I was re-reading the book Identity and Violence by Amartya Sen. I rarely do this business of re-reading. But this book is extremely relevant in today’s world of multiculturalism and hate politics. Each of us possess various identities (innumerable identities), but hatred is created by invoking the magical power of a predominant identity. In Indian conditions, it often takes the form of Hindu-Muslim and so on. Definitely these identities of religion are important for the believers, but holding those identities needn’t essentially lead to violence between the believers unless fundamentalist poison is injected in some forms, which takes exclusive positions for political, economic gains or on the basis of religious ideology.
In connection to this, there is an amazing Ted Talk by Chimamanda Adichie, who speaks of the danger of the single story or single predominant identity neglecting all the others.
What is the way out?
- Affirm other identities to encourage greater co-operation and harmony
- Help people to think and choose the importance that should be accorded to each identity rather than going by emotional appeal. It is rather pity that event he educated youth and young adults fell for the game of single identity.
- Inter-cultural, inter-religious and all sorts of such dialogues.
These options have been thought out in the history of humanity. They all go with the basic assumption that human-ness is present in all human-beings along with all their difference. There is an identity that is common to all and there are differences.
I wish to think along with Deleuze (a philosopher of difference) an option of privileging the difference rather than identity. Each one of us are different. Now it needn’t remove the idea of some similarities between different persons. The differences can interact and be creative and productive. Definitely this is just the start of a thought. Definitely others have thought about it, though they haven’t become the mainline thinkers. I don’t know how much it will evolve or will I throw it away.