Monday, November 28, 2016

Identity, Please

I've always wondered about Identity arguments and what drives them. Or, to be more precise, what drives people to make argumentative statements about other people's identities. That is, when people say: "People like you are bad; I'm not like you, therefore, I'm good." It strikes me as one of the few ways to one-up "People like me are good; you're not like me, therefore, you're bad," on the scale of Looking to Get Into it With Someone. Over the past couple of days, these sorts of arguments have popped up around me with an unusual level of regularity. Of course, in the long run, they're not terribly uncommon. In-group and out-group identification is endemic to the human condition, and it tends to resist our best efforts (which often aren't very strenuous) to do away with it. What's been interesting about my recent encounters with this phenomenon is that people have been defining the out-group in incorrect terms, sometimes due to admittedly intentional ignorance of what the out-group is about.

This behavior strikes me as simply bizarre, perhaps, I suppose, because I don't have an identity that I feel strongly enough connected to that I see any point in promoting it at the expense of others. And that's what I wonder about. After all, like most other people, I have any number of identities. Just none that strike me as worth picking fights over. Maybe it's just the people I encounter, but this gives me the feeling of being an outlier, and so I wonder what it is about identities that make them so central to others.

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