A Continued Discussion of Identity Politics (1 Viewer)

Aug 22, 2011
Westernville, NY
I felt that I risked derailing the "Matt Derrick is a Fascist" thread with a discussion that emerged on identity politics, so I thought I'd move my reply over here. Feel free to join in.

This is patently untrue, because there are a huge variety of bigoted reasons police can find to brutalize people that are different, which is a fact anybody who's lived outside the social norm should be very familiar with. The statement that categorization is a tool only used as a collectivist weapon is demonstrably untrue, completely so. Categorization is necessary for human communication, and for science; by what I understand of what you're saying, the categories of "birds", "mammals", and "amphibians" are collectivist weapons, rather than scientific definitions. People of various different ancestries exist as rigidly definable categories, and we are not going to be past that until you and me are dust. The theoretical idea of cops who don't see color is beyond ridiculous, they do, and they will for the foreseeable future.

The problem isn't that we have definitions of these differences; the ideal "man who can't see color" isn't a good alternative, somebody who just sees everybody as the same homogeneous blob; people should be free to embrace and celebrate difference, and others should be able to recognize that difference for what it is and celebrate it too. The problem isn't that we're different, and recognize it, the problem is that we allow these xenophobic attitudes from our past to propagate, and try to make excuses for them, like "oh, cops just magically shouldn't see peoples' differences". Black people don't generally just want to be seen as white people, they have their own unique cultures and histories from around the world. Gay people don't just want to be seen as straight people, transgendered people don't want to just be seen as their identified gender, they want to be understood and recognized for who they are. The problem isn't that we see each others' differences, it's that people have been taught to specifically hate certain differences, because in the past xenophobia was allowed to run rampant in our country, and they seem to think that we're not allowed to say anything about that shit because "free speech".

Healthy people don't "transcend" their differences, they embrace them. A number of broad categorizations cover most of us, and are all part of our unique identity, and generally, it's okay to recognize that. You can fit into a category without sacrificing individuality.

Finally, it's a proven fact that if you look and act the part, eventually your brain falls into line. Smile, and your brain releases more happy chemicals. Dress well, and confidence improves. Don't call people n*****rs all the time, and hopefully you'll be less of a racist. There's a point to political correctness, and "social justice", and it's that the idea that our words and actions reflecting our thoughts isn't just a one-way street - if you think that's wrong, look into the efficacy of cognitive therapy. Beyond that, being publicly censured DOES have an effect on peoples' behavior, and peoples' behavior affects their thought patterns. If nobody will hang out with you because you're a racist piece of shit, and everybody makes that clear, generally you will become less of a racist piece of shit over time because humans generally want to be seen as a good person by their peers. Patterns of behavior reinforce mental patterns. Change the behavior, and you can usually affect the mental patterns.

Thanks for the engaging reply.
Obviously, to forego the use of "mammals" and "amphibians" as categories is somewhat ridiculous, and as you say, in a similar vein, to say someone is "asian" or "black" is often a simple and inoffensive means of describing someone. It's a way of communicating that I am not arguing against, and I was being imprecise by saying simply "categorization".
There is an ocean of difference between these simple categories and the "identitarian category" used by identity politicians and those in power alike. For these people, to say someone is gay/black/white/American/etc etc is not simply a statement of fact, it is the forcible incorporation of an individual into a collective and assigning that collective (and thereby, the individuals within it) with some inherent value. This process creates a zero sum game of valuation where the individual's own values and meaning are trumped by their social category. And so it is that contrary to what you've said, a social category is not only inadequate, it is actually in direct contradiction with the expression of the unique essence within each human life.

On a spectrum of the knowable, I know I presently exist and desire more than anything else. I know it with greater certainty than I know you presently exist and desire, and I know it with even greater certainty than I know you will exist and desire in six months. Extending farthest away from the realm of certainty are statements about great masses of people and what they will want in general over time. And yet, despite this last concept being the farthest thing from what is certain, it constitutes the basis of collectivist politics; and these politics also tend to deny or ignore the reality that each of us in a world in and of herself. They, like Christianity, establish a heaven to work towards and a set of rituals to get us closer to that place.

