It seems that there is underway a profound shift the consciousness of human kind. Across the planet, forces are aligning themselves in opposition to opponents, perceived or real, at an alarming rate. While some may dispute that there is anything new in this, Im of the view that the rate of change as well as the sense of ownership of both the change itself and the events that are playing themselves out (due mainly to the all pervasive nature of mass/social media and internet) mark this as perhaps the most notable era since the end of WWII.
However, despite the constant hysteria and outrage that we are exposed to on a daily basis its extremely difficult to categorise the different forces at play…and having given it a little bit of thought of late Ive come to the conclusion that much of what is passing itself off as debate via old fashioned, trusted channels is no longer of that much relevance… and that much, if not most, of what is transpiring is rooted in and around what could be loosely described as issues of ‘identity’, both in the traditional sense, as well as in attempts to reclassify or redefine personal or cultural identities in accordance with the perceived realities of new, amended social norms.
We see this in the western world in the debate in and around the mass migration/refugee issue in Europe as well as in the culture wars associated with the rise of Trump in the US. A somewhat similar phenomenon is underway in India (home to 1 in 5 of the world’s population) as the BJP seeks to reconstitute and codify what it means to be both Indian and Hindu. Within the Islamic world there appears to exist a clash between Sunni and Shia (as well as some other sects), ostensibly based around what constitutes true Islam and what it means to be a Muslim…but in some respects is little more than an ethnic (identity) conflict. Indeed, within western countries an entire branch of what was once the political left has adopted the politics of identity as its central tenet, relegating class and class-based ideology to a pretty inconsequential annoyance ie something that ‘old white guys’ get exercised about.
In terms of western societies, what this means for dynamics of political debate into the future is obviously anyone’s guess but it appears that for many people, asserting ones identity has become more important than making a convincing argument. For example, it seems to be the case that displaying ‘tolerance’ or being in favour of ‘diversity’ (regardless of the issue under consideration) asserts not just ones tolerant or diverse credentials, but also one’s membership of the educated, middle classes. On the other hand, displaying a tendency toward arguments that lean toward any degree of pride in nation or class appears to be taken as code for knuckle dragging illiteracy (and most likely racism) in the eyes of those that matter. What seems to be developing therefore is the emergence of a massive social divide between people (generally educated, generally well off) who, on the one hand, live and operate in globalised, diverse work and social environments and for whom nationality or class are archaic and of no real value…and on the other hand, an increasingly disenchanted lower and lower middle class grouping whose world is less global, less diverse and who value national identity and class as a source of pride and a strong marker of identity. In political terms, these two groups can never meet and in times of flux may even find themselves violently opposing each other.
Therefore, if (non-national) identity is the new class what of the future direction of western societies? Is such a retreat from ideas of nation and class quite simply inevitable or irreversible in the new globalised, Orwellian age? Im of the view that, despite the dictats of the powers that be and their cheerleaders (on here and elsewhere), nothing is set in stone or fully inevitable. People are fully capable of taking ownership of their own societies and acting in their own collective interest if the so decide. However, it would obviously take a degree of effort…interested to hear the views of some here…