August 18, 2014

"Politics is becoming about identity all the time"

Richard Fernandez  in Man Without a Country poses questions we all can ponder.  Where do our loyalties lie?  To God and country or to our primary affinity group?

The Left for its part, has done its level best to multiply the hyphens while simultaneously trying to increase the size and power of the central state. They little realized or perhaps they realized all too well, that a program of cultural fragmentation combined with growing central power is the high road to dictatorship. You can have cultural diversity and a strong central government but not both — not unless it’s headed by a Sultan or an Emperor….

Tribalism is trending.  The End of History world is over. All of a sudden it matters again whether you’re Yazidi, Kurdish, Sunni, Shi’ite, Druze or Christian. It apparently matters whether you’re Russian or non-Russian, at least in Eastern Europe. And as Tolu Ongulesi in Nigeria notes, tribalism is alive and well in Africa, especially now that Ebola is running rampant…..

History may be evolving away from the Westphalian State, with its unitary national culture, flags and traditions and moving towards affinity groups whose allegiance is primarily to themselves;  which only form temporary alliances based on expedience in competition with other affinity groups.

The evidence is suggestive. Nobody is just an “American” any more. Anyone who insists on the plain identifier must be a secret bigot. You are a [modifier][-][American]. In fact, Forbes noted that “the number of Americans renouncing United States citizenship or terminating long-term residency is on a record pace.” And why not? The unadorned term “American” is being drained of meaning; what value there is lies in the prefix, not in the suffix…..

Politics is becoming about identity all the time….

There are affinity groups which cut across ethnicity based on sexual orientation, religion, level of disability, age and degree of dependence on one industry or the other, including government. This creates a bewildering landscape of interests and competing loyalties. The Democrats believe that the key to understanding the wilderness they’ve created is Big Data and its interface, social media. But if hyphenation — indeed multiple hyphenation — is the future, then Washington may be in the past.

What if nations’, as traditionally defined, are now passe? Suppose we are moving to a future where Westphalian nationality is nominal and operational identity is associated with a primary affinity group (PAG)? The most obvious candidate PAG is money. The tribe of the executive airport lounge, first class seating and the non-motel hotel. Some believe it is now possible to speak of a transnational elite whose real citizenship is money.

Or perhaps the PAG will be defined by values, religion, or membership in a mutual protection association into which you pay dues, like the military, police or ISIS. If this is the future then the dominant attractor of 21st century will be self-identification. Then we are not watching the last religious or ideological wars, merely the first.
Posted by Jill Fallon at August 18, 2014 1:31 PM | Permalink