TOTW: competing identities

Identity is a thing in today's world.

It is possible to imagine that identities (as abstractions, at least) don't have to compete with each other, but the default is that they do have to (that is, that some identities are the most down-trodden, or the most crucial to the status quo, and therefore that those identities should be respected more than others and/or that the people most closely resembling those identities get extra cred). Usually this is tacit, but some theories, like some radfeminism and afro-pessimism, are pretty explicit about the foundational role they claim for the oppression of women or black people respectively. And of course to the extent that people treat class as an identity, plenty of folks are all about that as the most foundational, relevant issue.

What is other subtext that exists around identities; what are other implicit (or not) assumptions about how the world works that are reflected in how people think and talk about identity? Is it possible or desirable to consider how identities and the people associated with them could work together, without trying to be the same? How do we spin these questions in more interesting directions?

There are 49 Comments

When they can be recycled and used to further your own goals? Then their meanings will dissolve like the rest of the spooks under capitalism. There's a young girl's camp where only "queer" and "trans" people get admitted? Well just forge your own ID, dress up for a while, and weeee!

It's a social game!

well feed you hormones and you can join our orgies. or just reject identity and be lonely af.

I'm gonna be a nihil-esque Unidentitied Flying Observer of the identity chaos going on all around me ;)

this zine we put out deals pretty much with exactly this topic.
“We are against identity because we think it holds this oppressive reality together. Our identities as marginalized people are our inheritances that separate us as inferior. For centuries, distinctions of inferiority have been used as the building blocks for exploitation and control. Identity is the infrastructure of our suffering and would need to be shattered if we wish to see oppression demolished. Presently, identity pits us against each other instead of against the system’s infrastructures. Scrambling to tally distinctions of how oppressed we are in comparison to others and what we deserve to be compensated doesn’t end our exploitation and only keeps us distracted from making the necessary calculations to sabotage the infrastructure holding domination in place.”

Yeeeaaah, I knows... but nowadays, neoliberals have set up ghettoized waiting rooms for all dem oppressed social categories (READ: not including those NOT considered oppressed, for some dubious reasons, like say the Vietnamese in my town or the blind/deaf/mute people) to be gaining their conveyor-belt upward entry to "higher spheres" of society, or the Inner Party, or... well just more valued commodity crap!!! ;-D

"It's all a big machine, now. Social identities... it's just capitalist politics! HAhahahahaha!"

- some crazy guy walking in the streets of the milieu carrying a Nietzschean lamp, who's been really bothering the leftists around

Identities can only be nihil-esque if they are to penetrate the true condition of existence and prevent the formation of binary relationships.

About positionality.

Why construct an identity that is relative to a position you are antagonistic to? Isn't that a way of legitimizing what you want to destroy?

Must ones needs, wants and desires be couched in terms of identity? Or is the current hypnotism centered on identity some kind of psychological comfort blanket?

Lots of question marks. Moving on.

I've been thinking about the unknowability and otherness of the future of the planet and thus society, but also about the implications of that mode of thinking and how that informs the here and now.

Alejandro de Acosta writes in Green Nihilism or Cosmic Pessimism (emphasis and links in the original text not carried over to the quote):

"[...] if our rejection of society and state is as complete as we like to say it is, our project is not to create alternative micro-societies (scenes, milieus) that people can belong to, but something along the lines of becoming monsters. It is probable that anarchy has always had something to do with becoming monstrous. The monster, writes [Eugene] Thacker in another of his books, is unlawful life, or what cannot be controlled. It seems to me the only way to do this, as opposed to saying one is doing it and being satisfied with that, would be to unflinchingly contemplate the thing we are without trying to be, the thing we can never try to be or claim we are: the nameless thing, or unthinkable life. Which is also the solitary thing, or the lonely one."

The Monster can be many things.

In the current state of the great clusterfuck, the Monster can be said to be this unnamed being, lacking identity.

I'm considering this as a possible path to get rid of positionality and indeed identity altogether. Some kind of un-identity.

Yes, the psychology of being un-identitied, different to unidentified which is visual. I also think that monster, the ungovernable, the unlawful, has commonalities with infantile, full of unique characteristics innately and naturally wild. Can we call this monster an angel instead, can we regard this purity as sacred essence?.,.

