Identity politics is intellectual bludging.
I did a quick search to make sure I was using that correctly and: yep, I am. To bludge is to shirk responsibility and live off the efforts of others.
But before I point the finger at the usual perpetrators of identity politics (Leftists), let me acknowledge those right of centre are too often guilty of it too. We think Christian politicians will bring conservative values to their policies and politics, which is just lazy. It’s as nonsensical as saying all new immigrants should vote for Labor (which Labor certainly expects).
Both Kevin Rudd and Scott Morrison profess to be Christians, and they have very different policies on very important social and economic issues. Yet many undecided voters were persuaded to support both of them because of what they believed and did Sunday morning, instead of Monday to Friday. That’s just lazy, and dumb.
It’s intellectual bludging because you’re refusing to put any effort in to supporting your conclusions with research, investigation or inquiry; preferring instead to just recline on the couch of assumptions, letting stereotypes and generalisations carefully crafted by people you’ve never met do all the work for you.
Identity politics, though, is more often observably the playground of radical leftist thinking and the weapon of radical leftist leaders like Karl Marx who sought to divide people based on their economic identity. Cultural Marxism was the mid 20th Century evolution of his failed ideas into the division of people based on other identity traits. In prosperous America where the workers were very happy and comfortable, it was too hard to create resentment and bitterness to people who were different.
In Ethiopia, however, Marx’s economic revolution found fertile soil amidst drought and famine in 1975. A military junta called the Derg overthrew and abolished the Ethiopian monarchy and adopted Marxist-Leninism as their official worldview. They went on a bloody campaign of terror to quell political opposition and consolidate control of the suffering nation.
The Derg were full on socialists, redistributing land to the workers in the name of “fairness” and “social justice”. As with all unbridled socialist systems, Ethiopia was catastrophically plunged further into famine due to corruption, constantly violent government, and mismanagement by people who’d risked nothing to acquire control, which resulted in huge reductions in farming productivity and efficiency. Ethiopians finally revolted against the Marxists and ended socialist rule, instead embracing a federal democracy in the mid 1990s.
There’s a lot to be said for freedom (the opposite of socialism). It’s not just a selfish fantasy by “hard right hyper-individualists”, but a historically proven system more conducive to human flourishing and more resistant to tyranny and corruption than any other system. It turns out, however much freedom you’re prepared to lose is how much oppression you’re prepared to welcome.
The Routine Irony of Radical Leftists
Speaking of the intellectual bludging which is identity politics, I read an article this week in the Sydney Morning Herald by a thirty-something lawyer and human rights advocate who, according to her Wikipedia page, was “born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, of a family fleeing the Second Sudanese Civil War.”
This lady, Nyadol Nyuon, knows real oppression. One of the many Ethiopian conflicts under the dying Marxist regime forced her family to leave the place they were meant to be finding refuge and walk for 40 days back to southern Sudan when she was just 4 years old. She spent her teenage years living in a mud house.
At the age of 18, out of the countless millions of people living in Africa and millions more around the world desperate for a safe and rich, Western, democratic nation to call home, Nyuon was privileged to be accepted as a migrant to Australia with her family. She achieved a scholarship with the help of a professor and was given $10,000 by a woman she inspired with her story. Nyuon worked hard and achieved Juris Doctor at the Melbourne Law School.
She regularly criticises Australians and Australia for its incidents of racism targeting her, her friends and people who look like her. Her attacks are against people like Peter Dutton when he expressed concern about gang violence in Melbourne with common ethnic affiliations. She also receives a lot of criticism and ugly abuse for her efforts.
It’s more than fair to say Australia is one of the most popular choices of refugees fleeing ethnic violence, genocide and religious oppression. It’s also noble and good to resist any incremental increases in racial hatred and abuse; less so though if your rhetoric is discredited by gross generalisations, hyperbole and exaggeration.
Yet Nyadol Nyuon wrote an opinion in the SMH in which she presumed to lecture anti-authoritarian Australians about their “privilege” underlying concerns regarding vaccine mandates. She wrote:
These groups want us to believe they are now so oppressed that their condition warrants description as “segregation”, even “apartheid”. My instinctive response is that they are far closer to privilege than oppression.
How quaint! Perhaps I might suggest Nyuon reflect on the applicability of her words to her own privileged activism. Perhaps my instinctive response to her assertions that she is now so oppressed that her experience of Australia warrants description as racist & misogynist is that she, a Sudanese refugee prospering in the generous embrace of Australia, is far closer to privilege than oppression.
That’s not my response. It’s hers, and it’s intellectual bludging.
