I decided to write this a few weeks ago when I noticed a more starkly growing divide in people’s views on the world. Particularly, I noticed that some people were pigeon-holing each other into one of a few bland viewpoints and deciding themselves why other people thought a certain way (usually for negative reasons). People trust me to be the logical voice in heated debates, and since I’ve been proven right time and time again, it was sort of an obligation for me to write about some subjects that have been getting some particular attention lately.
The first thing I want to talk about is identity, and it segways into the other things nicely. In the past identity might have been something that you “are,” but I’ve seen it more recently become something that you “use” or “be.” It used to be that one’s culture, appearance, or background is what others sort of “heaped on” to the individual, and that’s still true in a lot of cases, but the difference I’m seeing is the ratio of that to people actively defining themselves as something and seeking to be stereotyped for it.
I spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, (mainly because it’s one of the few social media sites I haven’t been banned from yet), and I’ve noticed a few trends: It starts with fun trendy things like “X identity breaks the internet,” “Y identity’s do it better.” Certain types will cling to and accumulate these badge-like labels on themselves. On profiles I’ve seen an increase in labeling one’s self based on identity rather than personality or characteristics. Instead of “I like X,” or “My hobbies are Y,” I see an increase of “I /am/ an X ethnicity, Y skin-color, Z sexual orientation,” as if this set of identities is trusted to present the person in a greater capacity than their individual characteristics. On top of that, the labels themselves that one sticks to themselves I’ve seen get more specific and more numerous. I think part of it is because that with how connected we are, we are finding that we aren’t all that different, and it’s increasingly harder to stand out from a crowd. The harder one can push this illusion of uniqueness through specific and extreme identities, the more interesting one can seem to be. I call this sort of thing a trend of “hyper-identity,” where one actively seeks to make themselves as “exclusive” as possible.
One controversial figure that often gets brought up in this subject is Milo Yiannopoulos. I’ve heard him say that in the modern age, suffering is so scarce that it has become a form of currency, and to create an illusion that one has suffering, they will use their identity as a tool. Milo himself uses identity in a similar way, however. When faced with accusations of racism or sexism he will often repeat the line “I like to suck black cocks,” which is sort of his own spin on the “I can’t be racist, my best friend is black,” line.
Why is this tactic attempted in the first place, however? For some people, an identity feels like a permission-slip to express thoughts that anyone should be allowed to express anyway.
One thing I find interesting is the concept as “passing” for one identity or another. In certain cases, when one can convince others that they are, or at least are more of than they are, a certain identity, they gain some sort of benefit or status.
In the past we had former black slaves or their descendants, if they had light enough skin, attempting to and sometimes having success at, passing as a white person. This would have given them more access and a higher position in society. This sort of passing-for-white(r) still exists in some cultures, and it goes so far as to have warranted a market demand for skin-bleaching products. Out of this sort of thing we get the stereotypical phrase some black woman get that they are “too pretty for a dark skinned woman.”
At the same time, we see something else happening, the difference being while I see the former phenomena deceasing over time, I see this slowly increasing over time: “white” people attempting to pass or emphasizing being something else. One prominent example of this is I’ve seen a lot of news about is Nkechi Diallo (formerly Rachel Dolezal), who identified as black.
I’ve also heard a joke that goes as follows: “What do you call 64 white people in a room? One full-blooded Native American.” The joke is that white people tend to be eager to state any Native-American heritage they have, even if it is small (1/64 in the case of the joke).
Now throughout history in areas where non-heterosexuals are marginalized, such as the US south, we’ve seen gay people attempt to pass as straight, sometimes even going as far as getting heterosexually married and starting a family, only to “come out” in later life.
There is also a stereotype that in order to advance one’s carreer in a Hollywood-related field one should pretend to be homosexual.
If we assume that in general people are logical beings, they only do what has a net positive value in utility. We have to ask the question “What would cause someone who is A to identify as B, or B as A, and what is the reason for the shifting in most desirable identities to be throughout time? Are we defacto or dejure creating a heirarchy of identities, and does that heirarchy change depending on location?”
