While racial equality, minority rights and women’s rights are among the best products of liberalism, they make the most destabilizing foundations. Attempting to make them the foundation is like turning a bar stool upside down and then trying to balance on top of it. The products of the system cannot reproduce the stability of the system that produced them. If for no other reason than that each of these issues is a deeply unstable component in itself. We present each as agreed upon and settled. Yet while the endless contradictions, fabrications and fantasies within each are visible to all, identifying them is not just discouraged but literally policed. And so we are asked to agree to things which we cannot believe.
It is the central cause of the ugliness of both online and real-life discussion. For we are being asked to perform a set of leaps and jumps which we cannot, and are perhaps ill-advised to make. We are asked to believe things that are unbelievable and being told not to object to things (such as giving children drugs to stop them going through puberty) which most people feel a strong objection to. The pain that comes from being expected to remain silent on some important matters and perform impossible leaps on others is tremendous, not least because the problems (including the internal contradictions) are so evident. As anyone who has lived under totalitarianism can attest, there is something demeaning and eventually soul-destroying about being expected to go along with claims you do not believe to be true and cannot hold to be true. If the belief is that all people should be regarded as having equal value and be accorded equal dignity, then that may be all well and good. If you are asked to believe that there are no differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality, men and women, racism and anti-racism, then this will in time drive you to distraction. That distraction – or crowd madness – is something we are in the middle of and something we need to try to find our way out from.
If we fail, then the direction of travel is already clear. We face not just a future of ever-greater atomization, rage and violence, but a future in which the possibility of a backlash against all rights advances – including the good ones – grows more likely. A future in which racism is responded to with racism, denigration based on gender is responded to with denigration based on gender. At some stage of humiliation there is simply no reason for majority groups not to play games back that have worked so well on themselves.
One of the ways to distance ourselves from the madnesses of our times is to retain an interest in politics but not to rely on it as a source of meaning. The call should be for people to simplify their lives and not to mislead themselves by devoting their lives to a theory that answers no questions, makes no predictions and is easily falsifiable. Meaning can be found in all sorts of places. For most individuals it is found in the love of the people and places around them: in friends, family and loved ones, in culture, place and wonder. A sense of purpose is found in working out what is meaningful in our lives and then orientating ourselves over time as closely as possible to those centres of meaning. Using ourselves up on identity politics, social justice (in this manifestation) and intersectionality is a waste of a life.
We may certainly aim to live in a society in which nobody should be held back from what they can do because of some personal characteristic allotted to them by chance. If somebody has the competency to do something, and the desire to do something, then nothing about their race, sex or sexual orientation should hold them back. But minimizing difference is not the same as pretending difference does not exist. To assume that sex, sexuality and skin colour mean nothing would be ridiculous. But to assume that they mean everything will be fatal.