Monday, September 18, 2017

Reverse identity politics

Strangeness is yet again afoot. This particular strangeness I suspect many of you readers have taken note of on occasion, seeing as it is the topic of the day and has been for many days.

It concerns the liberal subject.

Since there is considerable confusion with regard to the exact meaning of both the word "liberal" and "subject", it would only be prudent to define their combination. Lest we be lost in the vagaries of the English language.

The liberal subject is what is visible to the bureaucracies of the liberal state. In an immediate sense, this takes the form of tax records, hospital journals, criminal records or other documents that in some way depict a person. In a less immediate sense, it is a person as it is defined in the code of laws that governs the land: their rights, their obligations and - most importantly - who they as citizens are supposed to be.

This is something else than who they are, in any sense of self or identity. This is a purely discursive construct, and exists only as an aggregate of small fragments that combine to make up a whole. One regulation here, one regulation there; small things. But these fragments add up, and the construct that emerges has real life implications.

An example of this are rights that a person has to actively claim in order to actually benefit from. There are any number of these, from municipal to national. In theory, all you as a person has to do is to fill out the proper paperwork and possibly do some talking to some bureaucrats, and then it's all yours. You as a liberal subject have it within your power to mobilize the apparatus of state on your behalf in this regard, should you but choose to do so.

You as an actual person more than likely have no idea that these rights even exist, and there is a non-zero percentage that no one in your neighborhood does either. You as an actual person have a limited knowledge about the finer points of legal print that surround you, and frankly I suspect that you have better ideas about how to spend your life than reading every rule and regulation there is based on some just in case basis.


The difference between you as a liberal subject and you as an actual person does not exist as far as the liberal state goes. Who you are outside the rules and regulations literally does not matter - it does not exist, it is not visible, and it is not a proper justification for action of any kind. The actual you that walks around, breathes and has impressions of the world - does not exist. In the eyes of the law, you are a citizen. No more, no less.

This means that any failure on your part to act in the prescribed manner is your fault. Even if you had no idea you were supposed to do it, or were utterly oblivious to the fact that doing it existed as a possibility in the world.

Or, phrased slightly differently: if you did not claim your right, you actively chose not to claim it. Ignorance is no excuse.

I imagine that actual you might have objections to this state of things. Good. It means that you perceive the strangeness that is afoot.

Welcome to modernity, citizen.

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