(LOOTPRESS) – It has been said that tyranny is the deliberate removal of nuance. As human beings, however, we tend to lean on categorization as a means of organizational structure so as to quickly internalize and respond to large amounts of information. Effective a system as this may at times be, the sacrifice comes by way of failure to consider context which can often prove to be crucial in one’s assessment of a given idea or set of information. These “blind spots” become particularly problematic in our own assessments of one another, and ultimately of ourselves.
Humanity’s natural inclination for categorization over time has led to the organization of groups into neat and tidy ideological “boxes” such as religious groups, political parties, social organizations, and so on. The issue lies in the immense complexity and unpredictable nature of human beings in general. Unifying one’s perception of just one person, let alone multiple large groups of people, is inevitably going to render a litany of inaccurate perceptions of these people and will undoubtedly skew one’s approach in their dealings with them, often catastrophically so.
Which is how we come upon the concept of identity politics, a (vaguely) analytical system predicated upon the categorization of people, partially based upon similarities to members of a given group, but arguably more so based upon dissimilarities to members of a given group.
While quite obviously problematic in our assessments of others, the real trouble begins when these types of presumptions and uncritical forms of thinking begin to affect a person’s perception of themselves. Humans are social creatures, and when a person finds the connection they so desperately seek through a group pushing a particular agenda, the person is more likely to alter themselves in order to fit that mold as a means of ensuring that social connection doesn’t dissipate.
This type of thinking emerges, as previously noted, as a hindrance to one’s acknowledgment not only to the humanity of others, but perhaps even more significantly to one’s own humanity. At a certain level, through these types of categorizations, people cease to be people at all, and could be said to be more closely akin to tools or appliances to be wielded by those in power in pursuit of a personal, political, or social objective.
These are complex avenues to navigate, as the unifying causes – the validity of the causes themselves notwithstanding – are not without merit, particularly as tools for social development, and occasionally even the pursuit of a greater good. But individuals’ understanding of themselves is a complicated matter, and humans have been known to subconsciously delude themselves to work against their own values, consciousnesses, and beliefs in order to continue receiving positive stimuli, which can often come in the form of acceptance and validation from one’s peers.
But simply as an exercise, let’s say that what’s being presented as a “greater good” by a said group truly does exist as such and that the effort in pushing the cause or idea is, in fact, justified. We still bump up against the complexity of individual values and perception. How many concessions can one make for a purported “greater good” before the price ceases to justify the reward? How many parts of oneself can a man hack off to accommodate the implementation of softer, more agreeable parts, before he ceases to even be himself at all?
Identity politics encourages the defining of one’s self based upon a few key characteristics shared with others – be they with regard to financial status, sexual orientation, social beliefs, religious views, and so on and so forth. This entails an overemphasizing of the characteristics in question while other characteristics – equally pertinent to the “complete picture” of a person – are seemingly diminished in equal measure.
While this can often entail unifying in support of a shared cause or idea, it oftentimes – more than many would care to admit, to others or to themselves – is predicated upon the rallying of support based upon a shared disdain for an idea or approach of another given group. This type of reactivity isn’t necessarily sustainable, however, and doesn’t necessarily render the most effective result, be it in terms of forward progress or in terms of maintaining an established set of ideas or approaches.
Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, the individual characteristics which do not lend themselves to utilization for the cause of the group in question are essentially disregarded entirely, cast aside as mere noise. It is these distinctions which make each person significant, however. It isn’t necessarily a matter of division, it’s a matter of autonomy, and the lumping together of individuals to the end of pushing a single agenda is disingenuous at best and catastrophic at worst.
Human history is littered with instances of this “tunnel vision” approach proving to be a minefield of cognitive dissonance and wide-scale delusion – for reference, one need look no further than the utter blunders of Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, Hitler and the Nazi Party, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and endless other instances of catastrophe stemming from mass amounts of individuals “falling in line” with sets of values which weren’t necessarily their own.
Unity and the establishment of comradery based upon shared values can be an empowering concept, but comprehensive unity and enforcement of a “shared vision” across large groups is the unequivocal definition of tyranny. As such, identity politics in such a context is indicative of the death of the individual as a concept, just as the sanding-off of any and all “rough edges” which distinguish a person from their counterparts in a respective “category” is the blatant excision of that person’s character. Humanity cannot be automated, and the complexity of individuals cannot be expedited without the guarantee of substantial repercussions.
There is undoubtedly power in numbers, but oftentimes the most valuable power lies in unobstructed, objective, independent thought. No one wants to be a “sheep,” but an arguably even more unfortunate distinction is that of being a “sheep” calling another “sheep” a “sheep.” Therein lies the significance of self-awareness, presence of mind, and maintaining the fortitude to question one’s own motivations for their course of thinking in a given circumstance.