Finding and Losing Identity Politics, Part 2
Wow, your breakdown of core phrases was so spot on. They take out nuance, I can't tell you how many hours I've spent in utter anxiety thinking back on a simple interaction where I just was distracted and terrified how it could be misread.
It’s weird when someone on the left has something in common with someone on the right, but it happens. Apparently toxic political culture is a thing that knows no bounds. There was Stalin and then there was Michelle Rempel Garner, as analyzed in the Tyee. https://thetyee.ca/Analysis/2022/06/24/Michelle-Rempel-Garner-Lobs-Grenade-Conservative-Politics/
I have been thinking a lot about how to respond here, kier!
I mean, first of all, I really resonate with some of the core experiences that you’ve talked about so far. There is a particular toxic, purity-focused orthodoxy that is a pitfall of being young and online and invested in something that matters, albeit in maybe not the healthiest or most realistic way. I’ve often wanted to try my hand at articulating this specific feeling with precision, because I think that pitfall is so easy to fall into and, having navigated my own way out of it and into better relationship with the valuable critical insights that this orthodoxy has latched on to and intensified, in the way that orthodoxy does, into something almost but not entirely unlike their original form, I do sometimes feel I might be equipped to write something helpful about it. But I’ve never quite managed to get my thoughts into writing, and maybe by now enough other people with similar enough opinions to mine have weighed in on the topic that I don’t REALLY need to publish my own little guide for how to stop being so dogmatic about everything 😆
Incidentally, Kai Cheng wrote an essay about this topic in 2017 which i had an opportunity to re-read while thinking about your series. In the service of “separating the baby from the bathwater”, as you put it, I think that piece does some good work with identifying some specific patterns in the subculture, generating some precise vocabulary to work with in naming those patterns, and importantly, grounding itself in the principles that she still feels committed to. (https://medium.com/@ladysintrayda/righteous-callings-being-good-leftist-orthodoxy-and-the-social-justice-crisis-of-faith-ad89ee4f5b33)
The whole essay is a great read, and there are some other works mentioned in there which tread similar territory (I haven’t read all of them, but I recall vividly the feeling of reading Hot Allostatic Load when it was published).
Part of the reason I’ve spent so much time lately thinking about how to respond to this series is that while i think we broadly agree about the existence of a toxic subculture, or maybe a sub-subculture?, I do feel a little uncertain about exactly what you’ve identified as bathwater! I’m really hoping to see a bit of time spent on what you do hold to be true. For example, you’ve mentioned “the future of the left” in these pieces—what constitutes “the left”, in that framing? What are some specific aspects of the world you would like to see us moving toward, and what do you see as the current barriers to achieving those goals? If you no longer feel aligned with the principles of intersectional feminism or anarchism, as you mentioned in your first piece, those are some big things to disavow—what principles or beliefs do you now hold that feel unaligned with those?
Of course, you’re only halfway through the series and the part where you talk about the future of the left is still to come, so I’m not looking for you to answer those questions one by one in bullet points or anything like that, and I hope this won’t be construed as substantive criticism of your overall endeavour here. As I said up at the top, a lot of your specific experiences which you’ve brought in here have resonated, and I think so far in this series you’ve done some very extensive work of denouncing what you see as the problematic aspects of this subculture! I look forward to engaging with your vision of what all that negation is clearing space for :)
Again more brilliance
If I wasn’t drunk I would definitely be more erudite in my total agreement
Loving the series