If there is one thing that still unites Americans across the ever more intellectually suffocating and bitterly polarized political spectrum our imaginations have been crammed into like rush hour commuters on the Tokyo Metro, it’s our undying love of identity politics.
Who doesn’t love identity politics? Liberals love identity politics. Conservatives love identity politics. Political parties love identity politics. Corporations love identity politics. Advertisers, anarchists, white supremacists, Wall Street bankers, Hollywood producers, Twitter celebrities, the media, academia … everybody loves identity politics.
Why do we love identity politics? We love them for many different reasons.
The ruling classes love identity politics because they keep the working classes focused on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and so on, and not on the fact that they (i.e., the working classes) are, essentially, glorified indentured servants, who will spend the majority of their sentient existences laboring to benefit a ruling elite that would gladly butcher their entire families and sell their livers to hepatitic Saudi princes if they could get away with it. Dividing the working classes up into sub-groups according to race, ethnicity, and so on, and then pitting these sub-groups against each other, is extremely important to the ruling classes, who are, let’s remember, a tiny minority of intelligent but physically vulnerable parasites controlling the lives of the vast majority of human beings on the planet Earth, primarily by keeping them ignorant and confused.
The political parties love identity politics because they allow them to conceal the fact that they are bought and paid for by these ruling classes, which, in our day and age, means corporations and a handful of obscenely wealthy oligarchs who would gut you and your kids like trout and sell your organs to the highest bidder if they thought they could possibly get away with it. The political parties employ identity politics to maintain the simulation of democracy that prevents Americans (many of whom are armed) from coming together, forming a mob, dismantling this simulation of democracy, and then attempting to establish an actual democracy, of, by, and for the people, which is, basically, the ruling classes’ worst nightmare. The best way to avoid this scenario is to keep the working classes ignorant and confused, and at each other’s throats over things like pronouns, white privilege, gender appropriate bathrooms, and the complexion and genitalia of the virtually interchangeable puppets the ruling classes allow them to vote for.
The corporate media, academia, Hollywood, and the other components of the culture industry are similarly invested in keeping the vast majority of people ignorant and confused. The folks who populate this culture industry, in addition to predicating their sense of self-worth on their superiority to the unwashed masses, enjoy spending time with the ruling classes, and reaping the many benefits of serving them … and, while most of them wouldn’t personally disembowel your kids and sell their organs to some dope-addled Saudi trillionaire scion, they would look the other way while the ruling classes did, and then invent some sort of convoluted rationalization of why it was necessary, in order to preserve democracy and freedom (or was some sort of innocent but unfortunate “blunder,” which will never, ever, happen again).
The fake Left loves identity politics because they allow them to pretend to be “revolutionary” and spout all manner of “militant” gibberish while posing absolutely zero threat to the ruling classes they claim to be fighting. Publishing fake Left “samizdats” (your donations to which are tax-deductible), sanctimoniously denouncing racism on Twitter, milking whatever identity politics scandal is making headlines that day, and otherwise sounding like a slightly edgier version of National Public Radio, are all popular elements of the fake Left repertoire.
Marching along permitted parade routes, assembling in designated “free speech areas,” and listening to speeches by fake Left celebrities and assorted Democratic Party luminaries, are also well-loved fake Left activities. For those who feel the need to be even more militant, pressuring universities to cancel events where potentially “violent” and “oppressive” speech acts (or physical gestures) might occur, toppling offensive historical monuments, ratting out people to social media censors, or masking up and beating the crap out of “street Nazis” are among the available options. All of these activities, by herding potential troublemakers into fake Left ghettos and wasting their time, both on- and off-line, help to ensure that the ruling classes, their political puppets, the corporate media, Hollywood, and the rest of the culture industry can keep most people ignorant and confused.
Oh, and racists, hardcore white supremacists, anti-Semites, and other far-Right wing nuts … my God, do they love identity politics! Identity politics are their entire worldview (or Weltanschauung, for you Nazi fetishists). Virtually every social, political, economic, and ontological phenomenon can be explained by reducing it to race, ethnicity, religion, or some other simplistic criterion, according to these “alt-Right” geniuses. And to render everything even more simplistic, each and every one of their simplistic theories can be subsumed into a meta-simplistic theory, which amounts to (did you guess it?) a conspiracy of Jews.
According to this meta-theory, this conspiracy of Jews (which is headquartered in Israel, but maintains offices in Los Angeles and New York, from which it controls the corporate media, Hollywood, and the entire financial sector) is responsible for … well, anything they can think of. September 11 attacks? Conspiracy of Jews. Financial crisis? Jews, naturally. Black on Black crime? Jews again! Immigration? Globalization? Gun control laws? Abortion? Drugs? Media bias? Who else could be behind it all but Jews?!
