Friday, May 12, 2017

Identity Politics, or J'accuse II

This follows on from my last post.

"In case I wasn’t somehow absolutely clear: all this stuff, this “identity politics”, is already happening and has always been happening.  Homosexuality carried the death penalty in Victoria until 1949, and even now people are denied equal treatment under the law (i.e. the ability to marry their partner) because of their sexuality. Indigenous Australians were literally not considered people under Australian law until 1967 – before that they came under the Flora and Fauna Act. Australian politicians, with support from figures in the media, are calling openly for Muslims to be banned from Australia. These people are all already grouped, and treated a certain way because of it. What you call “identity politics”, but which I would generally call “not being a cunt”, is asserting that “these people should not be treated badly based on what groupings they fall into (gay, female, Muslim, trans, Indigenous, etc.)”.

If you’re sick of Nazis, here’s another parallel: during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s, Serbian soldiers undertook the coordinated genocide of Bosnian civilians, including the use of concentration camps. At the time I want to speak out against it, but thankfully there’s a right-thinking and self-described individualist here to tell me that I’m “immoral, fascist and ultimately evil” for lumping these people into groups – each death is just a matter between the killer and the victim, the causes relevant only to them. Phew! For a moment there, I’d almost said that ethnic Bosnians were a persecuted minority in 1990s Yugoslavia.

“Why can’t we just treat people as individuals?!” is the cop-out phrase of someone who doesn’t want to do the hard work of making things better for people who aren’t them. Or worse, wants to prevent it from being done at all. Two women are killed by domestic violence each week in Australia, and the “individualist” response is “well, we caught the guys who did it, so problem solved”. Next week, two more women die. What you call “collectivisation” is really just basic pattern recognition. What you call “individualism” is saying that because you can’t see the problem, it doesn’t exist. One of these leads to fewer deaths, greater happiness and ultimately a better-functioning society. The other leads to bitching on the internet because they remade Ghostbusters with women."

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