The Co-option of Identity
Awhile back I wrote about identity and how many in marginalized communities had gone too far by using the government to give them advantages that were not a part of legitimate human rights. It seems now that what has evolved regarding these groups is that they, in the pursuit, of government privilege, have allowed themselves to become tools of the ruling elites. The media has gone on and on since the election about how Joe Biden’s administration will be so much more diverse than Donald Trump’s. It does seem to be the case that there will be more women, minorities and people of a different sexual orientation involved in the new administration. The question immediately arises; so, what?
We need to take a step back and understand what identity politics really is. It is about the restoration of a status society, albeit, with a more modern criterion of status. Status societies have been around as long as there have been communities of humans. Whether it was a priestly class or a warrior class or a monarchial, divine right ruling class, status has for most of human history determined your lot in life, with little if any chance to rise or better oneself. This has traditionally put women and minorities at severe disadvantages throughout history. Obviously, those with status are loath to change anything and use all sorts of justifications to keep things the way they are. In the end it is the coercive power of the government that allows one caste to hold power. Most of the violence that is human history is about one group seeking to displace the current ruling class and become the new ruling class, forever cementing their status.
This was the state of things until about 1750, as I outlined here. At that time capitalism got going and sent humanity on a hockey stick chart upward in terms of well-being. This exploded the notions of status and undermined the ruling classes as nothing ever has before or since. It even undermined the very basis of slavery. In time this benefited previously marginalized groups like women, who for the first time could go and earn a living outside of a patriarchal status society and not be forced to seek the material comforts that only men could provide ala. Pride and Prejudice. The only real tragedy to all of this is that humanity did not let capitalism develop fully all over the globe.
All this obviously provoked a reaction. Notably the first reaction to the new and developing capitalist order was not from Marxists, although they would in the end be the main alternative offered. No, the first reaction came from conservatives, the Ancien Regime. The landed classes that were a remnant of the old feudal order were the first to decry their loss of status and the ability of previously marginalized classes to rise and prosper. The conservative critique soon gave way to the Marxist critique, with all its nonsense of the exploitation of workers based on the labor theory of value (a sad remnant of Adam Smith’s key error.)
The problem is that Marxism, while truly desiring a liberal end, chose a conservative, reactionary means to achieve it (an insight from the great Murray Rothbard). Anytime you advance the government as a solution to any problem, you open the society to the control that a ruling caste will impose on society. As we have seen with every Marxist/socialist/communist experiment, the state never withers away. We may see one ruling elite overthrow another but always there is a ruling elite. This creates economic and social stasis and the spread of economic and social dislocation. It is all justified as righteous by the ruling elites using any ideological tools, they can grab off the shelf.
The ideology du jour is the careful use of identity. This has long been the roadmap used by statists. First it was the proletariat, then racial groups, then women, then those of a differing sexual orientation. It uses the Marxist formula of class determining your fate and the need for governmental power to “fix” the situation, only substituting other marginalized groups in the place of the proletariat. It is what the conservative scholar Jeffrey Hart called “Displaced Marxism”. We have seen that there will is no real change from one administration to the next, except in tone. The tone of the newly installed administration is one of “inclusivity”, as defined by the inclusion of previously marginalized groups.
True enough there will be more of this inclusion. Yet, this inclusion will pose absolutely no threat to the ruling elite. This is so because these marginalized groups have been co-opted into the ruling elite. People of color are increasingly admitted into the elite schools, they are increasingly getting jobs in the elite (particularly financial services) sectors and are much more of a presence in the society. Never mind that the mass of people in these historically marginalized groups are treading water or worse since the “war on poverty” and the growth of government took hold in the 1960s. These newly included are trotted out to show that all is good, all are now woke and the marginalized have a place at the table.
Those who have been co-opted in this way have all been immersed in the same elite schools, consume the same media, learned all the same statist economic and political talking points and sound and act just like the elites who let them in want them to. This is not to say these people are not sincere, but just that they likely have been sincerely co-opted. There is, and these diverse people show, a monolithic ideology of the ruling elites. They have been shown the corridors of power and privilege in exchange for an unswerving commitment to the dominant governing ideology. Their identity itself has become the key to their advancement.
The problem, of course, is that this ideology does nothing for the forgotten average person. We have seen time and again how the elite strip from the masses the ability to prosper on their own merits and how these elites, particularly the financial elite, game the system to shift trillions form the real economy to the canyons of Wall Street and line the pockets of the connected. The steady advancement of government is returning us to a status society, that we would have hoped we ditched for good at the dawn of capitalism. As I discussed last week there is no real change coming and the diverseness of the cabinet will not change the murderous, thieving policies of the U.S. government. Do domestic workers care that the Treasury Secretary ripping off their future is for the first time a woman? Will her gender stop the depredations upon their futures? Do people in other nations care that they are being bombed for the first time by a Pentagon led by a black man? Or will they despise us just as much for killing their families and supporting their overlords?
In the end Matin Luther King Jr. was right; it is about the content of our character not the color of our skin. We are known by our deeds. What we do is an outgrowth of who we are and what we believe. If we are to act as faithful Christians, if we are to be faithful Christians, then we must chart a different path. Yes, we are to intentionally go out of our way to include historically marginalized people. I have publicly argued as much. That does not mean we are to invite them to be a part of the standard human level of depravity and it does not mean we should not call out that depravity, even when we see it enacted by a diverse group. We are to invite all into a relationship with God and with each other. A relationship based on love, peace and simple human respect. In so doing we can create a world that revels in the amazing diversity of humanity without stripping those diverse humans of what can make us fully human; the way God intended us to be.
Praise Be to God