Interestingly, the statement I can make that is most certain is also consistent with the idea that I contain a unique essence that need not comply with any laws, conventions, or subjugate itself to abstract ideas rooted in less certain concepts about "the common good" or "the next generation" and so on. The communist is concerned for me as a worker, because he needs workers for his little movement to function. The moment I quit work forever and choose to affirm desires other than labor organizing, he makes me his enemy. The christian is concerned with saving souls - the moment I affirm the satanic desire to do as I please, I am evil to him. The NPR liberal is concerned with the welfare of the gay woman - until she decides to pack a pistol to defend herself against queer bashers.
And these statements are true in their inverse form as well; the cop is concerned with the black man as a threat first, and if he establishes that he is not a "thug", he may look to use him as an Uncle Tom to prove the cop's colorblindness.
In all cases, those in power (the state, the rich) as well as those who seek power (various liberation movements) callously manage an immense diversity of human individuals by choking them down into the most condensed and essentialized format and doing with them what is necessary to maintain (or obtain) power.

Over and against is this not "colorblindness" or "a homogeneous blob" but is instead a refusal to engage with the parasitic class of managers that sit at the top of every social institution - including those who claim to liberate us but counter-intuitively believe the inadequate identities power has issued us are inescapable. And in addition, the affirmation of each individual as a unique force in and of themselves, free to create meaning from nothing.

Finally, regarding the efficacy of the essentially Bolshevik project of censuring people and exiling those who engage in "wrongthink", I think your ideas about this display a narrow idea of the human mind. It looks good on paper, and it certainly makes us feel good in the face of often insurmountable social ills, but I doubt it does much. What actually happens to those who are exiled? They tend to get together, particularly online, and utilize the histrionics of their opponents as proof of their ineptitude, and proof that their reactionary positions are superior. I've participated in many "anarchist" groups that seemed just to get smaller and more self-righteous as time went on. And those who remained consisted of ideological fashionistas who were not at all effective at doing anything but censuring others and infighting. Further, even if certain elements of discourse and everyday behavior are effective to censure, where is the line drawn? I was exiled from a community I used to live in simply because I read Stirner and became convinced of the egoist position. I did not act in any way that hurt others - I simply committed the crime of breaking ideological rank, and was summarily dismissed in a manner identical to how we had dismissed racists, cops, and alt-right types before.

It all tastes a great deal like the Russian revolution. And anyway, I find many in minority groups view these politics as patronizing and absurd.
Click here to buy the Anarchist's Guide to Travel!


plastic wingnut in a microwave
Sep 23, 2009
folks who know me have my #.

there are a lot of big words being used here, without concise definition, yet absolute conclusions being drawn.

would anyone care to proceed from basic definitions which can be agreed upon ("knowledge" and "identity", for instance) in such a way that analytical logic can actually derive any basic meaning, other than a justification of pre-existing opinion?

Hence, what is "knowledge" and what is "identity" defined in measurable, quantified terms, such that tautological analysis can actually proceed?

I am more than willing to engage upon definition, if you can *demonstrate* it as more than mere opinion, desire, or mutable trait, but if you *cannot* define these two words ("knowledge" and "identity") clearly, definitively & quantifiabley, without a whole lot of back & forth, then how can you make any arguments or draw any conclusions other than those based upon the assumption that whomever you are speaking to already agrees with you, when those definitions have not actually been put in place?

isn't it really just an exercise in intellectual masturbation?

Users who are viewing this thread

About us

  • Squat the Planet is the world's largest social network for misfit travelers. Join our community of do-it-yourself nomads and learn how to explore the world by any means necessary.

    More Info

Support StP!

Donations go towards paying our monthly server fees, adding new features to the website, and occasionally putting a burrito in Matt's mouth.

Total amount

Monthly Goals

  1. Paying the Bills
    $0.00 of $50.00
    The first $50 in donations go towards paying our monthly server fees and adding new features to the website. Once this goal is reached, we'll see about feeding Matt that burrito.
  2. Buy Matt a Beer
    $0.00 of $75.00
    Now that we have the bills paid for this month, let's give Matt a hearty thank you by buying him a drink for all the hard work he's done for StP. Hopefully this will help keep him from going insane after a long day of squishing website bugs.
  3. Feed Matt a Burrito
    $0.00 of $100.00
    Now that the bills are paid and Matt has a beer in his hand, how about showing him your love by rewarding all his hard work with a big fat burrito to put in his mouth. This will keep him alive while programming new features for the website.
  4. Finance the Shopping Cart
    $0.00 of $200.00
    Now that the bills are paid and Matt is fed, perhaps it's time to start planning for those twilight years under the bridge... if only he had that golden shopping cart all the oogles are bragging about these days.