One does not want to think about how many people have denounced the mindlessness of identity politics, but, however powerful their arguments, the beast still lives.
It doesn’t matter what you think, how you feel and certainly not how you behave… what really matters is race, gender, ethnic origin and sexual preferences. Identity politics says that these define you. As long as you are not a straight white male, they place you on the moral high ground of victimhood. You have nothing to lose but your mind.
Lizzie Crocker explains it in an excellent column in The Daily Beast:
Identity politics are increasingly replacing the politics of ideas, weakening the moral and substantive power of any argument on both sides of the political spectrum.
Surely, Crocker is correct. Identity politics is making us stupid and ridiculous.
A different story hits the news every day. Williams College, one of America’s preeminent educational institutions has cancelled a speech by one Suzanne Venker because the students might feel discommoded by her ideas. Apparently, Venker stands too far to the right of the political spectrum.
You might think that if the students would feel discomfited by her ideas they could skip the lecture. For these incipient Brown Shirts, that would not be enough. Her mere presence on their campus would so thoroughly corrupt the environment that they would not be able to escape it.
But, it’s not just college campuses. Crocker reports on a yoga studio in Seattle that offered a class only for people of color. Privileged white heterosexuals need not apply.
In her words:
Laura Dumpf, the owner of a yoga studio in Seattle, thought she was doing her community a service when she advertised a monthly class specifically for minorities.
In an email to a neighborhood distribution list, Dumpf heralded a “people of color space that is lesbian, bisexual, gay, queer & trans-friendly/affirming.”
The class would welcome people who “self-identify as African American/Black/of the African Diaspora, Asian, South Asian, West Asian/Arab/Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, First Nations/Alaskan Native/Native American/Indigenous, Chican@/Latin@, or Multiracial/Mixed-Race.”
Shoehorned into this community-wide invitation was a gentle caveat: “White friends, allies and partners are respectfully asked not to attend.”
I cannot be sure about this, but I suspect that the name Dumpf is short for the German word Dummkopf.
It’s not just that Dumpf’s knickers are in a twist. Her mind has been completely contorted.
Once the politics of ideas is replaced by the politics of gender, race and sexuality, people no longer need to think, to reason, to consider, to deliberate, to reflect, to evaluate, to debate, to discuss or to decide.
It seems that the more we define our politics with reference to our gender or race or sexuality, the more inclined we are to declare ourselves victims of discrimination or oppression—to interpret a relatively innocuous yoga class as an attack on our personhood, in Monson’s case, while his critics turn their noses up at anyone who ticks the “white privileged male” box.
As one has been wont to argue here, and as Crocker says well, it’s all about the narrative. If Jennifer Lawrence was paid less than Bradley Cooper on one film, the only reason can be, Crocker explains, that it fits the narrative that “Hollywood is sexist.”
No one, she continues, stops to consider that Lawrence and Cooper might not have done the same work. And no one is willing to consider the circumstances surrounding their respective hirings. One must ignore reality lest the narrative be exposed for the fiction that it is.
Crocker is pointing to the flaw in the equal pay for equal work argument. The fact is, no two individuals-- whatever their gender or race or sexual proclivities and declivities—ever really do equal work. No two people do the same work at precisely the same level of competence.
And why should we be induced to see Jennifer Lawrence, a woman of extraordinary talent who will be earning something like $20 million for her next film as a victim of Hollywood sexism?
Interestingly, and not so long ago, Lawrence really was the victim of a horrendous violation of her privacy. Regarding that event one would be justified in saying that she was assaulted and victimized. Yet, when everyone is a victim the pain of real victimhood is trivialized.
As it happens, Crocker continues, identity politics has infected the political process. What is the raison d'être for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton? Apparently it is: her chromosomal makeup. Not her accomplishments, not her achievements, not her experience. Not at all. She is presenting herself for the office of the presidency of the United States on the grounds that we have never before had a woman president.
To glance across the political divide one would be hard put to believe that either of the two leading Republican candidates at the moment are running on their experience and accomplishments in government service, their command of the issues or their extensive qualifications for the office.
In the past factors like race and gender were too often considered to be uniquely disqualifying. Now, we have gotten to the point where they are uniquely qualifying. Not only that, but uniquely defining.
After all, did anyone think that Barack Obama was the most qualified, the best prepared, the most accomplished candidate for the American presidency. Not at all. People voted for him because they had been told that it was a way to strike a blow against racism, to rid the nation of its original sin and therefore a way to assert our virtue.
As it turns out, the president of Russia has been taking Obama for a chump. So, for that matter has the ayatollah in Iran. This can only mean, to those who worship at the altar of identity politics that Putin is unenlightened. The gods will doom his Middle Eastern adventure, just as they doomed his Crimean incursion!!
It’s almost as though Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and the other world leaders who are filling the vacuum left by America’s abrogation of leadership are not in on the joke.