My response to her account of abuse and fear is concern, and listening. Nyadol Nyuon has every right and reason to speak against the oppression she doesn’t want to experience in even small amounts. It’s immense in her experience, though infinitesimal in contrast to the nations, politics and cultures her family fled.
It’s ironic she should presume to condemn Australians concerned about the presumption of a government it can mandate medicine against a person’s will in the most egregious display of centralised authoritarianism this nation has ever seen. The oppression goes far beyond what she deigns to acknowledge — an injection some nations are desperate for — but extends to the indefinite deprivation of “privileges” such as working, worshiping, travelling, shopping, socialising and education.
It is truly privileged upon privileged to not only live in a country that has more than sufficient supply of vaccines while others have no access, but also to choose not to get vaccinated…
Perhaps some people have genuine fears about the impact of getting the vaccine. In that case, one can speak to a qualified health professional. However, most of the arguments advanced by anti-vaxxers are, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Perhaps that is one reason they attempt to legitimise their claims of “oppression” by misappropriating terms like segregation and apartheid.
So when exactly should the citizens of a liberal democracy begin to recognise the incremental advances of authoritarian socialism?
Should it be when we’re placed under curfew, our children are banned from schools, families are banned from churches, parents are banned from going to work, family businesses are financially ruined, and everyone is told they don’t deserve freedom if they don’t inject what the government tells them to? Should we wait until police are firing rubber bullets into crowds of peaceful protestors and assaulting old ladies they’ve already knocked to the ground?
Should we wait to resist oppression until Australian society is plunged into a civil war, or devastated by Marxism like Ethiopia? I mean, we’re not really oppressed until we’re oppressed like an African developing nation suffering under political corruption, incompetence and authoritarianism, are we?
It’s not just ironic, but sheer hypocrisy when someone who resents and vocally bemoans the derogatory and demeaning language of racist insults then indulges liberally in the intended epithet “anti-vaxxer“. That deliberate language is intended to marginalise and demean people with sincere concerns and convictions who resist government attempts at coercion, even if they’ve dutifully followed government vaccination schedules (before the invention of mRNA).
Nyadol Nyuon must rely upon double standards and personal attacks to reinforce her opinion because her intellectual arguments are not fit for purpose.
In the case of anti-vaxxers, the issue seems to me straightforward: consequence follows decision. This seems lost in the narrative of oppression adopted by those opposed to vaccines. They appear to be demanding a high degree of autonomy and freedom unmitigated by the consequences of personal accountability. It is an artificial definition of freedom and autonomy that is as persuasive as the reasons for a toddler tantrum.
If a “narrative of oppression” can cloud a straightforward issue, Nyuon has mastered the weaving. Her narrative of oppression is repudiated by a wonderful Melbourne university indoctrination (I mean education), subsequent career in commercial litigation, an occasional taxpayer-funded platform for her opinions on the ABC, liberty to publicly criticise powerful government ministers, frequent inclusion in national newspapers, and keynote speeches around the nation.
Either a “narrative of oppression” should be sought to be understood, or it should be ignored. It’s fair to assume the lawyer wouldn’t want her narrative thrown out of court, so the narrative submitted by her adversaries must also be ruled admissible.
“Those opposed to vaccines” is just deceitful. As detailed above, the vast majority of people described by bigots as “anti-vaxxers” are not in the least bit opposed to all vaccines as this lazy or malicious choice of words implies. They are opposed to mandates, or therapies with no long term safety data, or the TGA’s censoring of scientific debate by healthcare professionals, or the unethical and ongoing use of aborted fetus cell lines in research, development, testing and/or production, or the state-sanctioned discrimination against equal citizens. It’s a signal you’ve forfeited the high ground when you misrepresent the arguments you’re attempting to refute, as Nyuon does.
I’m happy to stipulate to her claim conservatives “demand a high degree of autonomy and freedom.” Of course, and what’s more, so what? Of course some (not anywhere near enough) Australians demand a high degree of autonomy and freedom. What’s remarkable is most don’t, and would rather we inch or stride closer to an Ethiopian-style Marxist wasteland of political and social devastation. The more centralisation, socialism and authoritarianism a nation imbibes, the more its citizens suffer, starting with the most vulnerable. It’s pig-ignorant to not want complete freedom from the chains of tyranny for your family, friends, neighbours and nation.
“Unmitigated by the consequences of personal accountability.” Consequences are one thing, but the punitively imposed burdens upon God-given freedom by a government treating innocent people like children and criminals is an entirely unrelated other thing.