Next I want to talk a little bit about my personal political views. Now I know I already made a blog about the responsibilities of a society and already touched on a lot of politics, which was met with great acclaim, but I’d been thinking about the specific role of government so I’ll expand a bit on that.
Now I’m liberal libertarian, or “3rd quadrant” on the political spectrum. Let me tell you what this means to me: I don’t believe in any type of enforced moralism. What that means is I don’t think that something that affects no one but one’s self can be considered a crime.
The role that I think government should have in one’s life is to make sure that they are protected from the consequences of other’s actions which they did not consent to. In other words, it should make sure the rice I’m buying isn’t actually made of plastic. It should make sure that no one is benefiting off of destroying a shared resource. A business should be taxed and subsidised appropriately such that the bottom line reflects the true cost to society. In other words, if one makes a widget for $1, sells it for $2, and creates $20 of pollution in the process, an unregulated free market says “do this, it is creating $1 of value per widget,” while each widget made is actually destroying $19 of value. It is the government’s job to reflect that “true cost” on the businesses.
There’s a lot of contention today about the role of countries, especially western countries, in regards to the refugees of other countries. This is an issue where I don’t think that we can objectively determine the right answer, like we can do with abortion.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that helping refugees is the “good” choice, I just also think that we as a country are under no obligation to be the “good guys.” It is a value judgment of a society whether they are willing to take on the added responsibility of helping others or not. Before WWII, the US did turn away a boat full of Jewish refugees, many of whom ended up dying as a result. In the allegory of the good Samaritan, we were the one of the people who kept walking. In essence, we have to choose between what’s the good thing to do, and what is best for “me.”
Lastly I want to get into nationalism and globalism. Within a society, the concept of specialization acts sort of like a “utility multiplier.” If there are n people, and everyone does 1/n of every job, then each job will be done at the efficiency of the average skill of all people in the society. If we assign each person to a job they have comparative advantage at, the efficiency increases toward maximum for the society. The same is true for countries. Countries have different types of lands, different cultural values, and different levels of education and skills which lends themselves to particular tasks. If each country acts in the global interest and allows the free market to determine what it has the most comparative advantage of doing, eventually the earth as a system reaches maximum utility.
Because of this, the optimal strategy is for all countries to adopt full globalistic policies. The problems only arise when human greed and shortsightedness are taken into account. We as humans naturally see some jobs are more prestigious than others. We want to believe that we are the best at everything, and therefore we might choose an inferior domestically-made product, which slightly disrupts the path of maximum efficiency.
At the same time, utility gains are not evenly spread out. Due to this, for a given country A, they might actually stand to have a utility increase if they can unnaturally force themselves into a different role, even if it causes a utility decrease of greater magnitude for the global system.
Businesses force a sort of prisoner’s dilemma on to countries. Business are made of people, but act like machines, they have only the goal of making the most money, and so we must assume that’s how they’ll behave. If all countries in the world demanded the exact same working conditions and environmental protections, then each would have a fair shot at attracting business and businesses would fall wherever most efficient; in this case, all countries win. If country A decides that it will settle for lower working conditions and fewer environmental protections than country B, then country A will have not only the businesses that would normally fall on to them, but also some that would have normally gone to B. In this case, A wins by having an abundance of business, generating more wealth for themselves, while B loses. If B then retaliates by doing the same thing, lowing its own standards, then businesses once again choose wherever is most efficient between the two, only this time, both A and B have lower standards of living than they normally would; in this case, both countries lose and businesses win.
In any case, we as humans are tribalistic beings, and we want to blame some “other” for our problems. Because of this tendency, leaders who play towards nationalism will always have an innate advantage over those who do not during elections. We like to believe that we’re being cheated out of our rightful slice of the pie, and that even if global utility decreases, our utility will increase once we get the portion that we are supposed to be getting.