Sunday, December 7, 2014

Suddenly, identity politics

It is fashionable to argue against identity politics these days. Which is interesting, in that it is always interesting to see that certain issues tend to return at certain times, rather than at others. One cannot but ask: why now, and why with such unexpected intensity?

These questions will not be answered in this post. Instead, things will take a very liberal turn. Just like that.

One of the cornerstones of a liberal democracy is legal equality. Any one citizen is equal to any other citizen, and no one has greater status than any other. There are no estates (ie nobility, clergy and commoners), and no classes. That is to say, there is one set of laws that apply equally to everyone, and is applied equally on everyone. Crimes lead to the same punishment no matter who commits the deed; taxes are levied in the same ways no matter who's taxed; government agencies act and communicate in predictable and standardised ways - and so on and so forth. Everyone is equal before the law.

Everyone. No exceptions.

At this point, someone might object that this isn't true. An objection to which I respond both yes and no: yes, it is true that legal equality is a cornerstone of liberal democracy, and no, this is not true to the everyday experience of most people. It would not be hard to find examples of citizens being treated unequally, regardless if this is due to class, gender, ethnicity, ability or what have you. In fact, it would be far easier than it really ought to be.

If we, hypothetically, were to gather a sufficient amount of these examples to find systematic differences in how the law is applied, and that a specific group of citizens were thus systematically treated differently - what would happen if this group got together and formed some sort of organization in order to demand their rights as citizens? To, in the true spirit of liberal democracy, demand to be treated as full citizens of their polity?

Would that be identity politics?

That, too, is a question that will not be answered in this post. -

Originally published December 6, 2014

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