One of the great divides in politics is between those who focus on identity issues and those who focus on perineal issues. It is also a philosophical difference regarding whether they see all issues as separate issues or all issues as different branches of the same issue. That is to say, for example, whether one is a feminist because women as a class are marginalized or whether one is a feminist because women are humans and all humans deserve love and respect thus making feminism a mere organ of the broader human movement. This difference carries with it many associated traits.
Those inclined to view politics in terms of identities are less likely to appreciate the individuals opposite them in the field of conflict because those individuals are dissolved into the blob of clade of their opposition. No longer human, the individuals in the opposition are drone soldiers, extras in the movie of the movement whose destruction brings few tears, if any, to the audience watching. Conversely, those inclined to view the issue as a single front of the campaign for human and nature’s welfare are not only fighting against their opposition but ultimately for them and their humanity are as valuable as anyone else’s.
The divergent approaches also differ in moral gravity and aesthetic romance. The activists who have a more human and less identarian approach tend to feel the pull of the ancient big questions of the human condition. The things philosophers, prophets, and poets have been struggling with since time immemorial. Questions of peace and war, love and hatred, greed and want, and tend to have more utopian and idealist notions of politics.
They have an Aristotelian since of civic duty and aspire build a world characterized by noble spirit with the trappings of universal love, a bold freedom of the individual, the abolition of all needless suffering, and whatever other items they add to the quixotic fantasy of a more perfect coexistence. I certainly fall into the more perineal and human camp between the two as the other places on my website would betray. The identity activists merely have the myopic aim of gaining advances for their group and for the rest of politics they usually have views without doing anything about them.
I have come across numerous figures who talk about the psychological difference between liberals and conservatives but I believe the difference between the human and identity currents on the left are probably, psychologically, almost as, if not more, different. It is a profound and fundamental divorce in comprehending the universe and what it means. It is whether one sees the world as normal and mundane and therefore may be left alone because most people are faceless strangers one has no relation to and only large groups are large enough to have relationships with each other and furthermore the world is too big to have a human family and therefore any ideals of one are either untrue or unable to manifest to any degree. The other is to see the world as rich with life and beautiful with people and nature with those people not being strangers but being interesting and full humans and that a personal knowledge is unneeded for a personal concern or relationship and you love them without having met them.
In a decade of endless warfare from Syria to Armenia to Libya to Yemen to Ukraine there has not seemed to have been a single major anti-war song or production. There has been stuff about racism and feminism and gay rights but when the bombs rained Homs and Aleppo in the bloodiest hours of this past decade, the political artists of our culture failed because they only sang and acted for the issues from their demographics. They may have cared about the wars; they didn’t rage against them like was done against Vietnam. That because they were not a part of the phenomenon that affected Syrians yet, in truth, as humans, they were a part of the same events and they were in the same identity and one’s suffering and story could easily have been told by the other.
In political philosophy, it would be Aristotle against Rawls, in urban theory, it would be Jane Jacobs against Robert Moses. That difference is the primary political divide on the left. It needs to be recognized more since, for most people, they are unaware of the classification to which they belong. Having studied lots of psychology and political science, I know that it exists and it is known to exist by many other social scientists who study the fields. Yet, so long as it is unknown, generally, then it will be much more difficult to shift the political alignments to a more human and less identarian approach. It saddens me that the more human side seems to be weaker.
Hopefully, if that psychological split is appreciated some of the worst ills of our polity and culture may be rectified. We would have a less tribalistic culture and a politics that focusses on forging the human siblinghood and building an unrealistic, romantic, world of beauty because while perfection will never be attained on Earth or in any space colony, if we aren’t aiming for it then we won’t go in that direction. Our goal should be to make as much progress in the best direction as we can. It would soften the rhetoric and warm the hearts of the participants in political battle. That is not to say it will end partisanship and it shouldn’t since having multiple parties is a sign of a healthy democracy but that our partisanship will be loving. That we will avoid dehumanizing anyone. We need to shift the left from identity-focused to human-focused and if we don’t then the worst plagues of politics will continue to haunt us.