False Identities / Stupid Divides

Ah, the past. It's so comforting because it's already happened and we can control it. Economic and political subjects are also welcome.
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False Identities / Stupid Divides

Post by sharoma »

After thinking a bit more about identity politics, I think it is important as a so-called westerner for me to not allow myself to be divided against people 'east' of Ukraine, whether it's Russia, the Middle East, or China. I wonder if you polled people from the northern and southern hemispheres whether a majority would in some way identify as a 'northerner' and therefore better than a 'southerner' or vice versa. Here are just a few of the false identities I was exposed to growing up or could wrongly assume now (bold is applied to emphasize that I do not believe any of these to be true or offer inherent advantages):

1. English for national pride within Great Britain, or language pride.
2. England for soccer, GB for other sports.
3. British for historical British Empire pride.
4. United Kingdom or Canada for modern day national pride.
5. Northerner for regional pride within England, or hemispheric pride against the south.
6. Westerner for 'not being a terrorist or evil' pride.
7. White [1] for 'race' pride.
8. NATO for Cold War pride.
9. European for continental pride.
10. G7/OECD for wealth of nations pride.
11. Commonwealth for disguised British Empire pride.
12. Man/Male for gender pride.
13. Living in the New World and that's 'better' than the Old.
14. Being from the Old World and that's more 'historical' than the New.
15. Being from the 'modern' age and not thousands of years ago.
16. Being from the digital age and not born before computers.
17. 'Working class' for social values/authenticity pride.
18. 'Lower-middle class' for pride when displaying certain tastes but wishing to stay on the lowest rung of the middle class.
19. Worker for Marxist pride.
20. Pacifist for peace pride.
21. Islander for geographic pride.
22. Grammar school pride over state school [2].
23. Supporting 'x' football club and not Manchester Utd.

...there are probably many more, each more ridiculous than the last and formed from learned or observed behaviour, TV, and books [3].

You could even imagine members of countries with nuclear weapons feel a nuclear pride, and taken further, members of countries which are officially allowed nuclear weapons. Or most people who are not religious at all may still feel a vague, irrational Christian/religious pride when confronted with images of Muslims or Jews.

With these (or the equivalent for your country and region) a person has the necessary weapons to look down on anyone.

What is my actual identity? If we go back just 2,000 years, I am probably related to almost everyone in Europe, if not parts of Asia too. Going back 7,000 years, I hope my ancestors would identify as communal and would fight a political class which wanted to exploit them and sell them false divisions! I would hope we can all identify based on our common interests and the things we enjoy doing.

I find UK football hooliganism interesting as a study in the denigration of a frustrated working class releasing their anger at football grounds, or as a form of identity politics at an absurdly ridiculous level. When rival fans clash, what are they fighting about? They are arguably of the same social class, work the same jobs, live in the same country with the same religion, and most importantly, they share a hobby. They aren't even the ones competing. All they have to do is spectate together and have fun. Even the teams themselves swap players, so it's not even a loyalty to a specific body of men. Yet this division can lead to actual violence and death at a more personal level than a tank crew, jet fighter pilot, or drone operator may experience.

When at war, it is even easier to create long term divisions between working class people. Ordinary folk are not to blame for the prosecution of war in the industrial era, yet they are the ones to suffer either in the actual fighting or from negative attitudes towards them:
At the end of 2021, 75% of Ukrainians said they had a positive attitude toward ordinary Russians, while in May 2022, 82% of Ukrainians said they had a negative attitude toward ordinary Russians.
(Source: Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, May 2022.)

[1] Before the 17th century this would not be how any European person identified. They would likely use their social status, religion, or nationality. Eg. a farmer, a Christian, an Englishman. The fact that 'white' is now a common identifier in speech or on census forms is a tragedy and another dangerous division.

[2] The institution I attended was massively racist, as were most of the teachers. I heard the teacher's use racist slurs in the classroom or corridors. It was also common to hear them talk down state schools or to talk up their own school, without any evidence besides exam results. I am thoroughly ashamed I had to attend this institution.

[3] I am currently reading Sharpe's Command and Cornwell keeps up a centuries old trend of being racist against the Spanish (and French), something which every Sharpe novel set in Spain features. Cornwell himself proves that someone can live in the USA and still exercise a vigorous British Empire pride.
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