Saturday, December 17, 2016

Identity politics

I have been thinking and I am afraid I got my take on “identity politics” wrong. These days, more than a few “liberal” commentators are suggesting that the problem with liberalism today is its preoccupation with different group identities. All these op-eds leave a foul aftertaste, one that basically suggests that white heterosexual males should be allowed to just chill a bit and not have to expend too much of their precious moral imagination on other people.

Not so fast.

A few posts ago, I slipped into similar language. The reason for this is that I believe that much of the Left has forgotten its long-term aim, namely to one day transcend the categories that divide us and make good on our common humanity. For me, imagining the deep future, it would be ridiculous to think that we centuries hence will pledge allegiance to different flags and divide people based on the colour of their skin or the geographical location where they were born. If there is to be any grand future for humanity it will be one in which we have proven our ability to broaden our horizons and have emerged as one fully integrated planetary civilization. Yet, that is not where we are today. And any attack on “identity politics” today may easily be mistaken for ignorance of how deep the scars of colonialism actually run or how widespread our contempt for weakness is. In order to make progress, we must first recognize the extent to which we too are guilty of marginalizing others. That will not derail but rather further our progress toward the world that we ultimately want to build.


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