Capitalist attack on post-modern celebration of Identities/differences.
All of us do possess identities which in turn is a combination of many identities. But it would have been interesting to know about the history of these interesting characters. I would make a free guesswork based on some reading before discussing about identity today.
Although animals are not said to be conscious as humans, they do have some sense that dog is different from cat and others. They may not be able to define their identities in clear abstract manner, but they do have some sense of their collective identity and some sense of their individual identity (atleast to differentiate oneself from others). Humans do have a greater sense of this identity. Probably that has also increased and became more pronounced in the journey of evolution.
Today, identity is a very important issue. But I would like to discuss two main phenomenon, which are post-modern culture and technology-capitalism and their impact on identities.
- Technology & Capitalism: With the growth of science, human beings became (tried to become) the master of creation. With technological development and the nexus of technology and crony capitalists, human beings still remain master over creation, but some humans are master over other humans with the help of technology. The part-whole relationship associated with the human body and organs, world and different organisms and creation, is missing in the modern technology. Thus any part could be replaced without a serious problem to the instrument. Even in a company, a human worker could be replaced by any other worker (at times a robot) and this doesn’t make much a difference. Technology with the kiss of crony capitalism helps most of the people (except a few crony capitalists) to loose their identity so easily if they oppose the dominant class. One who has land can become landless; worker can become unemployed. When I use technology and admit the benefits of its, its nexus with capitalism (and power itself) is a movement towards destruction of identities. [The laws existing in countries prevent the capitalist from taking full control — I am not saying in any way that science or technology, but that nexus creates the problems]
- Post-Modern (PM)Culture: This was/is a gentle critique of the claims of modernity which showcased the supremacy of reason and a universal way of doing things. But post-modernity affirmed the importance of local-ways, local cultures and local identities. Today, despite globalization, we could see movements in different parts of the world to affirm their identities. Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Philippinos, Latinos, Africans in America do try to affirm their identities. They consider themselves different from native Americans and they hold on to. In India, Dalits, tribals, Brahmins, Christians, Muslims want to affirm their identities. Even among these major groups, many sub-groups are trying for their space. [In many cases, affirmation of identities by the lower sections of the society is for demanding their legal rights and privileges and I find it very sensible]. It is also possible that affirmation of identities by one group can antagonize other goups or some smaller groups could be felt left out of the entire scenario.
Thus the world has two interesting trends, one is affirming the identities and the other is denying the identities. [It is not that pm always affirm identities and the other deny it, but I consider that as the prominent characteristic of each]. Now the question is, how different kinds of people maneuver through it. It is now interesting to see how affirmation/denial of identities are used by those in power. I would specifically the use the example of India.
- Recently a FIR filed by a District Magistrate in Bairelly says, “Processions are taken through Muslim dominated villages and they shout anti-Pakistan slogans”. It is a means of affirming and differentiating one’s identity for sake of power. Different types of leaders use this weapon for their political gains or for maintaining power.
- Exploitation of land and resources by large industries are very easy when people are disorganized. When they are conscientized of their rights, the exploitation becomes much difficult. Despite all those factors, identity of the companies (in many occasions) overcome the pressure of the identities of locals.
Post-modern culture is the celebration of difference [difference is a positive term]. It celebrates the difference (different cultures & identities are affirmed) with all its variations and uniqueness. But when difference affirms superiority/inferiority of one group, it is no more the celebration of difference. Crony capitalism with the access to technology and power, have used the positive character of post-modern culture (encouraging difference) to propagate their motives, which is the superiority of some differences over the other. The superior differences (superior identity) belong to the super- rich and others are inferior. The recent OXFAM report on India regarding the growth of inequalities between the rich and the poor is the best example for this (Situation may not be much different in many countries including US).
It is not through uniformity (or denial of differences) that we can overcome this. Being promoters of difference without superiority and by opposing the hegemonic trends trying to capture the post-modern dynamism can be a help in this journey. Let the emphasis on difference (which is also affirmation of various identities) not be a stumbling block in our fight against fascist forces/super-identities. The famous technique of British, ‘divide and rule’ shouldn’t be allowed, but harmony/communion of differences is the ideal and we should strive for it. When many thinkers call for a unity of anti-fascist alliance in India, I think they have some inkling of this in their minds.