Identity politics and dignity

‘Identity politics’ is a term that’s been increasingly used to criticise someone or something, but with the meaning being vague.

The Oxford definition is actually not very remarkable.

identity politics

A tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.

The top definition at Urban Dictionary has a different take on it:

The act of believing that disagreeing with someone on certain ideologies equates to them disapproving a particular identity such as one’s race, sex, sexuality, religion, etc. rather than the ideology itself. Instead of focusing on the logical aspect of an idea or opinion, identity politics instead believes that a particular identity is opposing all people who belong to a particular identity.

This alternative seems closer to what I see as more common usage:

A dog whistle used by brocialists to attack any member of a minority group who gets above themselves by disagreeing with them.

Disabled lesbian: The flaws in state communism have been apparent to much of the left since long before the Soviet Union was ever founded. What do you think the Marx-Bakunin split was about?

Brocialist: Hey, quit your identity politics; we’re trying to talk about socialism here.

From The Spinoff article by NZ Privacy Commissioner John Edwards: Transgender self-identification: why it’s a human right”

What is “identity politics”? The term has come to be a slur, a shorthand encapsulating what is seen as the natural conclusion of another lazy and imprecise term, the much maligned ‘political correctness”. Identity politics is caricatured as a symptom of the decline of an increasingly fractured left, obsessed with smaller and smaller subgroupings of society, defined by some characteristic of race, gender, sexuality, disability or similar.

But that is only one side of what has become to be known as identity politics. Francis Fukuyama, in his 2018 book Identity – Contemporary Identity Politics and the Struggle for Recognition finds in the epithet also an explanation for the wave of rightwing Nationalism sweeping the world, from Hungary to Brazil, from the 2016 Brexit vote to the US presidential election of the same year.

The link is dignity, and the perception of the overlooked and disenfranchised, who, whether left or right, feel that their sense of identity is threatened. The subtitle to Fukuyama’s book is even more revealing: “The Demand For Dignity and the Politics of Resentment’.

The aspirations of marginalised gender or ethnic groupings have something in common with the overlooked and taken for granted Rust Belt Trump voters whose communities have been impoverished by economic decline, and ravaged by pain pills. Behind each is a cry for recognition and an equality of opportunity.

Dignity is something that’s missing from a lot of online discussion, especially when  terms like ‘identity politics’ are thrown around.

Dignity in dying

Sudden deaths, for example from accidents or heart attacks, give you no choice about how you die. There’s no way of changing that.

If your death is from illness takes time, in many cases there are choices. For example whether you send your last weeks or months at home, in a hospice or in some other care facility.

But one choice is not available to us, legally. That is, to choose to die a bit sooner than natural causes dictate, to ease pain and suffering.

The debate about assisted death or voluntary euthanasia has been revived in New Zealand as Parliamentary committee considers a record number of submissions.

Here’s a thought from a UK campaign, Dignity in Dying.


On Key, resigning and White Ribbon

A comment by Joe Bloggs sums this up well for me:

There’s no reason for Key to resign from the White Ribbon campaign. That’s a step too far. A simple apology and a statement condemning the actions of The Rock would be nice. And perhaps a little more thought about the maintaining the dignity of the office he’s sworn to uphold…