Fight identity politics with individualism, not victimisation

This article was featured in the magazine The Conservative, published in October 2019. The magazine can be downloaded in its entirety here. It also features Professor Jonathan Haidt, Ben Shapiro, Iain Martin, Dominic Green, and Kristian Niemietz.

A Twitter user accused me of being a “privileged straight white cis-gendered man”, in response to an argument about economics. I’m disillusioned. I’m used to ad homina, but they used to be about my looks, the fact that I don’t go to the gym or about my way of speaking. Over the last five years, we’ve seen a massive influx towards an ideology that happily puts people in groups for the purpose of advancing a specific viewpoint.

The line of argument is fairly easy to grasp: do you oppose tuition-free higher education? It must be because you’re from the privileged upper class. Do you think it is legitimate that a comedian makes jokes about gay people? It must be because you’re heterosexual. While ad homina were previously the last resort argument, this ideology makes them into the key point of the rebuttal. In essence it means that the more you belong to a pretended victimised class, the more say you get.

This philosophy doesn’t only state that you can identify with a group, but that identifying with a group is not even a choice. You and all of your actions are inherently related to the collective judgement of your group. If white people are racist, then so are you if you are white. Therefore, your existence should be spent on rectifying this social injustice, by wholeheartedly agreeing with the policies suggested by social justice activists. Such a movement is naturally set out to lead to discrimination based on arbitrary principles.

When Martin Luther King Jr. said “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character”, he surely didn’t mean to add “And in order to achieve that, we need to demonise another group of people by the colour of their skin instead of by the content of their character.”

The race question hasn’t been as pronounced in Europe as it has been in United States, and despite some radical feminists being just as unpleasant as their American counterparts, it remains an insignificant portion of society. Loud protests in the UK, school blockades in France: these aren’t new phenomena. Every decade has had its set of irritating people. Given that we’ve left the German RAF, the IRA bombings, or the Red Brigades in Italy, are behind us, we notice that our century has started off as much more irritating than the previous one. Intersectionality as an ideology is certainly unsettling, but to most people it remains what it really is: loud, intolerant, and a youth trend.

But as a reaction to this ideology, a number of members of the right-wing side of politics have resorted back to their own identity politics. It turns out that if the left-wing side screams “your whiteness defines you” long enough, there will eventually be those on the identitiarian side of the aisle who’ll take them up on the argument. Slogans and names such as “White Pride” follow. The Identitarian movement in Europe is most emblematic of this: everything is hip and fresh, ranging from the websites to the banners, the music in their videos and the style of their activists. No skinheads or tattoos. On the contrary: The modern identitarian wears fancy sunglasses and dresses to the extent that it’s tough to say who just shopped at Scotch&Soda and who thinks Europe is being overrun by Muslims. Their online merch features everything from polo shirts to stickers asking to people to “Defend Europe” against the “invasion.” The movement shows off a lot of female faces, by featuring gender-balanced videos and putting women in the first row in their protests. The goal is to break with the burden of old European neo-Nazi parties, which are heavily male and unattractive to (at least) half the population.

Right-wing identity politics may be evolving, but just like its left-wing counterpart, it offers only destruction instead of solutions.

The argument of division of the rich versus the poor, or the victims versus the victimised, has been the theme of destruction during the 20th century. 100 million people have been killed by socialism in the last century. It was nationalism that caused WW1, which killed almost 20 million people, and a mix of fascism and racism in WW2, which killed around 80 million people. Swinging the pendulum left and right on identity politics is a dangerous game that will be paid by the lives of the innocent uninvolved.

Conservatives should be cautioned not to feel bitter, or even victimised themselves when opposing left-wing identity politics. Instead, conservatives should turn to classical liberalism and individualism for the answer. Telling a bystander that they are themselves responsible for their own actions, and in charge of their own destiny is not only appealing to them, it’s also true.

People are individuals no matter what. This doesn’t mean that you cannot feel close to your family, your traditions, your nationality, or your ethnic background, and neither would an individualist deny the good actions performed by a certain group. What it does imply that you cannot judge people on the basis of a group membership, particularly if it is as arbitrary as sex or race. This goes as well for the majority group as for the minority group. There should never be such as thing as “social justice”, as it is defined by the political left these days. If we turn our back on justice as a notion of the protection of the rights of the individual, it risks falling into the hands of identity politics advocates. And just as much as the courts of and fascist right-wing authoritarian state were a judicial joke and a danger to humanity, they will be just as much if they turn left.

So a Twitter user accuses me of being a “privileged straight white cis-gendered man”, in response to an argument about economics.

I don’t care. I get back to the core of the argument.

About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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