Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Appropriation of Grievance

(An edited version of this article was published here in the Conservative Woman)

The toxic and divisive identity politics that now defines much of left wing thinking across the western world, rests upon the notion that individuals alive today can use genuine past injustices committed against individuals from another era to further their own anti-western and illiberal agendas. Conversely, descendants within certain 'privileged' groups are viewed as responsible for the wrongdoings of other individuals from centuries past.

Take for instance the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, a far left group, who by no means are representative of the views of all black people in America. Supporters of Black Lives Matter believe that white people in the United States and the western world have inherited certain privileges that black people don't have because of slavery and the effects of the abhorrent Jim Crow laws that discriminated against black people in the southern United States well in to the 1960s. However, it is hard to take serious the claim that black people are an oppressed minority in 2017, when we have had a black President, there is a large black middle class and black people have equal rights under the law and the same equality of opportunity as any other ethnic group. The narratives that Black Lives Matter promulgate have widespread support among university students whose minds have been poisoned with illiberal post modernist academic theories that fuel identity politics. The most absurd aspect of all of this is that you have some black students spurred on by their white supporters at elite universities in America claiming they are victims of white privilege. I'm sorry, but you don't get to play the victim card when you are a middle class student at Yale and are more privileged than working class Americans be they black, white or latino. Student life has become so toxic and unnecessarily racialised in the U.S that you now have some black student groups calling for racial segregation on campus. This is the antithesis of Martin Luther King's vision of an end to segregation where people are judged on character instead of skin colour. Bizarrely, some black activists are calling for financial reparations to be made for slavery. However, just who do these reparations get made to seeing as all of the former slaves and their immediate family are dead and gone?

Feminists are another group that take legitimate grievances from the the past and weave it in to their victimhood narrative. Not content with equal rights under the law which includes equal pay legislation, they still cling to the widely debunked myth of the gender pay gap and take individual encounters with obnoxious males as evidence of a pervasive patriarchy that is oppressing them. Show them that women are outperforming men in education and in the workplace as evidence that they are not being oppressed and they will dismiss you as a sexist if you are a man, or of having 'internalised misogyny' if you are a woman. Their entire movement is built on the lie that women in the west are a perpetually oppressed group and so anyone presenting them with facts must be dismissed as having an ulterior motive.

In 1997, Tony Blair apologised to the Irish people for the potato famine of the 1840s. As an Irish person I found this ludicrous. Unless Tony Blair, whose mother was Irish, was one hundred and eighty years of age and was the Minister for Potatoes in the British cabinet in the mid nineteenth century then he was in no position to be issuing apologies on behalf of the state. Furthermore, those Irish people who so willingly gobbled down that apology had no right to accept or refuse it as they were in no ways affected by the famine. I have had to point out to those minority of Irish people who are still angry at Britain for a famine that didn't affect them, that large swathes of the British people are descended from the hundreds of thousands who fled Ireland during and after the famine.

The problem with identity politics is that it diminishes who we are as individuals and turns us in to little more than members of this or that group. Then it pits us against each other in a battle to be the group which was the most oppressed or did the most oppressing. It demands we look back and continuously focus on the wrongs done to other individuals in the past and for some to repent for the actions of the deceased for which they are in no ways culpable.  It blinds us to life in the here and now and the hard won freedoms we all have as members of western liberal democracies. This should be the focus - how to use those freedoms to build better lives in harmony with others regardless of gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

1 comment:

  1. I think you made something of a straw man there - a remote scenario, unless you are talking about leaving one son at home to run the farm, sending one to the seminary and giving the daughter one year at college to find a husband, in which case you are very routed in a different time!

    Until recently, higher level education in Ireland was cost free, before the registration fee crept up that is. If you weren't eligible for the means-tested higher education grand, it was because your parents earned relatively well there was something of a moral obligation for them to assist their children through college years. Funnily enough, my parents situation had changed by the time I did my master's (assessment made on previous years tax return) so I missed the grant on a technicality and had to support myself (and the grant would have covered masters fees too!). How do you think I felt learning that when half of my class got the grant? We all have to deal with what we judge to be unfair outcomes but it's in our best interest to make the most of what you have, surround ourselves with constructive people and get on with life, don't you think?