group think

8. Cultivate Detachment and Non-Identification (1)

© Infrakshun

“We live in a society where detachment is almost essential.”

— Philip K. Dick


Reading time: 15 – 18 mins

The quote above highlights a growing shift in the consciousness of Western populations – if not the globe – namely, the detachment and separation from our political system to offer any kind of resolution to domestic and international problems. The defeat of the remain camp in the Brexit exit poll to the election of Donald Trump are both symptoms of disillusionment with establishment politics. They represent a negative detachment of progressive politics not from rejecting the conservative “other,” but from an attachment to a dream of what ought to be, thus in direct oppostion to objective reality.

As Gilad Atzmon notes in his recent book Being in Time: A Post Political Manifesto (2016):

The Post-Political condition is an era defined by a complete failure of politics (Left, Right and Centre) and ‘Grand Ideological Narratives.’ Liberal Democracy, Marxism, communism, capitalism, and free markets are all empty, hollow signifiers as far as contemporary reality is concerned.

Total detachment describes the current relationship between ‘the political’ and ‘the human.’ We Westerners are becoming keenly aware that we have been reduced to consumers. The present role of ‘the political’ is to facilitate consumption. Our elected politicians are subservient to oligarchs, major market forces, big monopolies, corporations, conglomerates, banks and some sinister lobbies.

Liberal Democracy, that unique moment of mutual exchange between humans and the political, has failed to sustain itself. [1]

In the context of politics and culture, non-identification is essential if we are to separate from belief and move toward constructive solutions. Not to play the game of identity politics is to reject the idea that just because there is disagreement with a certain ideology does not mean prejudice against a race, sexuality, gender or religion. Identitarians would have us all categorised into rigid groups of tribal affiliations according to opinions, feelings and surface image rather than the logic and plausibility of the idea itself. Since identity is enmeshed in ideology and persona, to oppose an ideologue is to launch a personal attack. A specific defence mechanism is thus created to maintain this triad.

Examples of this would be:

  • Being white and male you are privileged and inherently racist
  • If you vote for Trump you are sexist, misogynist and a white supremacist Nazi.
  • Everyone knows there is a rape culture and if you deny it you support it.
  • If you disagree with pre-school education on transgender sexuality means you are transphobic
  • Criticising Islamic extremism means you are “Islamophobic”.
  • Criticising Israel’s human rights record against Palestinians means you are anti-Semitic
  • If you stand against police brutality you support radical anarchists like antifa
  • Institutionalised racism exists and police target black people as a result.
  • All those who criticise the science of human-global warming are “climate deniers”.
  • Being pro-Brexit and skeptical of the EU means you are xenophobic and right wing

Such identitarianism is spellbound by image and feeling rather than reason an logic. There is no room for nuance or complexity. With identify politics, radical feminism and social justice groupings, group identity and its beliefs take precedence over individual belief and autonomy. Any attack against the group is an attack against personal identity, the latter of which the individual give ups to further group cohesion. The ability to discriminate and critique based on reality rather than personal sensibility is lost. As such, it is a collective defence mechanism called “splitting” which we will look at later on.

To identify with someone’s pain or difficulties is to engage empathy. But when we identify with the ideology and belief – regardless of good intentions –  we limit our ability to see outside that ideology. It is then that empathy becomes politicised and distorted toward power and projection fuelled by the momentum of the group itself.

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