Identity politics is a form of tribalism. As someone whose background is of mixed heritage, with a huge chunk from the former Yugoslavia, this little label is nothing new to me. I have seen this game all before.
When the warring factions were thrown together and labelled Yugoslavia, factions were frowned upon. It was supposed to be some sort of melting pot, and there were over a million mixed marriages, but as decades wore on, things began to fray, especially after the death of Tito.
And then all those factions started pulling in different directions, all before they killed each other in the name of nationalism.
Or identity politics.
Identity politics is nothing to be proud of for one reason: it is a fragmentation that is a precursor to the delusion that you are more powerful and significant than you really are. Chauvinism sets in along with the hubris.
And eventually, people think their identity is superior to everyone else’s and there is bloodshed.
Because people always have to one-up each other: you have to prove your cultural or political identity is better than everyone else’s.
I remember being twelve years-old and my family went to both Dubrovnik (Croatia) and Beograd (Serbia) for vacation. Even then, I could see what was coming. Tito had been dead for six years, but even within my own family, you could see factions forming.
Three years later, I was a high school student in my history class, and my assignment was to give a presentation on the political landscape of a nation of my choosing.
I chose Yugoslavia, and just on my own youthful observations, my thesis was this country was going to implode and break up.
My history teacher did not believe me. “Where will they go?” he asked me.
I refrained from saying, “Right down the garden path and straight to hell.”
He was wrong. I was right.
By the time I was an undergraduate, the country broke up and all those fractures destroyed millions of people who tore down everything that took thousands of years to build up.
There is a difference between an awakening (awokening because a writer thinks that is clever. It’s not.) and an implosion.
And New York magazine’s The Cut has no clue what is happening.
They think pop culture is having an awokening.
It’s actually an implosion.
For it to be an awakening, there would not be (a) that much anger, (b) there would not be the level of possessiveness toward sanctioned insanity that is being labelled culture, (c) there would not be such chronic nitpicking of other people’s culture with everyone being offended, (d) there would be respect for those who created in the past without the current set pretending they were the first to notice voids in representation, and most importantly, (e) there would be a variation in the structure of stories.
Because for all the talk of diversity, there is only half diversity.
With a high dose of structural appropriation from the mainstream culture, which nullifies almost everything produced in the last ten years.
For all of the awakening, the patriarchal structure is still there.
It is still Us versus Them.
So bad is it, that the discussion of culture is also nothing but Us Versus Them.
We are the only heroes. Anyone who opposes us is a villain.
That’s not culture; that’s propaganda.
And when narratives are nothing but Us Versus Them where anyone who is not in the in-group becomes inspired is labelled a villain, you know this isn’t culture being produced.
But fortresses because people are beginning to gird themselves for war.
It has happened before in the last century: Art Nouveau was the brash new movement until Modernism vilified it and accused those who liked the style as being lesser intellects who were lower on the evolutionary scale.
And then World War One broke out in the very continent where all of these artistic and cultural debates were taking place.
Art Nouveau was a reaction to the mainstream culture, complete with manifestoes.
They had a short lifespan before Modernism reacted to the initial reaction.
It all eventually imploded.
So in 2018, we have primal reactions to an oppressive mainstream patriarchal influence, but with people only noticing the contents of pop culture.
But not the structure.
The framework of the vessel has the bigger flaw, but everyone is still walking lockstep to it, thinking it’s the way of gaining traction, when the fit is unnatural.
You cannot just produce content. People become more bored with the structure. It is the silent partner of stories, but if you don’t change the structure, you are falling for the same rigs that kept you back before.
That’s why pop culture is in a deep slumber.
Because culture has stagnated.
It was the same in the former Yugoslavia: the structure of the nation stagnated, all while trying to alter the content.
And it all went up in smoke.
It’s happening again.
Because pop culture is a disposable culture. It was never meant to create real legacies.
It was meant to feed young fantasies by changing content to fit with the times with young and fresh faces — when the next generation hit, alter the cast and the content.
But that structure never deviated.
It still hasn’t deviated.
And that we have writers who do not see that obvious, tells you just how bad our cultural awareness is in these shallow times where people become enraged, but don’t realize it is the structure they are violently reacting to as much as the content.
It’s an ugly road ahead because the same rigs are in place, and when the storm comes, very few will see what hit them and why.