How many identities must identity politics cater to?

How many identities must identity politics cater to?  The short answer to the question is, there are at least seven million different unique identity types that identity politics must address.  That figure is much larger when catering to identity types is not just demanded in two or three developed nations but within the context of the global village. 

If it is difficult to imagine why there should be such large numbers of identity types, consider the example of a man who is a gay, Black, an illegal Chinese, Lutheran, elderly, transgendered person.  (Caution: When contemplating such combinations of category attributes, it is entirely possible that, apparently, some of the attributes of specific categories co-exist, e. g.: homeless, imprisoned.  Upon further thought, however, it becomes clear that a homeless man, once imprisoned, is technically no longer homeless.)

Starting from the bottom up, what is the minimum number of identities we need in a radical-liberal, moral universe (a.k.a. the idealized version of a Marxist regime)?  More than just a few categories and sub-categories immediately come to mind, when contemplating the radical-liberal demands of a global village: 

  1. Sex (a.k.a. gender): 31 – That is a minimum, the number of genders officially recognized by New York City. There is little reason the number should not be a hundred and more, but let’s stick with 31 for now. 
  2. Race: 24 – That number is far too low, as far as perceptions of race in the world go. It is the number of races recognized in the criminal justice system of England and Wales. One must add to that number a large number of biological classifications, medical considerations, as well as perceptions of social constructions, different sets of which that have legal validity in many nations. There is some overlap between sets of races in different nations.
  3. Colour: 16 – That number, too is far too low. Colour could be regarded to be a politically correct euphemism for race. In the U.S. it serves to soften the political contrast between White (so far a majority that has ostensibly control over everything) and Black (so far the largest non-white minority, many of whose activists wish to have Black Power trump White control over everything).  It was found that there are other “colours” that need to be recognized.  Therefore, the U.S. uses now five “races” or “colours”, while the expression “Black” is preferred by Blacks, and, although there are many gradations of “colour”, only about three categories of Race or Colour are used to categorize all others who are neither White or Black.

    No one is truly White or Black.  Those designations serve to identify the extreme ends of the spectrum, with there being considerable overlap between degrees of colour and racial or ethnic origins or mixtures thereof.  Some Caribbean Islands have strict social codes of discourse and conduct that address gradations by 16 divisions of colour.  Other regions and nations do not have as many but have some. It would be a gross understatement to insist that there are no more than 16 colours in the world.  For the purpose of this exercise, 16 colours will be sufficient to make a point.

  4. Creed: 30 – That is an ultra-conservative number for just the major religions. The number considers religious orientations such as Christianity, Islam, Judaism as one each, while in reality each one of those is split into many different factions that are distinctly different and vehemently opposed one another within each branch (e. g.: Catholicism and Protestantism have each many different factions). Again, the number 30, although far too low, nevertheless will serve to make a point, eventually.
  5. Social status or caste: 20 – Many countries have different classifications that rank their residents by many different categories of rank. Different sets of civil rights may apply or not, by law, not necessarily by law, or perhaps not at all by law but in practice in each country. It may or may not be that someone assessed the differences between classifications for each country and all countries, but it is doubtful that anyone ever did that for all countries in the world.  Consider a set of classifications that would apply in two countries, Germany and the United States, about to equal extents:
    1. Illegal immigrant;
    2. Landed immigrant;
    3. Naturalized citizen;
    4. Citizen by birth;
    5. Renter;
    6. Property owner;
    7. Developing, pre-birth child;
    8. Minor;
    9. Age of majority;
    10. Elderly;
    11. Freedom to move anywhere;
    12. Freedom to move only within the country;
    13. Freedom to move only within a specific region;
    14. Freedom to move only within one’s home;
    15. Registered offender;
    16. Incarcerated offender;
    17. Released offender;
    18. Free to pursue a profession, an income, or to enjoy civil rights other than specific restrictions on freedom of movement and freedom of expression;
    19. Restricted freedom to pursue a profession, an income, or to enjoy civil rights other than specific restrictions on freedom of movement and freedom of expression.  That is the case when someone experiences limitations being imposed on his freedoms due to his government’s refusal to issue or renew licences he needs to make a living (e. g.: fishing licence, hunting licence, firearm ownership licence, passport, driver licence, pilot licence, boiler inspector licence; medical licence, etc…..);
    20. Illegal citizen/child – not merely an illegitimate child.  “Illegal citizen” is the lifetime status of someone born to his parents in excess of the number of children his parents are permitted to have.

Without doubt, there is a set of at least 5 different identity categories that each individual on Earth is being measured by.  All of those identity categories and their respective sub-categories were at one time or another addressed by ideological activists in the media, public discussions and political debates for a bewildering variety of reasons that will not be addressed here.

The number of identities every given individual is measured by determines the sum of the civil rights a given individual is permitted to enjoy.  It also determines the sum of the obligations and duties that every individual has, to ensure that all others will enjoy the varying extent of the civil rights those others are entitled to receive. 

Some such classifications appear to be idiosyncratic.  They are nevertheless real.  Their manifestations affect many, even millions of people in some nations.  Some of them are unheard of in some countries while common in others.  For instance, category 5.xx, “Illegal citizen/child”, in the list of attributes in category 5, puts severe constraints on many, perhaps millions of Chinese residents, restrictions that prevent them from being able to enjoy what is taken for granted in most countries, the right to partake of any and all government services (e. g.: welfare services, government-sponsored health care services and pension incomes, to mention some).

Let no one think that there are not equally severe restrictions in so-called “free” nations in the West on the extent to which ostensibly “free” citizens or residents can enjoy their allegedly God-given right to their civil liberties. Anyone who thinks that they do better consider what freedoms someone who is being punished by being assigned category 5.xix in Canada is left with to enjoy!

Now consider that Facebook is hot in pursuit of ways that will prevent those suffering from having category attributes 5.xix or 5.xx (or any other detrimental ones) in their identity types from pointing their fingers at anyone responsible for having made that happen.  No rational individual will think that Facebook should have that power!

Conclusion

Going by those five categories and their individual sub-categories, there is a total of at least seven million different identifiable classifications of identities that are of concern to radical-liberal advocates of identity politics.  The number of identities will most certainly be much larger when advocates of identity politics pursue as well the ideal of the global village.

In a conservative moral universe, every individual, regardless of which of the seven million different identity types he could be categorized by, has a just and equal opportunity to achieve what he can achieve. 

In a radical-liberal moral universe, every single individual has the right to clamor for the special rights and privileges that the one of the seven million different identity types he falls into entitles him to receive.  Conversely, his identity rank not only entitles him to his justly measured share of equity but also compels him to provide his justly measured share of contributions that will ensure that all others will receive what they are entitled to.  After all, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” (Karl Marx, 1875).

If he would have thought of it, George Orwell would possibly have summed that up in the slogan, “Equality of Outcomes is Tyrannical Classlessness.”

It is not necessary to be specific with the details.  There is no reason one should make an exhaustive analysis of the details of the cause of the problem that constitutes the rock on which all identity politics will in short order founder.  The principle of the fallacy that makes identity politics founder on the immutable rock of reality becomes obvious.  Anyone may feel free to make an estimate of more precise dimensions of the factors that constitute the problem.  The principle will remain.

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