Friday, November 30, 2018

Identity politics and the Pride Parade

(First published in The Dominion Post and on, November 29.)

There was something strangely familiar about the spectacle of the LGBTQ+ movement chewing itself up over the Auckland Pride Parade.

It was vaguely reminiscent of the destructive paroxysms that convulsed New Zealand’s communist Left throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s as rival factions competed to show who was most faithful to Marxist-Leninist ideology.

The feuding began when Moscow and Beijing fell out and New Zealand communists split into Soviet and Maoist camps. The plotting and infighting was so vicious and all-consuming that no one had any energy left to fight the supposed common enemy, capitalism.

As the doctrinal differences became ever more esoteric and breakaway groups peeled off in new directions, the squabbling only seemed to intensify. As a wise Frenchman wrote a long time ago, revolutions have a way of devouring their own.

Meanwhile, life went on. Mainstream New Zealand was only dimly aware, if at all, of the feuding among its suburban armchair revolutionaries.

There are faint echoes of that era in the turmoil over the Pride Parade. In one sense, as political scientist Bryce Edwards has pointed out, the dispute over whether uniformed police should be allowed to join the parade was simply a classic clash between pragmatists and purists.

The pragmatic moderates want to work alongside the establishment. They accept that police harassment of gays is in the past.  

The radicals, however, obviously place a high value on their status as an oppressed minority and are determined to remain on the margins.

Ideologically, it suits them to view the police as fascist enforcers of white male supremacy. In their own eyes, no doubt, they remain ideologically pure while the original gay custodians of the parade have sold out.

Both stances raise interesting questions. In respect of the mainstream gay movement, the question is whether there even needs to be a Pride Parade.

Gay rights is no longer the edgy cause it once was. Homosexuality has been legal for more than 30 years and gays are allowed to marry.

If homosexuality is now seen as accepted and unremarkable, which is surely what the gay lobby has campaigned for over the past few decades, then the battle has been won and gays have no more need of a “pride” parade than indoor bowlers or model train hobbyists.

But the more interesting question relates to the zealots who banned uniformed police from participating, despite all their efforts to ingratiate themselves with the gay community. 

Here in full view, once again, is the neo-Marxist phenomenon known as identity politics, whereby minority groups define themselves by their point of difference – whether it be gender, class, race, sexual identity, disability or age – and by their perception of themselves as oppressed. 

The activists love to talk about inclusivity but in truth, they rejoice in their apartness and have little interest in aligning themselves with the mainstream. After all, why diminish what defines you?

Besides, it’s no longer a simple case of a single, homogenous “queer” community asserting itself, because the queer community has split into multiple factions, all pushing different agendas and sometimes fighting among themselves – just as in the communist cadres of the 50s and 60s.

New groups seem to appear by the week. It’s getting hard to navigate in this increasingly complex ideological landscape.

Not only do we now have to get our heads around a “trans” community that virtually no one had heard of a year ago, and whose agenda provoked a backlash from feminists, but we’ve also been introduced to a neo-Marxist theory called intersectionality.

Wikipedia defines this as “an analytic framework that attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact [on] those who are the most marginalised in society”.

Intersectionality grew out of resentment at the domination of the feminist movement by white middle-class women. It holds that if you’re a lesbian, working-class woman of colour, you’re far more oppressed than a Pakeha woman who lives in a restored Thorndon villa and teaches women’s studies at university.

In this new hierarchy of the oppressed, it goes without saying that middle-class gay men just don’t cut it anymore. Small wonder that they’ve lost control of the Pride Parade.

Meanwhile, as with the communist schisms of the mid-20th century, ordinary New Zealand gets on with life. After all, identity politics and the associated culture wars are the concerns of a tiny portion of the population.

But the row over the Pride Parade is the tip of a rather ominous iceberg. The difference between the mid-20th century and today is that whereas the old-school communists never achieved influence beyond the trade unions, today’s neo-Marxists have got traction in politics, education, the media, the arts and even the churches.

And their aims are similar: to undermine, destabilise and ultimately deconstruct mainstream society. We ignore them at our peril.


khrust said...

Well said Karl. I have been awaiting your next chapter on the "progressive" left for some time. This did not disappoint. One thing that still puzzles me about the postmodern, cultural marxist left is that it has no particular political structure or leadership framework (the social policy wing of the greens is the nearest there is). It is nebulous, like grasping at smoke. Although undoubtedly they seek an authoritarian socialist state (as capitalism is their enemy), to actually put together a political structure would require committing to specific policies. That of course would open them up to easy criticism, as marxist socialism has been an abject failure everywhere it has been tried. Even China turned to a form of authoritarian collectivist capitalism. I have renewed belief that the west will survive the postmodern threat by virtue of our flexibility in taking on new ideas. The valid concerns of minority (identity politics) groups will be addressed over time in the same way that gay rights have been widely established and accepted. That will leave the marxists with only ever increasingly ridiculous points to attempt to score off and there support will diminish.

Brendan McNeill said...

Karl, one area of influence you neglected to mention is the world of large corporates. In these 'woke' organisations, most of whom have undergone LGBTI+ certification, (no, I'm not making this up) it's not enough to possess a 'live and let live' attitude to your fellow LGBTI+ colleagues, you have to become an active 'ally', someone who is affirming all things LGBTI+ and fighting 'homophobia' in the work place.

In many corporates you get to wear a pin, or have a sticker on your locker to identify as a straight ally. Of course you are free not to register as an ally, not to wear the pin, not to have the sticker on your locker....

Just like Kramer didn't need to wear the ribbon in the AIDS march...

To be a 'refusenik' in these modern ideological Gulags is usually noted on your personal file.

hughvane said...

Following the Canterbury earthquakes, and the mess they left behind, making do with what [infrastructure] one had became known as 'the new normal’. The same appears to be happening in respect of the LGBT (plus whatever other letters of the alphabet are added nowadays).

Alternative types mentioned in your article will never be satisfied with being accepted as different, their goal - in addition to what you identify - is to mess with what the great majority regard as normal, eg. heterosexuality. They are, disgracefully in my view, assisted by much of the media, scarcely a day going by without the sympathetic and at times forceful reporting of some activist(s) clamouring for attention and pushing an agenda.

Damien Grover said...

Hi Karl. Why make the analogy with communism? You could have chosen christian faith, as just one example. The in-fighting there got pretty mean back in the day...

Plus who is this "we" who should not ignore them? That "we" makes me a bit nervous. Am I part of the "we"? Who else is part of the "we"? Is it a group I would want to be part of? And what else do we like to do, apart from get nervous about socio-communists etc? Who else don't we like?

Karl du Fresne said...

"We" in this context basically means people who agree with me, of whom there happens to be quite a few. You're welcome to not be one of us.