Infantile, definitely! You also write "innately and naturally wild". To connect back to my previous post and take this one step further, why not say that the monster is inherently unknowable.

Identity then becomes a futile attempt at forcing a more or less static (reductive) label on this continuous falling out of balance.


This very much becomes a discussion of humanism at some point, doesn't it?


I'd personally rather not call the monster an angel, although I see what you mean. I'd rather sidestep that discussion into Stirner, as critic_of_critics touches on in their post.

A way to walk this particular tightrope without having to balance a load of religious baggage, perhaps.

(but other baggage may be required)

Yes, dropping the religious connotations of "angel", I should rather use the phrase "innocent and untainted by morality," and in society, the fluidity of the "unknowable monster" is siezed and attempts made to confine and tame it, to make it a charicature of the society's ideal, the Social Identity, the gentle playful monster is turned into an unemotional aggressive macho hunter, or the enslaved sexualized toy.
Cartoonish now, I see the once octopoid giggling kind monster hiding in the corner of a box weeping.

We are born into the world with a name, family, and life situation we didn't choose.How we deal with it impacts our life journey. Sometimes we confuse our role as identity. Sometimes we had different selves in one person. (aggressive sometimes. Timid in others) .We are confused about who we are. How can others with the same thing being not less than equally troubled in themselves and with their relationships? Maybe I watched too much Corporate this week :-) Or read too much Rose Beth Kanter and the oceanic self.
This week, I am convinced an AI program came up with TOTW. Or a human after three beers :-)
Cheers fellow posters!

I have to second in saying that, "what is identity?", of course beyond the modern conception of something that you choose to be outwardly for some sort of social image clout, or something that you could pass yourself off as, or something that other people label you as and you don't have any ability to control except finding people who wouldn't think of you that way. In modern society it can be as fluid as buying crap of the internet, and for that reason has become even more pointless, but it also means that the capability of freedom FROM it can be higher.

For me personally, I like the "zero identity" approach, which is something I mostly learned from stirner. A lot of my life i struggled with low-self esteem and self-hatred but if my "self" is undetermined, then there's nothing really to hate or feel insecure about. If I can't struggle to "be" anything, then it's ultimately a non-issue, then i don't have any reason to regret being who I am.

That's interesting, maybe getting a bit more in to psycho-analysis though?

Like, for me, all this identity shit is only relevant to anarchism because of the points made in that zine by downandoutdistro. It's a bit complicated but nowhere near as much as cracking open all the layers of what identity (or its absence) could mean to the individual. At that point, I just want to stay out of the way and let people figure out their own shit as best they can haha

But as it relates to power, obviously we keep encountering really toxic, bad faith uses where you have to be on guard against the manipulation, so it makes more sense to have the strong assertions

"At that point, I just want to stay out of the way and let people figure out their own shit as best they can haha"

same here as it concerns other people than myself. I don't think anybody, even the most advanced nuero-scientists, are capable of fully cracking the identity issue as it relates to social interaction and society. A lot of my interest has been in what has been called "the ego" which is described as "the sense of self", however the thing that people want to do away with is more related to self-image in the eyes of others, and how that relates to political power and control of money and other people's political allegiances.

I'm even fine with the whole transgender thing, the main problem i have is when anarchists and people into radical politics are aggressively trying to cleanse/brainwash random passerby's perception, "SAY THEY, SAY THEY!", the id-pol says to anyone who steps out of line with their politics...the task of getting people to accept each other for who they are just gets more needlessly complicated and fear-based.

"I'm even fine with the whole transgender thing" <--- how generous of you

I think different people who grow up in different ways obviously have different perspectives. These personal perspectives intersect with others who have grown up in somewhat similar ways & therefore probably do have some truth to them. I know, “duh?”, right?

The perspectives never completely line up (even if their experiences are incredibly similar) because people are complex & don’t easily fit into boxes (identities). But just because they don’t always fit into the same boxes doesn’t mean you should discredit those somewhat common perspectives. So, uhh, the whole “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” type of thing.

Those perspectives are incredibly helpful in learning how the world works, but when people try to construct reverse hierarchies in order to make up for social inequalities it’s not so helpful. People tend to exploit those reverse hierarchies for their own ends.

