Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Identity Fascism (5)

Multi-culturalism is the politics of group identity. It is a collectivist politic that defines the person as part of a group rather than the group as a collection of individual people. In the realm of identity politic ideology, the worst thing one can do is devalue the group, such as when one devalues the person by claiming he is "x," which reflects from him and onto the group identity: for example, if a man riots in the streets of Paris he is not a rioter but an expressive agent of Islamic rage; and if he is arrested he is not a criminal but a victim of racism inherent in the system that attacks him and his whole religious community by singling out the rioter and thereby imprisoning the entire group by proxy. If one were to claim that one man is a vandal, then by extension, one is a racist, blaming all members of the man's group for vandalism. One for all and all for all within the group. The origins of this collectivist and tribalist nonsense lie in the origins of Humanity, and it is we in the modern West who are the minority in our approach to man as a private individual free to make his own decisions and accept his own consequences good or bad therefrom. But it is only since the late 18th century that this idea is intellectualized for the masses. It is only in the past short span of years that multi-culturalism has gained credence in the modern West as coeternal with democracy and individualism; and yet the two cannot co-exist. The time is come for us as residents of the West to determine whether we are individualists or collectivists. We are free men and women with the inherent right to privacy that Life demands or we are members of our groups and beholden to the group for our identity and being as free men and women. It cannot be both ways at once.

The question arises when one asks "Who am I?" We get an answer from the German philosopher Fichte that will seem reasonable on the surface, not an answer likely to send us from the room in a screaming rage, but it might with a bit of inquiry into the nature of the answer.

Those who have followed this thesis carefully over the past six months will recall that Herder and Jung and Darre for example all define people from negativism, like a photographic negative rather than negative in a pejorative sense. A person is what he is not. In other words, I am me only if I am not infinite and continuous. I am me only if there is another to limit me and give me definition, boundaries, and identity. I am only me if there is something I am not, not you, for example. Being not you doesn't give me a great deal of identity as me. I must be something within the fact of my existence, other than a simple existence myself. What is being me? It is my mind, for one thing. My mind is nothing if it's empty of things other than pure instinct, leaving me to be as little or nothing more than an animal. What makes me Human is reason, and Reason is the ability to communicate with others through language.

When Napoleon invaded the Germanic areas in the early 19th century the Germanic people were not a united nation of Germans but a collection of disparate men and women living in feudal conditions, owned by Church and landowner and feudal baron. When the French invaded the Germanic lands, what then did the Germanic people have to offer by way of resistance to the French that made them not French and worthy of resisting? They had no national identity, not state to rally to, no overlord calling them to defend anything against invaders from France. What made the Germanic people not French? Their identity as Germans, of course, but what did that mean in a non-national context? It meant, roughly, nothing at all.

Identity comes into play here when Herder wrote that German people have a collective non-French identity because they speak German. The otherwise empty-minded animal being who has language is able to communicate with others and know he is not them and is therefore himself because he is not them; and also, he is able to speak to other German speakers and know that though he is not them he is similar, he is in fact part of a distinguishable group of not-French. But so what? That in itself doesn't give validity to him as a resister to the French invader of other Germanic lands and people, only himself. He might have more in common with the average French soldier than he does with a far removed German aristocrat on the whole. So Herder looks on Germans as a untied identity group legitimate in resistance to French invasion thus: having in common with all other peasants on Earth, the German does not have in common with them his collective identity as a man. No. Though there is a world-wide monoculture of peasantry that varies little from one side of the Earth to the other peasants have nothing in common with those who live close-- if they are not of his identity group, and that identity is what makes the one part of the group in his mind, the means by which we know him as Human.

The individual man is nothing unless he is in contrast to another so he might know what he is not. But, to be simple not other is insufficient: one must be something to be someone. One is identifiable as something by language, the very thing that makes the form of the mind unidentifiable even to the owner of the mind. If you can't think, you're not very Human. And to think, according to Herder and others, you need words, you need language. The language, the words you use, become your identifiable mind and person. If you have a language no one else understands, then your thoughts and identity are wasted and you are not really Human in terms of life's practicalities. Truly, to be Human you must be able to talk to others, and others must be able to understand you. The shared language, the words you use, that gives you identity, and it is only so if it's shared. You can't be Human all by yourself.

If you find someone to speak to who can understand you and you him, then you are a person. Where do you get the very words you use? You get them not from your own making but form your birth group. You get your words from your nation. The nation is your boundary that makes you specifically not another, and that gives you form and identity as a single individual. You, sorry to say, do not define the nation and are nothing without it. You cannot be anything without language, and the very language you speak determines the kind of you you are. If you speak German words, you think in German ways, and it makes you German, not French, no mater how much you have in common with the French peasant standing next to you who can't understand you. You have, in fact, more in common with the baron hundreds of miles away with whom you can speak meaningfully. You and he share your German identity by virtue of knowing things from the depths of German knowledge of yourself and him collectively. Your mind is German and so is his. You are not French. You do not share a mental world with a Frenchman, but you do with a German, no matter how removed he might be from you. When you think, you think in German, and your mind, your being as a man, is German. Your whole personal mental shape and form come to you from language and the thoughts it allows you to have. You are you when you are not another. And you are you if you can be something other than a vacuum, which requires the content of the defining language, the very stuff that makes you something specifically you. You have an identity. You are one of the group and not one of the others.

