.
Twitter serves as the best source of examples.
I recently pointed out to a user that not all black people are in favour of land redistribution. Her reply: “Who are these other black [sic] that don’t want land back”. Which neatly brings me to my next point.
Identity politics serves to foster a culture of “us vs them”. “These other black [sic]” serves as the perfect example of this narrative. People who do not subscribe to the narrative they’re “supposed” to subscribe to are othered and their views are delegitimised, no matter how legitimate those views actually are. Those who digress from the identitarian norm are automatically deemed not worthy of being heard. Identitarianism creates a bubble characterised by indoctrination, irrationality and narrow-mindedness. It is therefore no mystery why cultural warfare in political discourse is so prevalent.
The State represents a central form of power over which interest groups fight in order to strengthen their standing in society. It is as if identitarians who fight for independence do not see the irony in fighting for protection from the State. Logic dictates that groups of people who want to secede from society to form their own little communities should be able to do so at will. Unfortunately, because government has taken unilateral control over a certain jurisdiction, interest groups are forced to fight over who controls the State and subsequently the fate of all the people within that jurisdiction. But what is the solution?
It’s simple: the absolute protection of individual rights.
If the State serves to only protect the individual rights of all people, minority rights are rendered redundant since people will be able to voluntarily form collectives based on whatever identitarian basis they prefer, without being bothered by an intrusive government and without relying on the government to protect their collective.
Identity politics is a virus because it affects those who have no choice in whether to be affected by it or not, since the central body which controls a society has to be fought over. Liberty is the solution. All people should be able to associate and disassociate from whomever they want, for whatever reason they want, as forced association is just as problematic as forced segregation. Decentralise power from the government to the people, and identitarianism can thrive without affecting innocent people.
It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that there will always be people who seek to define their identity according to what their culture prescribes, but there is no way around this.
In essence, the virus that is identity politics cannot be wiped out as humans are driven to form groups based on collective identities. There is no cure. There is only a remedial measure: decentralise the State’s power and let collectives determine their own destiny without bothering the rest of us.