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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Identity Politics: The Nuclear Weapon of Liberalism

Identity politics with its accompanying distortions of reality has come to rest at the center of our culture. And at the heart of identity politics is selfishness, the ego. Identity politics is the banner of the self-centered giving rise to a culture of perpetual victimization in which everyone can aspire to the identity of a victim, a martyr of their own narrative.

Identity politics is the nuclear weapon of liberalism, the final blow that transforms history and fact into narrative and perspective, that fragments nations, books and morals into broken kaleidoscopic images reflecting another identity construct.

When people who grew up in a time of certainties wonder what happened to their nation, to idea of right and wrong that had once seemed so clear but is now shattered into splinters-- the answer rests there. Identity politics is the force behind the transformation of objective standards into subjective prejudices. And so today we can no longer agree on what morals are, on what facts are, on whether terrorism or genocide is wrong or whether the planet is warming up or not and what the cause might be for it. And we have identity politics to thank for it.

Stripped of its chameleon disguises, identity politics is simply egotism fulfilled. And the current case in England of Tomato Lichy and Paula Garfield, two deaf parents who want to selectively insure their own child is deaf through artificial insemination reveals just how blatantly identity politics has warped our morals, our culture and our sense of right and wrong.

The argument for allowing Lichy and Garfield to deliberately produce a child who will never hear is that deafness is an equal identity to hearing. By reducing the distinction between hearing and deafness to two competing identities, no different than speakers of Portuguese speakers vs English speakers. This of course is an absurd form of relativism, but relativism is what creates the splintering effect of identity politics in the first place.

Is something right or wrong? No, identity politics, it's a matter of which narrative you choose, what your cultural perspective is. In other words, it's all relative.

But where does that relativism stop? The answer is nowhere. To deliberately cripple a child from before birth is one of the ugliest things imaginable. But is it any wonder that the same people who legitimize female genital mutilation as a cultural choice, can similarly legitimize IVF aural mutilation. Without a moral compass, all we have are competing identities and narratives and who's to say which one is right, the one that opposes crippling children or the one that supports it.

In defense of its prerogatives, identity politics is always quick to call on the language of genocide, eugenics and mass murder, the appropriated vocabulary of the Holocaust which has now become a broad umbrella covering every lunatic postmodern identity construct. So it used to be that preventing children from being born deaf was a miracle of science. Today it is a crime. It used to be that protecting your country from barbarians who want to kill and maim was a virtue. Today it is a crime. This is identity politics protecting its right to fragment any idea, to create unconscionable compromises between those who protect and those who destroy.

Is deafness a culture? When we transform a negative into a positive, in doing so we invert truth in a way that has deep and far reaching implications. When we define a disability as an ability, we do more than compensate for self-esteem, we invert the very definition of what ability is. And creating deaf babies via IVF is the law of unintended consequences kicking us in the teeth.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, the Prophet Isaiah said and he knew what he was talking about. The worst consequence of describing something as good that isn't, is that we lose the ability to define good. And in doing so we can no longer distinguish good from evil.

I might argue that murder is wrong, you might argue that it is right. We both have our narratives and our perspectives. That is where we are today and that is why we are stuck. That is why Obama is being pushed as America's President and the UN as its conscience. We live in an age of compromised narratives where anyone willing to offer to split the difference and moderate is declared wise and looked to for leadership.

Without an understanding of right and wrong, all we have is our instinctive egotistical selfishness on one pole and the sort of blind self-sacrifice for the good of the many that Ayn Rand warned about on the other. Neither is moral but under identity politics, both can easily appear to be.

Identity politics permits the sort of ruthless selfishness that can transform the creation of a child who will never hear a Beethoven symphony into an act of moral courage and social virtue on a par with implementing eugenics for the elderly and the disabled. Both seem like symptoms and signs of a world gone mad yet both emanate from the same source, for the supremacy of identity politics so fragments moral consensus that the only alternative is a nanny state.

And if we cannot decide what right or wrong is for ourselves, there are thousands of ethicists, academics and bureaucrats waiting in the wing to do it for us. To give us that amoral compromise, to decide who will live and die, to divide and conquer nations and societies splintered group by splintered group, to at once pander to the ego of each splintered identity construct while depriving and subsuming the rights of the individual-- leaving us all deaf to the truth.

8 comments:

Lemon said...

Deafness is not equal to being normal.
They would be awful parents. I hope they are never allowed to do this horrid thing to an innocent child. It is one of the most selfish unloving abusive things I have ever heard of.
They don't even have the decency to marry?
Tomato Lichy? Oh man.

Keli Ata said...

Deafness is a disability. But it has always bugged me how people with disabilities make it there entire identity--I'm an asthmatic instead of I have asthma.


Don't these parents know or care that their twisted to make create a deaf child is the exact sort of monsterous thing the Nazis would have done with their evil experiments?

But apparently whether a child should be raised deaf, learn how to talk and read lips or use sign language is a huge issue in the deaf community. My mother had a severe hearing loss (though not entirely deaf) and for sure didn't consider it something she would have wanted.

I thought that too, Lemon. Who names their kid Tomato? Probably the same sort that would deliberately want his child to be born with a disability.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post SK! You're so right...in that thousands of people are more than happy to tell me what to do.
No thanks!

Batya said...

The deaf do have a special society, language etc. There's an excellent interview by Ruthie Blum in JP with a hearing woman who signs to translate for the deaf.

Sultan Knish said...

the deaf have adapted with a language and a society, which is a good adaptation, but is does not mean that deafness is not a disability or that children should be made to be born that way

Keli Ata said...

Yes. Faced with centuries of persecution and institutionalization the deaf have created a unique culture and language and removed the shackles of discrimination.

That is admirable but it seems their efforts to move into mainstream society has taken a detour to the point where they could become isolated from the hearing world.

What this couple wants to do really isn't all that uncommon.

Many deaf people find it cute to see their small children signing. Of course it is adorable to see small children mimicking adult behavior, especially cultural behaviors, but there's no mistaking that deafness is a disability and a hardship.

I think if the disability in question were blindness more people would be horrified at the thought of deliberately creating a child that cannot see.

Keli Ata said...

Regarding society continually splintring into different groups...I almost feel that society will get to the point of a situation like Solomon was faced with--trying to split a baby in two.

You can only divide so much before the proverbial baby dies. I think that's what's happening politically in both the US and Israel.

Keli Ata said...

BTW: Excellent article and topic.

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