Let’s have a futile discussion on identity politics!
There’s been a lot of talk about identity politics at various activist organizations with which I associate. Who is this “I” that speaks and what is it?
I am above all a multicellular organic animal organism. I am an omnivore. I prey primarily on bacon, chicken ovulations, peppers and moldy or fermented dairy and vegetable stuffs.
Some would say I am human. Others would say let’s not be too quick to rush to that conclusion.
Human or not, I have a psychological life, which includes but is not limited to sensory perceptions, feelings, emotions, in combinations laid down upon each other, with thoughts of many kinds that also come and go, and imaginings of all sorts, visual, acoustic, kinesthetic, aromatic and narrative.
Oh, and I have consciousnesses of many of these, not one but many consciousnesses that swing around about these psychological features, seeing them in turn, singly and in sum. And, among my imaginings, I often imagine that all the various consciousnesses emerge out of one consciousness.
This one conscious entity I picture as one shrunken human inside me living in a cardboard box with holes on its sides, peeking out of different holes to get all its assorted impressions of the outer world and of my physical animal states from moment to moment. This is an image that is obviously false. In fact it is utterly absurd, to the point of hilarity.
If the absurd hilarity of conscious unity were true, I might have ever and always been tempted to identify with the shrunken human in the cardboard box with the holes on the sides. But it’s not true, so I giggle at the thought. And then I think other silly thoughts, and then I read the news about a boy risking his life to rescue a puppy that had fallen through ice into freezing water, and I cry tears.
Then an ambulance races down the street with siren on and the siren is too loud. I register pain, and spend a minute or two cursing the system that lets car manufacturers build and sell cars that are more and more soundproof, so that people like me who aren’t encased in soundproof cars must endure too-loud sirens meant to penetrate the cars’ soundproofing.
Then, Anitra “She Who Puts Up With” Freeman walks in on the tail-end of my rant and my psychology consciously hears a remark from her in the form of something like, “Yes, dear” or “The siren rant again?” and I feel the warmth of recognition and being recognized, and gladness ensues.
So, where was I? Ah yes, I was trying to get at what I am. I am this thing that does these psychological things. I’m not the sensations, feeling, thoughts, imaginings, consciousnesses, nor other types of flotsam floating up out of the thing, but the thing itself, out and up from which they float.
There is no little human in a box, instead there is this deep mostly unseen and unfathomable and churning ocean of a thing with bits of conscious features rising up and coming and going across the surface of it, to then descend back into its hidden depths. I am the underlying it.
I am pure it. And I love it.
You can all have your identities. I don’t want to stop you at all. In fact, I delight in all your elaborate self-identifications. I enjoy soaking up your luscious richness, as you present to me all the different kinds of things you are.
Your races and colors and sexes and genders, your classes and age-based cohort groups, your orientations, nationalities and ethnicities all thrill me and color the world around me fantastically, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart, and I wish you great lives.
But I can’t do it. I can’t let go of this it that is my soul. I’m just so privileged that I don’t have to have an identity.
Oh great. 700-plus words and I never got to the subject! Just me me me. We’ll have to talk about identity politics later.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time a math professor and three times homeless. He has been involved with Real Change since he supplied the art for the first cover in November of 1994. This is his weekly column Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
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