Identity politics: A response to Garth George

My response to a piece by Garth George (August 5th 2010) where he argues that [we] “have become unthinking victims of the doctrine of multiculturalism, in all its politically correct dissimulation and deception”.

There are some good reasons for the rise in identity politics among minority groups, dismissed by Garth George as a “culture of victimhood. The idealised portrayal of liberal democracy (with values such as freedom and equality) ignores three key issues. First, the destructive and dehumanising practices of slavery and colonisation occurred within liberal frameworks. Liberal values were withheld from the colonised as well as many Western subjects (women for example). Secondly, while liberal agendas of freedom and equality, and conceptions of universal human rights have been powerful and central to liberation struggles, often Eurocentric, Western norms have been privileged and the universal person taken to mean white, male and middle class. Finally, the deployment of notions of equality and universalism for ameliorating conflicts between groups of people, has created new problems such as unequal power relations and differential health and social outcomes. The location of culture in the public or private sphere is an important conversation. When it suits, the metaphor of enrichment is used to consume diversity, through festivals, restaurants and more. Placing cultural needs firmly in the private sphere reflects a reluctance to extend a reciprocal courtesy and make our institutions more responsive.