I find confronted with the actual mask-like nature of most people’s political posturing, people start to avoid the question: people who are inclined to dislike you, dislike you more, and people who are inclined to like you think you are asshole but its better just to not response. I used to wonder why. I know why. It is not that you are questioning their politics. People actually can accept that. Politics is by nature deliberative when it is not about violence. Those are the two most common modes, after all, a state is the normalization and regulation of both modes of deliberation and modes of violence. It’s most basic functions: how do you make decisions, and how do you violently deal with those decisions. That isn’t what the silence is about. It is that you are calling into question a performative aspect of the self. You are denying people an identity. Look at most politics. They are not remotely coherent: values conflict, virtues conflict, virtue signaling one thing is done at the expense of another that actually is in the same mode of ethics or economics. No, when you expose someone’s political theology/ideology, you are ripping off their clothes while also showing them the water they swim in. They didn’t realize they were in the water and now they have nothing to protect their skin.
To give an example: A friend tells you that x-injustice that effects a specific minority community made by specific people is caused by x-demographic privilege. You say, fine, that is structural racism, but how is structural racism caused by privilege? How is saying that it this is privilege of x-demographic ignores that while all of x-demographic group may get tangential benefits, they don’t get all the benefit equally. However, even given this blaming of an entirety of x which seems to get very specific people an out is legitimate, you can’t explain the structural oppression but pointing out its results. X is caused by privilege which is the result of X. The tautological nature of that is hiding something as much as it is pointing something out. This is both why I have always find privilege talk to be not helpful or, often, serves to protect the powerful. However, this talk does reify an identity. Conversely, complaining about people pointing out is reifying a different identity. It is unfair to say that people don’t care about “justice”–they do. What they don’t want to do is actually question what justice is, or more importantly, who they are.
In race and gender, this is fascinating. The move to stay that these identities are socially normative more than biological, but yet we must reinforce them even in the pretense of breaking down the oppression that has buttressed them. It’s obviously a precarious and somewhat contradictory position. It’s easy for opponents of “social justice” or the “the left” or “liberals” to make fun of, but the making fun of it actually is premised on the same game but going back to the innateness of the positions too. Instead of society, it is turned to biology or “human nature.” Often, however, with no proof either of what that is. Both end up being motte and bailey tactics. Why do them?
For most people politics is their social being when they have little connection to less ideological modes of community. Instead of a place or a tribe being who you are–this ideology gives you justice. It is important to remember, most community is actually attempt to symbolize kinship relations–kinship, more than family the way most of thing of it, being what does drive most primate traps and humans ability to abstract that into more abstract ideas seems unique to us–and stabilize our means of life. It is abstraction of the two most practical and social ideas around us: how we eat, who we have sex with, and who has our genes. This is the reproduction of social life. This is the basis of our identities in societies where these things are obvious. The motte and bailey tactics of identity politics and counter-identity politics are based on the same impulse but skewed, and largely hidden from us. We don’t want to believe our virtues are that simple. Indeed, they actually aren’t that simple, but this still is the basic driver of who we think we are.
This is not just true in “identity politics” either. That is actually an unfair, but commonly made, assertion. When people say “pragmatist” they either mean, I don’t know, or they mean, I already feel that know but don’t want to argue for it. The pragmatic of course just can assume position because of it’s value to you. It just won’t openly adjudicate between values. As such, when used this way, it is either circular–this is good because it is good–or it is avoiding the question of premises in the first place. Not-knowing is actually a hard place to be. It is alienating. It is a transitional identity-state. So saying a position comes form ignorance or incompleteness is harder than saying it comes from pragmatism. The pragmatist has a community of other pragmatists. It can be tribe. Uncertainty can’t.