See, the thing is, there is no essential difference between your identity politics-brainwashed liberal and your Swastika-tattooed white supremacist. Both are looking at the world through the lens of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or some other type of “identity.” They are looking through this “identity” lens (whichever one it happens to be) because either they have been conditioned to do so (most likely from the time they were children) or they have made a conscious choice to do so (after recognizing, and affirming or rejecting, whatever conditioning they received as children).
Quantum physicists, Sufi fakirs, and certain other esoterics understand what most of us don’t, namely, that there is no such thing as “the Truth,” or “Reality,” apart from our perception of it. The world, or “reality,” or whatever you want to call it, is more than happy to transform itself into any imaginable shape and form, based on the lens you are looking at it through. It’s like a trickster in that regard. Look at “reality” through a racist lens, and everything will make sense according to that logic. Look at it through a social justice lens, or a Judeo-Christian lens, or a Muslim lens, or a scientific or a Scientologist lens, or a historical materialist or capitalist lens (it really makes no difference at all) … and abracadabra! A new world is born!
Sadly, most of us never reach the stage in our personal (spiritual?) development where we are able to make a conscious choice about which lens we want to view the world through. Mostly, we stick with the lens we were originally issued by our families and societies. Then we spend the rest of our fleeting lives desperately insisting that our perspective is “the Truth,” and that other perspectives are either “lies” or “errors.” The fact that we do this is unsurprising, as the ruling classes (of whatever society we happened to be born and socialized into) are intensely invested in issuing everyone a “Weltanschauung lens” that corresponds to whatever narrative they are telling themselves about why they deserve to be the ruling classes and we deserve to exist to serve them, fight their wars, pay interest on their loans, not to mention rent to live on the Earth, which they have claimed as their own and divided up amongst themselves to exploit and ruin, which they justify with “laws” they invented, which they enforce with armies, police, and prisons, which they teach us as children to believe is “just the way life is” … but I digress.
So, who doesn’t love identity politics? Well, I don’t love identity politics. But then I tend to view political events in the context of enormous, complex systems operating beyond the level of the individuals and other entities such systems comprise. Thus I’ve kind of been keeping an eye on the restructuring of the planet by global capitalism that started in the early 1990s, following the collapse of the U.S.S.R., when global capitalism (not the U.S.A.) became the first globally hegemonic system in the history of aspiring hegemonic systems.
Now, this system (i.e., capitalism, not the U.S.A), being globally hegemonic, has no external enemies, so what it’s been doing since it became hegemonic is aggressively destabilizing and restructuring the planet according to its systemic needs (most notably in the Middle East, but also throughout the rest of the world), both militarily and ideologically. Along the way, it has encountered some internal resistance, first, from the Islamic “terrorists,” more recently, from the so-called “nationalists” and “populists,” none of whom seem terribly thrilled about being destabilized, restructured, privatized, and debt-enslaved by global capitalism, not to mention relinquishing what remains of their national sovereignty, and their cultures, and so on.
I’ve been writing about this for over two years, so I am not going to rehash it all in detail here (this essay is already rather long). The short version is, what we are currently experiencing (i.e., Brexit, Trump, Italy, Hungary, et cetera, the whole “populist” or “nationalist” phenomenon) is resistance (an insurgency, if you will) to hegemonic global capitalism, which is, essentially, a values-decoding machine, which eliminates “traditional” (i.e., despotic) values (e.g., religious, cultural, familial, societal, aesthetic, and other such non-market values) and replaces them with a single value, exchange value, rendering everything a commodity.
The fact that I happen to be opposed to some of those “traditional” values (i.e., racism, anti-Semitism, oppression of women, homosexuals, and so on) does not change my perception of the historical moment, or the sociopolitical, sociocultural, and economic forces shaping that moment. God help me, I believe it might be more useful to attempt to understand those forces than to go around pointing and shrieking at anyone who doesn’t conform to my personal views like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
But that’s the lens I choose to look through. Maybe I’ve got it all assbackwards. Maybe what is really going on is that Russia “influenced” everyone into voting for Brexit and Donald Trump, and hypnotized them all with those Facebook ads into hating women, people of color, transsexuals, and the Jews, of course, and all that other “populist” stuff, because the Russians hate us for our freedom, and are hell-bent on destroying democracy and establishing some kind of neo-fascist, misogynist, pseudo-Atwoodian dystopia. Or, I don’t know, maybe the other side is right, and it really is all a conspiracy of Jews … transsexual, immigrant Jews of color, who want to force us all to have late-term abortions and circumcise our kids, or something.
I wish I could help you sort all that out, but I’m just a lowly political satirist, and not an expert on identity politics or anything. I’m afraid you’ll have to pick a lens through which to interpret “reality” yourself. But then, you already have, haven’t you … or are you still looking through the one that was issued to you?
C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or consentfactory.org.