Dr. Dawg

Politically sidelined, Part 3: Silos and Enclaves (3)

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III. In/conclusion.

Even within the mad centrifugal whirl of identity politics, we are assured that alliances are possible. In fact, there’s some very good stuff available on this. It’s hard to put it better than @prisonculture via David Leonard: “Don’t talk about, ‘reflect’ on it, pontificate, Just ACT. That’s it.” To which Leonard adds an essential element: “And while doing the work, be accountable.” (I like the notion of “accomplices” rather than “allies,” too.) Bottom line: you don’t just barge in. You listen. You learn. You do the work, without seeking adulatory recognition or status for it.

That’s good common sense. It’s what prevails in successful modern labour organizing. But in the fraught world of identity sectarianism, be prepared to get badly burned for a single misstep. Only the most dedicated, the most committed, the most intrepid—and the most addicted to theory-fetishism—will skip happily into that minefield.

Depart at your peril from political “lines” that still exist in profusion, whether explicitly or otherwise. Often you’ll need good inductive reasoning powers to figure out what they are before you get “told.” (One of my earlier pieces in this series, on “cis” and “trans” matters, was rejected by the Rabble.ca editors because, they said, they would have to find a trans writer “for balance”; but SWERFian cant is freely published there.) Gatekeepers can and will bully non-conformers into submission—or the exits.

All the old Left groupuscules (several still persist, but who cares?) have given way to exclusive socio-political discussion clubs. These vanguards, in their new guises, are everywhere—but, as I asked back then, where’s the bloody van?

The peculiar salience of the “trans” issue illuminates the well-patrolled, searchlit perimeters of the new enclaves. Who’s in? Who’s out? Are transwomen women in men’s bodies—or “Men’s Rights Activists in ladyface?” Here we find an echo of that older foolish discussion: is bisexuality a cop-out?

All of these useless rhetorical excursions, with their finger-pointing, shouting and roving intellectual goon squads, are taking the place of conversations. To refer again to the “trans” example, one can make a coherent argument that transwomen, having been socialized and privileged as men for much of their lives, bring much of that unwanted baggage with them when they transition. That’s the TERFian analysis, in a nutshell. And yet transwomen will tell you that they have resisted male genderizing from as far back as they can remember. Setting detailed arguments aside—the source and depth of that resistance, the reinforcement of gender and so on—any privilege they carry is highly qualified. Their blanket exclusion by some feminists seems, at least to this observer, pointless and cruel. Is there no possibility of mutual learning, of deeper understanding, while all hands engage on common projects of liberation?

No true woman…. No “real” feminist…. And just so, groups anxiously refine themselves to an ineffable purity. “Can the subaltern speak?” Oh, you betcha. But too often it’s just to each other in their intellectual gated communities, as they revel in their unique forms of exclusive subaltern-ness.

Activists may get used to this sort of thing over time, if not exactly welcome it. But as an old labour hand, I keep thinking about the rank-and-file, not to mention the unorganized. They don’t like to be yelled at or browbeaten. They don’t gleefully join the intellectual fray, armed with the latest theory of (ugh) “allyship.” They would prefer not to be mocked or publicly shamed, whether for not being up on the latest inside-baseball theoretical debates, or indeed for anything else. Just try to organize a Local by shouting and namecalling when you encounter incomprehension or resistance. It’s not “tone-policing” to suggest that authentic conversations are not started that way, nor bridges built.

Meanwhile, anyone looked at the real world lately? Our shared planet, firmly in the hands of greedy acquisitors with a global reach, political grifters, destructive armies and even more ruinous bureaucracies? It’s getting warmer in here, both literally and metaphorically, fellow froggies. What is to be done?

Maybe we could start by opening the gates and having a potluck. Anyone have a better idea?

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on April 8, 2015 7:00 AM.

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