Take individual responsibility: Identity politics are not a real solution to social issues
Last election cycle slammed a huge wedge between the political left and right, and there’s plenty of blame to go around.
The root of our troubles isn’t Donald Trump, Black Lives Matter or political correctness. It’s deeper than that. We can’t reach political compromise, enact effective societal change or just plain old get along because of an insidious line of thought that’s crept into our society: identity politics.
The problem here isn’t that people aren’t “oppressed” — we all carry our own baggage, the times we’ve been wronged and the things that aren’t fair. Maybe your great-great-grandfather was enslaved, you come from a broken home, your family immigrated illegally, you struggle with your sexuality or you battle a mental condition. The list could go on, but the point is this: Although we’re blessed to live in a free nation, life is hard, and at some point, we’ll look in the mirror and realize that, frankly, we’re not all that put together.
Identity politics take that reality and convince us that everyone else is the problem by fractionating us into categories — “poor Hispanics,” “straight white males,” “trans females,” “homo/heterosexuals,” etc. In the hierarchy of today’s identity politics, the higher you fall on the scale (i.e. the more “oppressed” you are), the more your voice and interests matter. Two huge problems exist with this line of thought: First, it’s technically impossible to list all the ways people are “oppressed,” and secondly, there’s no authority to accurately “weigh” these different types of hardships. We’ve stopped dealing with individuals as individuals and shifted to a subtle variation of Marxist “class warfare” — we’ve traded a struggle between rich and poor for a struggle between affinity groups. Consequently, our political sphere has radicalized and we’re witnessing more riots, more shootings, and a breakdown of our political discourse. The main problem in America isn’t a “lack of freedom.” Our main problem comes when we project our hardships onto other groups of people. We’ve convinced ourselves that if we’re not where we want to be, it’s someone else’s fault.
So what’s the solution? Look inside, not just outside. Ask yourself the hard questions: How can I take personal responsibility for picking myself up and taking care of my problems? What can I do to make my life and the lives around me just a little better?
A meaningful life — where what you do matters — comes only in the face of hardship. Difficult situations and circumstances are inevitable, but throwing your hands up, believing you’re a victim and blaming other people is the most counterproductive thing you could do. God forbid we waste our lives believing the world is out to get us. It’s not. Face your own weaknesses, inadequacies, and flaws. We’ve all got them, and, if we’re really honest, we know what they are. Acknowledge that, yes, in some ways — maybe even a lot of ways — you are “oppressed,” and some things in your life really are hard. But also acknowledge that ultimately, you’re the only person who can really do anything about it. Then get up and go to work.
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As the parade to Beer Bike 1992 devolved into a water balloon melee, I picked up a pink water balloon and flung it in the general direction of a group of Sidizens who had been pelting me and my fellow Wiessmen with them. As I did so, I felt my Rice ring slip from my finger. A moment later, in the distance, I heard the metallic ping as my ring fell to the pavement. “My ring! My ring came off!” I don’t know how I was heard over the din of laughter and yelling, but in a few moments, Rice students from three or four colleges paused their good-natured rivalry and helped me recover it, only a little worse for wear. I wore that slightly dented ring up until replacing it for my 25th reunion a few years ago.