Read the first part here
We all saw the descent into violence at Charlottesville, with the far-Left protestors and Antifa met with deliberate force from the white identity politics of the alt-Right for the first time. It turned fatal for an anti-racism campaigner attending the counter-protest, and trends suggest that this escalation will continue.
One thing that was noticeable about the alt-Right march and the examples we’ve seen of who makes up the alt-Right was that it was majority young, angry, disillusioned, white men. Sure, there were some older white supremacists and KKK members, but they’re a shrinking component of the far-Right. The white nationalist alt-Right with its younger demographics is now in the ascendant. This is a new wave of white identity politics, that now sees/identifies white college age males as its spear-tip. Many of those who marched the night before the protest that ended in tragedy appeared to be college age. This points to a troubling trend among those in the late-teen/early 20’s age bracket.
As George Hawley states, many of the alt-right are not only college age, but are in some ways even more right-wing and radical than their Boomer and older Gen-X parents, and far more so than the older millennials. Indeed, one poll showed that white high school students would have voted for Trump by 48%, Hillary by 11%, and that overall Trump would have won 34% of the vote, Hillary 20%. Democrats, if this is your future, you’re virtually dead.
Far from being less racist and castigating their parents for failing to curtail their racist attitudes, increasing numbers of young whites are now castigating their parents for not being racist enough. Indeed, it appears that many are being radicalised while in college, so the old fall back of education as the salve to society’s ills seems, in this case, to somewhat exacerbate rather than mitigate the problem.
This is particularly true in light of the fact that the main cause of this increasing radicalization and raising of racial awareness among some young white men seemingly stems from efforts to inoculate the next generation of leaders against this very thing. Diversity seminars that preach about white privilege may reduce prejudices among most young whites made to sit through them, but they also unsurprisingly have the opposite effect on other young white people, and in fact are likely to increase awareness of the difference between people rather than reduce them. My goodness, I could never have predicted that being constantly reminded of our immutable differences in racial terms with an explicit message of white guilt might have had an adverse effect, feeding into the already toxic atmosphere in the wider culture stemming from racialised identity politics. I mean, who’d have thought?
It is this combination of identity politics and a seemingly bottomless narrative about how generally awful men are that has helped birth the situation we’re now in. The fact is that you can have identity politics for all or for none at all. You cannot have it for most people and exclude one group – straight white men – because of their lack of skin pigmentation, all the while slamming that same group for causing all the ills in history and telling them to shut up and die in a corner, as these few examples, here, here, here, here and here, demonstrate.
I think identity politics is poisonous to the body politic and civil society more generally. I think splitting us all into our own groups, based upon immutable characteristics of skin colour, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability or disability etc, and then ranking those groups by victimhood privilege and oppressor guilt, and smearing anyone who disagrees with this pyramid of oppression as racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, transphobic bigots, all the while breaking down the all important dividing line between speech and action, by calling speech you don’t like violence, is incredibly dangerous. It is a recipe for a war of all against all, all the time.
In light of the proliferation and perpetuation of identity politics, as it spreads its malign influence out from the university campus into the real world and shades an increasingly polarised and violent political space, it is only to be expected that young white men will demand their own form of identity politics, and that they will do so with considerable anger borne of resentment at the way they view society as generally hateful of them. If we continue along this path, Charlottesville will be only the opening stage in a very bloody chapter, and we will rue the day that we allowed this monster of our own creation to run out of control.
During this rapidly descending state of affairs, it might be wise to heed the warning implicit in Raskolnikov’s dream in Crime and Punishment about the triumph of subjective values over truth, of nihilism over meaning. Anyone who is alarmed by today’s identity riven politics of resentment and chaos will see this passage’s prophetic nature.
“He had dreamt in his illness that the whole world was condemned to fall victim to a terrible, unknown pestilence what was moving on Europe out of the depths of Asia. All were destined to perish, except a chosen few, a very few. There had appeared a new strain of trichinae, microscopic creatures parasitic in men’s bodies. But these creatures were endowed with intelligence and will. People who were infected immediately became like men possessed and out of their minds. But never, never, had any men thought themselves so wise and so unshakable in the truth as those who were attacked. Never had they considered their judgement, their scientific deductions, or their moral convictions and creeds more infallible. Whole communities, whole cities and nations, were infected and went mad. All were full of anxiety, and none could understand any other; each thought he was the sole repository of truth and was tormented when he looked at the others, beat his beast, wrung his hands, and wept. They did not know how or whom to judge and could not agree what was evil and what was good. They did not know whom to condemn and whom to acquit. Men killed one another in senseless rage, They banded together against one another in great armies, but when the armies were already on the march they began to fight among themselves, the armies disintegrated, the soldiers fell on their neighbours, they thrust and cut, they killed and ate one another. In the towns, the tocsin sounded all day long, and called out all the people, but who had summoned them and why nobody knew, and everybody was filled with alarm. The most ordinary callings were abandoned, because every man put forward his own ideas, his own improvements, and there was no agreement; the labourers forsook the land. In places men congregated in groups, agreed together on some action, swore not to disband–and immediately began to do something quite different from what they themselves had proposed, accused one another, fought and killed each other. Conflagrations were started, famine set in. All things and all men were perishing. The plague grew and spread wider and wider. In the whole world only a few could save themselves, a chosen handful of the pure, who were destined to found a new race of men and a new life, to renew and cleanse the earth; but nobody had ever seen them anywhere, nobody had head their voices or their words.”
What do we do to avoid or mitigate as far as possible the effects of identity politics? A good start would be treating each other as individuals. I know in making that statement that I’m probably showing my own privilege, but as soon as the group becomes more important than the individual, then you’re already on the road to a murderous future.
We cannot allow that to happen.