The Masquerade – Identity Politics and Delusion

If you haven’t read Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, you really should.  It tells the tale of a kingdom facing ruin from a devastating plague, holding its valued citizens in relative safety within the walls of its castle.  There, they eventually hold a great costume party where all are hidden behind masks.  The masquerade ends with the unveiling of one of its participants: the red death itself.  A modern reimagining of this classic could be framed in terms of identity politics, where each member of some “sacred” group is forced to wear a mask to appear pure to the larger mass.  The coming end will be revealed once the mask falls and everyone realizes that no one actually cares about each member of the political alliance; that it was effectively a charade of deception.  Forced purity and the coming ruin is the focus of this post.

Regardless of whether an identity bloc is entered willingly (homosexuality, transgenderism, religion) or unwillingly (race, genetic sex), both the mechanism and the result of forced purity is the same.  There are two civil wars being fought: one at the higher level of “humanity” and one within the identity bloc itself.  Humans vie for power for themselves and those like them, or so they claim.  Too many view the war as a zero-sum game in which bettering oneself or one’s adopted kin must come at the expense of another bloc.  What is curious – and ominous – is that this zero-sum game extends to within the identity bloc as well.  At one end there are grumblings that someone isn’t gay enough, isn’t black enough, isn’t womanly enough, etc.  At the other end there are strategies enforced that take from the have-nots (those not “x” enough) to give to the haves in the name of the greater good.  How often have we seen witch hunts play out against those that speak out against the larger identity bloc?  It’s a game of Clue where the murderer is literally everyone it seems.

All of this is delusion.  At the end of the day, no one truly cares about anyone except those in their immediate orbit.  If they care about those outside of the nucleus, then they are brain-damaged at best.  Movements are formed by the political elite that are more than happy to take from the have-nots in order to fulfill their own goals in the name of “progress.”  Whether your in-group was formed willingly or by the grace of Chance, it doesn’t matter.  How pompous does one have to be to tell another what is best for them, all the while knifing them in the back to take for the greater good?  Down with identity blocs; down with identity.  Simply be.  Shed that mask.

The image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.  Credit given to the photographer: Dominik Hundhammer.

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