Maybe just actually making/keeping friends with people who you get along with & not get bogged down in identities while spending time together & connecting on things you care about is a genuine way to do that? All while listening & trying to understand their different perspectives is a way to step away from the power identities hold in ‘radical’ circles?

"some identities are the most down-trodden, or the most crucial to the status quo, and therefore that those identities should be respected more than others

huh? being crucial to the status quo somehow "deserves" (more) respect? i don't even know where to begin with that....

you got the point. the totw is talking about a model of identity... most here will disagree with it.

That is the point of the TOTW, to question the foundation of identity consciousness within the status quo.

Identity creates symbolic charicatures meant to appease an inner psychological deficiency and low self-esteem. The identity belongingness and collective mob culture produces the most ignorant and destructive behavior patterns and desires.
The resultant sheepish herd mentality further thwarts the development of empathetic lateral exchanges of creative relationships and sustainable social harmony.

and my own position on this is basically the same as the down and out distro statement.

I'd like to get a little more specific about lived experience that gives rise to IdPol.
Take me: I've been in love with other guys and have (gasp) slept with other guys. Much of this is a simple desire for shared affection (buddy warmin') not sex. I don't identify as "queer" or have any involvement with "queer" IdPol. HOWEVER, I was tight with my dad when I was little, had 3 tight buddies in grade school (who I was in love with, tho I had no understanding of it in these terms then), and was never called a sissy when I was a kid. Had I a more typical "gay" childhood, with NONE of this in place, the formative experience of severe marginalization from other males would have produced a VERY different outcome. "Sissy", "fag", "queer" are IMPOSED identities, inflicted with a lot of damage from age 5 and even younger. IdPol does not solve this damage, but it is easy to see its appeal here.

Its really sad seeing young boys being indoctrinated into being the insensitive masculine identity caricature at an early age, the beginning of the absurd destructive binary relationship, which when expanded outwards into national ethos produces warfare and many other domestic violent issues. Things are improving tho.,.

in my case i over the course of my life have gotten more excited by females like "normal men", but this is not to say i haven't felt sexual desires towards other men. I tried fooling around with a guy a few years ago and found it to be pretty disappointing and regrettable, but i have no way of knowing what i would have wanted to fuck around with without all the media and social brain washing i experienced during my youth. Even if i don't have a genetic tendency to be attracted to men, i would have been happier if my definitions of beauty in terms of women were wider and less mainstream, there are some guys out there though who will dump their girlfriend because they don't shave their legs, LOL

Shaving legs is sooo fucked up, I'll go as far as face shaving, but any other cosmetics is futile vanity. We are what we are, warts and all, accept oneself, love the inner being, not the artificial shell.
Superficial world tells us that materialism has extended to the deepest recesses of values and social relationships, something Marx missed. His "worker identity" condemned 100 yrs of Western men to become insensitive macho caricatures and created an explosion of raging industrial armies to martyr themselves for the State. In turn, the submissive "worker's wife identity" consolidated the role of the nuclear family unit with all of its detached suppressed violence and disciplined toxicity to be passed onto the children in a vicious cycle of enslaved obedience.
The innocent wildness of infancy of billions has been sacrificed to the grand slave master of them all, State and National Identity, the Father of Identity Politics!!.
The much maligned Hakim Bey was merely requesting the reorientation of the man/boy relationship in this sense, to reverse the "masculization identity indoctrination" (my term) of boys, and likewise, a feminin-esque liberation of girls from being indoctrinated into "worker's wife identity" consciousness.
"Class Identity" is another facete of this State consciousness.,.

OMG not meaning to diminish your comment, but the prickling of shaved legs with a 3 day growth TOTALLY NEGATES the luxuriosness of romantic satin sheets the morning after copulation!

Lynn was doing something with Arjan's fur that annoyed the fuck out of him (Arjan was a 180 lb. male cougar-kitty). Arjan protested but Lynn persisted. Finally Arjan bit her hand, and she soon found herself in the ER with puncture wounds all the way thru it.
"What happened here?"
"My kitty bit me."
"Your KITTY?! How BIG is your kitty?"
"180 pounds."

BAD kitty!

