I was talking with my friend Oban last. He is a never-Trumper, a subject we do not actually discuss so much as to check in on our state of disagreement from time to time.
I asked him whether we are living in normal times, or whether we are living in a time of social contest. His reply was well-considered. Oban said that we have not lived in a time where everything – everything – was so contested. The last time we faced so much social friction was the 1930s, when society was faced with choices among fascism, parliamentary democracy, and communism. Those options concerned who (which social class, which race) would run government and society, or whether the tried methods of parliamentary government would prevail. To the surprise of many, parliamentary government emerged the victor from World War 2, along with communism. The latter took another 50 years to collapse.
Today the zones of social contestation seem to be about everything. Economic class is less important to this fissures than it used to be. By contrast, modes of self-identification seems to have generated a large and expanding class of differences about which people are demanding respect and recognition.
Francis Fukuyama has a good deal to say about the issue in his book Identity: the demand for dignity and the politics of resentment. On a smaller range of issues, it is also worthwhile to read Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity
Fukuyama: “By taking on political correctness so frontally, Trump has played a critical role in moving the focus of identity politics from the left, where it was born, to the right, where it is now taking root.” [p119]
“What is notable, however, is that the right has adopted the language and framing of identity from the left: the idea that my particular group is being victimized,that its situation and sufferings are invisible to the rest of society, and that the whole of the social and political structure responsible for this situation (read: the media and the political elites)needs to be smashed. Identity politics is the lens through which most social issues are now seen across the ideological spectrum” [p122]
It is the nation that gives birth to rights, to identity, and to systems of political accountability. No one has found a way to make international institutions accountable or democratic. No one is proposing a return to religion as the basis of the polity. So we are stuck with the nation. Who belongs to it? who may belong to it?
In Canada the French-English divide obscures the issue of national belonging. The French are assured that they are a nation. The English are scolded that they should not think of themselves as a nation, but they manifestly are a nation. However multinational in origin English speaking Canadians have become one in beliefs and aspirations.
I would love to hear a political conservative in Canada talk a language of nationhood and identification with the nation, rather than intersectionality, which is the analysis of everything on the basis of a myriad lesser and divisive self-identifications. Intersectionality, I need hardly state, is the official doctrine that the Liberal government of Canada has imposed on the federal government,