So what? Much ado about nothing. Except that if you are you and we are we, then we are not them, and they are not only not us but they are others. I am only meaningful in relation to you and my own group, having no identity as a person outside my own group. My privacy as a being in meaningless in itself, only being valid if I have a part in the group identity, and the group being the factor that gives me reality as a being is supreme to anything a small fragment such as myself could be. In short, my person interests in my own life are trivial beyond expression in comparison to the group.The group is the highest expression of my own existence. My group, based on language that gives shape and meaning to me as a being, is supreme always and ever. My language group is not something that sprang up last night with the mushrooms. It is organic in that it has existed from time itself. I, not being anything on my own but only as a part of my group, am also tied to the organic growth of my language group. I being part of the whole, have extension beyond myself as an individual, going back to the mists of the beginning of creation, having always been part of the group identity. One drop is rain, but many drops are an ocean, and the ocean is eternal and independent of the drop. But the drop is one drop that is external in identity as the ocean. Personal identity transcends the personal and is part of the eternal. I am German, and I have always been German in that Germans have always been Germans, and I bei ng here now, am part of the ocean of eternity of Germanness.

I am not a scum rioter in France. I am a Muslim, part of the ummah of Islam. If you imprison me for looting and burning, you imprison my identity as a Muslim, and that is an assault on all of my Islamness and other Muslims.

When we start thinking in terms of identity groups rather than in terms of privacy and individuals, which our mutli-culturalist friends in the West often do, then we are in danger of aiding and abetting Left dhimmi fascism naively. We accept ideas and actions we don't like but don't know how to say no to. We accept the evilness of racism, but we lose sight of the fact that it's not a race that commits crimes only the individual. We recoil from accusations of racism and let criminals go rather than accept that he is not a race and that we are not attacking the identity of the group but only the actor. If we can't distinguish between the actor and the group we will continue to allow our Western Modernity to crumble under the weight of identity fascist idiocy.

In coming posts we'll look at the writings of an anthropologist who argues from a positon of idntity fascism. Once we see this argument for what it is we might become less nervous about identitifying it in public as fascsiim rather than as something we should bend to from fear of personal immorality, of racism, sexism, or homophobia. We might come away from these installments on identity facism less willing to tolerate it.


Rick Darby said...

Freedom is the purest oxygen we humans can breathe, but for many people whose individuality and character have not developed, it is also a terrible burden. Throughout history, almost all people everywhere have identified themselves with their tribe, city-state or country first. Only since the European Enlightenment of the 18th century has the idea of individuals taking responsibility for themselves made much headway; and it is only too obvious that there are still entire cultures and sub-cultures that find the prospect too threatening.

Liberalism, although theoretically about advancing individual freedom and responsibility, has more often than not actually promoted a regression into tribalism. True, even in the heyday of Communist totalitarianism and union "solidarity," there were anti-Communist liberals who shied away from ideas of group identity. But, starting in the '60s, a strong reversal took place: what mattered was your ethnicity, your sub-cultural history.

Unfortunately, while many of the overt political aims of the New Left were rightly rejected by a majority of people, the underlying assumption that each person was no more than a sample of a category (women, African Americans, gays, the handicapped, etc.) has become the dominant thought pattern. So dominant, in fact, that hardly anyone even realizes that they're acting it out.

The result has put a terrible extra weight on every social problem. We can't merely ameliorate the problem — we have to show, at the same time, that neither the problem or solution has anything to do with group categories. And that is nearly impossible when any action in connection with individuals is seen as being directed at those individuals' supposedly "higher" identity as emblems of a collective.

We can't profile for potential terrorists, for example, because that would mean admitting that terrorists tend to have certain characteristics in common; therefore, that would be "stereotyping"; therefore, that would be racism; therefore, we are creating a Nazi-like police state; therefore (according to the group-identity logic) the only alternative is to pretend that all people are equally likely to commit terrorist acts, rather than acknowledge the common-sense understanding that we need to pay more attention to some people than others.

It's an open question whether the great majority of Muslims support violent jihad or would welcome a restrictive Islamic state worldwide. What's ironic, though, is that liberals are the first to see any action that affects certain Muslims as being directed against all Muslims.

It's as though deep down, they can't really imagine Muslims as individuals: they can only be understood as components of a group identity, and therefore anything that any Muslim objects to is by its nature anti-Muslim bigotry, since "Islam" is a higher and more encompassing category than "person who is a Muslim." Hence, to defend ourselves against any particular Muslim whom we have good reason to believe is a threat is to attack all Muslims everywhere.

So we virtually paralyze ourselves because of our belief that everyone is simply a specimen of a group, and no group must ever be antagonized.

dag said...

Rick has left comments here before, and as always, much appreciated and worthwhile.

If ever I can figure out how to make links I'll do so because we have a number of people and sites here worth conncting to. Please hit on the names as they appear till I get some technical advice.

Pastorius said...

Hi Dag,
I tried to write the html codes for linking for you, but your comments section will not allow html codes.

Oh well.

If you are not adverse to using email, here is my email address:


Rick Darby said...


I sympathize, having not long ago struggled to tweak the template for my own blog. But adding links is one of the easiest things to do. Click where it says "Edit-Me" in the sidebar to the right, and it will explain.

If you want a reference book for editing your template using the HTML coding, I recommend Publishing a Blog with Blogger: A Visual QuickProject Guide by Elizabeth Castro.

dag said...

I'll try to address this issue today. There are some sites I'd like to encourage others to read, and I'm sure the convenience of a sidebar link would do it.

If all else fails I'll drag one of my mates over from acrss the room to see about some expert help. Sometimes they do come to my rescue, but only shaking their heads and mumbling something about Mr. Special Person needing help again turning on the computer.