The very literal segregation of “clean” and “unclean” citizens in perfect health is not a natural consequence. It is a political policy, a choice made by self-righteous technocrats imposing their vision of the world in defiance of all notions like justice, equality, informed consent, privacy and liberty. Apartheid is an accurate word, because it literally means a politically imposed “apartness”, keeping equal people apart.
“Personal accountability” is all every freedom-lover wants. You be accountable for the decisions you make, and I’ll be accountable for mine. No one should escape accountability for the human rights abuses of authoritarian government resulting in a mental health pandemic of suicidal behaviours, eating disorders and self-harming in our hospitals.
But the Marxist definition of personal accountability means indentured servitude and slavery to the collective, unquestioning obedience to the Central Committee, and informing on your non-compliant comrades to the Stasi. By “accountability”, they mean an ever-increasing invasion of ever-expanding government into your home, your family, your business, your privacy, your wallet, and your physical body.
So yes, again, of course freedom-lovers demand freedom unmitigated by any authoritarianism, to speak more plainly than Marxists do.
This is not “an artificial definition of freedom and autonomy“. It is cultural Marxists and authoritarians who occupy themselves for decades objecting to definitions of words like marriage, and confecting artificial definitions of words like “patriarchy”, “privilege”, “racist”, “homophobe”, “misogyny”, “equality”, and on and on, ad nauseam.
Nyadol Nyuon makes the dishonest mistake made by so many Marxists and authoritarians that everyone doing what they want them to do is the only true application of principles of social responsibility. Doing what the status quo-enabled government wants is how she proposes we practically implement freedom. I’m serious.
It is impractical to implement a notion of freedoms without responsibility because we live in a society.
Like every useful propagandist, she wraps this nonsense in a euphemistic bow and calls it “responsibility”. Completely absolving every member of society of any personal responsibility while imposing responsibility on everybody for everybody else’s lack of responsibility is how Communist regimes routinely end up starving millions of their own people to death. It’s stupidity gone to seed.
This self-confused lady asserts:
“It is unlikely that one is oppressed when the circumstance of their complaint is one they brought into existence by choice and which they can end, at any time, by choice.”
This is very useful advice for someone living in racist, misogynist Australia by choice. They’re not really oppressed. Their suffering too can end, at any time, by choice.
We should definitely let every Chinese journalist imprisoned by that authoritarian regime know that Nyadol Nyuon said the circumstance they find themselves in is one brought into existence by choice, and they should just make better career choices.
In fact, Nyuon’s sentiments and arguments resonate with the Chinese Communist notion of “the Harmonious Society,” an excuse for suppression of dissent and criticism of the regime.
Likewise the word “Islam” is often thought to mean peace, while it actually means submission. Same thing to an authoritarian, a Marxist, or a tyrant of any other colour.
You see, the more authoritarians gush about how much they care about everyone by forcing everyone to do what they want, the more everyone suffers, from the bottom of society up. Elites like this privileged, university-indoctrinated, nationally-platformed lawyer will always be the last to feel the real suffering of the people they despise, the people who disagree with them, the people beneath them.
Instead of hearing the concerns of Australians about pernicious policies in an Australian context, Nyuon ignores concerns about government abuse of power because we’re Australian, because we’re not oppressed enough, not oppressed like African nations with both tyranny and poverty. Dismissing arguments because of identity Nyadol Nyuon concludes her parade of willful ignorance by saying:
If those who are against vaccine [sic] want to be believed as freedom fighters of an oppressive regime equal to apartheid, then they have misjudged the costs of freedom fighting if their complaints are not being able to visit their favourite hair salon or cafe.
This is the most appalling and most common behaviour of authoritarianism’s apologists. This is intellectual bludging perfected to a fine art. This is sometimes called a strawman argument, with a tinge of character assassination and a generous pinch of emotional manipulation.
Instead of engaging sincerely and honestly with the actual arguments, the rational, coherent, academic, historical, best arguments of the position she wishes to discredit, Nyuon ignores them entirely, and instead, simply defeats a very poor argument offered by nearly nobody and claims smug victory over all.
This is how a government destroys a free nation: with the lazy incuriousness of simpering, privileged elites.
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Dave Pellowe is a Christian writer & commentator, founder of The Good Sauce, convener of the annual Australian Church And State Summit and host of Good Sauce's weekly The Church And State Show, also syndicated on ADH TV. Since 2016 Dave has undertaken the mission of arming Christians to influence culture through events from Perth to Auckland, videos, podcasts and articles published in multiple journals across Australia and New Zealand. [more]