Seems like Arjan has an identity issue, is he a macho male cougar. Since he's domesticated, do you think he's picked up these macho tendencies from his owner? Just asking ;)

Leave pessimism to the individual. There are plenty of black people who affirm leviathan and want to be part of the constructive project going forward. This is just black 1968 ideology at the dead end of its development.

the jargon sucks, symptom of academia, but there are some points that i find more interesting to engage than the comments so far. but i'm lazy, i read the thing some time do it. TOTW is homework and school's out. jk, don't feel bad TOTW, lyu ; )

Why didn't the writer include a title indigenouspessimism, because african is still Western Xtian some of the time?

Because they relate to the nationalist identity, which has materialist Marxist origins. Its a very nuanced distinction only anarchs would differentiate between.

Plus its more Tiqqun garbage which explains why it's so fucking hard to read.

yeah, i know. and we’re not obligated to read it. but if you don’t read it, you can’t properly bash it, and hissing at the title and buzzwords one notices on the first skim is not effective. i’m confident ya’ll can do a number on the real version, and not just the strawperson.

I think Appeliste texts are more a translation problem, but how they're so over-pompous and pedantic in the original language (especially in their Lundi AM format) makes them even worse in the English language. It's like several of those translations from German 20th century philosophers... so over-complicated and hermetic, for absolutely no other reason than generating linguistic added value, to both appeal and and conceal to post-grad academics.

They really complicated Heidegger's Time and Space, which in German is in almost layman terminology!

sometimes i inject french pompousness straight to the main vein first thing in the morning, it gives me a certain je ne sais quoi which pumps me up full of joie de vivre, sometimes it can feel like my entire raison d’etre. oh! what i wouldn’t give to have been able to pin down Guy Debord and suck himm off dry!! to the bone!!.....but these recuperators have sucked the putrefact marrow, then pulverized and snorted all the bones....:’(

That's likely due to anarchist cowards not waking up early enough in the morning like those proud workers of the Party do!

Revolution will start monday morning at 7, when the proles are, once again, all aligned on the front of SOCIAL MASS-PRODUCTION, able to reclaim its full might in their hands in the form of dual power! Then, only then, there will be freedum.

Oohh you illiterate plebe, ze word recuperators should be spent RECUPERATEURS, as in saboteurs, of which it is ze diametrically oppositione, and ze comraderie of ze gendarme!

"african is still Western Xtian some of the time"

Not. Originally a Roman province, formed out of the defeated Carthage, and from way before Xtianity was even a thing.

Or maybe you implied Xtian Black Africans? There are, tho many of them are Coptic, which totally ain't a Western tradition.

Yours sincerely,

- your benevolent @ historian

I'm aware of that history, back to the Etruscan tribal myth of Romulus and Remus. We were all tribal once weren't we History Boss.
I'm more referring to the political and social models adopted by black nations post neo-colonialist, though that is an incorrect term actually, maybe post-Kalahari Bushman, or post Afro-indigenous. Its sooo confusing inthe region of our species origins huh?.

Ever heard of Nilotic tribes who inhabited the banks of the Nile River ( longest river in the world, longest tribe in the world) who later evolved into the Egyptian Empire?

Prof from the I NO MO HISTORY DAN U DO tribe

Viva los pirates del Mediterranean that brought all these great theocraties to their knees for a few centuries, as well as proto-corporate market anarchist federation of sailor merchants (Phoenicians)!

"I ain't tryin' to waste time reforming shit. I ain't tryin' to embrace the establishment’s prescribed identity and then demand rights for it. I demand nothing from this system- I wanna' destroy everything that gives it validation, including the identity assigned to maintain its class binary. “Black nationalism” is not a solution to eliminating racism. It reinforces racism as a cultural and institutionalized system by validating the “white” and “black” racial and class binary. And if we tryin' to all get free, why embrace the same identities that were constructed to divide and stratify us? And how we gonna' take back and determine our lives if we still stuck in the shackles of internalized victimhood?"

all day long. Look apon the genomic caduceous and be healed epigenetically of legacy Marxism and class based anti politics. Come out of 68' based mindset and join the brave new world of creative destruction.

neither identity is foundational to oppression; the most foundational, relevant issue is the advent of controlled fire

Add new comment