Group Identity: Self-Autonomy’s Surprising Successor?

In the thick of a disappointing 2020, the year prosperity preachers hastily promised would be my “season,” chaos and uncertainty have run amok. The global pandemic is ending precious lives and upending precious livelihoods.

Government’s unsurprising missteps in the handling of the crisis only reveal how poor and inept a substitute for hope it is. Arresting salon owners and banning gardening were on the lighter side of bureaucratic dissonance; denying cancer patients treatments and surgeries needed to prolong survival while simultaneously labeling abortion as ‘life-sustaining’ afforded a grimmer view of this moral incoherence. Misapplied ethics were exposed as New York’s governor determined he would “be happy” with the full-scale economic shutdown and deprivation of liberties if just one person’s life was saved (provided that life already progressed outside the womb, I presume). Why didn’t seasonal shutdowns to attenuate flu deaths in past years warrant sufficient opportunity for equal felicity? Though I commend his desire, his governance may not be equally admired, but such is the state of finite, natural man. We are distracted, forgetful, inconsistent; our perspectives are limited and biased, shaped by a layer of ever-changing affections and always mixed with a large dose of nescience that inadequate time and a selfish bent naturally produce.

Yet we think we understand fairness—what is the proper balance between personal liberty and public safety? In the wake of COVID-19 to our shorelines, the killing of George Floyd disgusted the nation and generated yet more understandings of justice and power. Discussions of both as it pertains to skin color have dominated the national conversation in productive ways, while others lashed out in riotous rage: some expressing unlawful vengeance, others capitalizing on the chaos to steal and wreak havoc simply because they can get away with it, and yet others still who believe such racial tensions provide sufficient kindling to stoke the toppling of our entire socio-economic and political systems. Such agitators burned down businesses and physically attacked those who stood in their way while concurrently insisting that failure to use preferred pronouns is a violent act of aggression.

And so cultural neo-Marxists have handily hijacked racial relations as a mere conduit to further their goals. Race has now become the holy grail for its utility, the solitary moral litmus test for historic figures, and why not? The very nature of their epistemological claims is inherently subject to constant change. Today’s focal point is race. Yesterday was sexuality and gender identity (sorry, feminism was the day before yesterday, Ms. Rowling), though the primary language of individual self-autonomy is suspiciously evaporating. Group identity is taking precedence within the exclusive racial context. Self-identify as anything you want, except transracial, as the wholesale rejection of Rachel Dolezol’s claim to blackness demonstrates. Even the lifelong quest to abdicate her own hegemonic white privilege proved deficient. It’s interesting to see their metaphysical subjectivity screech to an abrupt halt at the idea of fluid racial identity, while men are celebrated for appropriating oppressed femininity. Perhaps CHAZ relinquishing their initial appellation for a more group-friendly CHOP also evinces such an evolution of self-rule to groupthink. This is powerfully displayed in how mainstream news and Black Lives Matter had incredibly little to say when black men were shot in this bastion of peace, again underlining race not being the key issue with this agenda (otherwise, Chicago might “break America”).  

people protesting and holding signs

Neither full self-autonomy (an illusion) nor critical theory is helpful for answering these questions of justice and power, primarily because they are both the construct of that vacillating, fallible man afore-mentioned. Without venturing too far into the weeds, critical theory attempts to define justice purely in terms of power: a theoretically never-ending cycle of oppressed communities across an intersectional social matrix revolting against various oppressors. It’s a religion with the harshest of taskmasters—us. Reconciliation is never possible because the oppressors can never “repent” sufficiently for their “sin,” as some of their deemed moral failures are inherent in their very composition. Thus, they are incapable of change, yet afforded no grace. Exercising power over another is the basic currency of evil, creating a system that breeds a cancel culture that would rival the Soviets (though some Orwellian figures prove to be “more equal than others” such as when President Trump needs defeating)[i]. But with experience-based moral postmodernism and rejection of objective truth claims, how can anyone condemn another’s view on anything? Their own structure is rendered untenable and self-defeating, marred by harm and suffering for the very communities they claim to unfetter.[ii]

A great irony lies in the army of propagandized conformists who promptly label any dissenters as hate-filled bigots, demanding that they “educate themselves” while they can’t even explain the significance of the Fourth of July. A greater irony is that the economic and political system most conducive to maximizing opportunity and empowerment to the most people, while embedding in its very foundation a separation of power designed to constantly check hegemonic aspiration, is the free market democracy.

But even it falls short. Weak, inadequate man’s ultimate source of hope for true justice can only be found in the sole Arbiter: the exclusive, objective moral authority whose justice is perfect, whose power is limitless, and yet whose grace abounds.

[i] George Orwell, Animal Farm. (Signet Classics, 1996).  

[ii] Brant Bosserman, “Marxism, Postmodernism, and Critical Race Theory.” Gentle Reformation (blog), June 18, 2020.

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