Identity. It is to die for, sometimes. But we’re driven to form them – against. We become Not-our-parents, Not-our-siblings, Not-our-classmates, but never purely so. And rarely without a multitude of complications. There is always a mix, a set of contradictions that includes conformity with, too. They flow in and out. And while we develop our identity forms, we paradoxically become less in sync with our many selves. Our perceptions of the way others see us shape these forms even when we fight against. This, that, or them. The fight itself, or its passive acceptance, can mean we’re out of sync. There is no winning here. There is only contradiction and paradox.
And when/if we put on the clothes of identity politics – a most misunderstood and misused term (like socialism, anarchism, and universality) – we most likely need enemies. We need far more than just Not-our-parents and Not-our-siblings. We need walls, and borders, and a baleful amount of “othering.”
In Todd McGowan’s brilliant book, the above (and more) is hashed out, theoretically, and pragmatically, with a host of references to historical periods, movements, thinkers and systems. He builds his case step by step, using an almost Hemingway-like method of keying off the previous sentence to amplify and extend.
It’s a relatively short book, but provokes a great deal of thought, on moral, ethical and social grounds, and unlike so many contemporary attempts to assess the present via the past, there are no hidden agendas here.
Light bulbs will flash. Surprises fill the pages. You likely won’t see things the same way again.
More on this in the days to come. Happy New Year to all.