Selling the (Identity) Dream

There seems to have been a regression in attitudes to gender and race since the 1970s and 80s, when I was growing up. Then there was a lot of casual bigotry but bigots knew, in their heart of hearts, they were being bastards. Campaigners strove for tolerance and inclusion, believing everyone should have the right to profit from the advantages of the most advantaged. 

Now, far more has been done to protect the rights of minority groups, and we congratulate ourselves on our progressiveness and our moral superiority to our forebears, but we have become more segregated. Social Justice activists, by identifying more and more persecuted minorities, then campaigning against the imagined hostile majority as a group, are encouraging segregation and generalising about other people. Activists genuinely pride themselves on their bigotry because they see it as part of their moral courage and clear-sightedness. 

We are living in a more equal, yet more fractured society. Race, genders and sexual stereotypes are becoming supercharged and over-defined: hard-edged, crystalline and brittle. I’m sure this has been amplified by the consumer capitalist discourses of the internet. A plethora of different categories of identity are being disseminated by social media. They are prefabricated. Rather than living their best lives and seeing where this leads them, children are being told to pick one from the rack.

And these rigid identity categories look suspiciously like market research categories. And embodying an identity, living in the manner of that identity, seems to involve consuming, buying the products, using the apps, following the trends, joining the chats and campaigns, being profiled, targeted by bespoke adverts…

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