Pseudo-Liberal Self-Identification

It seems like pseudo-Liberals try to outdo each other in ridiculous self-representations. Here is the most recent one I encountered:

Coca Colo is a graduate student in economics who researches gender issues and international development.  She has white, cis, hetero and US privilege, but is also a religious and ethnic minority.  She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

The statement makes me wonder what the blogger would do if she belonged to no minority to compensate for all that nasty privilege she has. It’s possible that the article that is introduced in this manner makes some important points. However, I feel no desire to continue reading it because the way in which its author introduces itself is so artificial, boring and unintelligent that it’s hard to expect anything useful from the article.

Slavoj Zizek tells a story of his encounter with the humorless earnestness of American pseudo-Liberals in one of his books. He was visiting an American university, and the professor who invited him organized a round table with his colleagues.

“First, let me introduce myself,” the host said, “and then everybody can do the same. I’m a heterosexual, cisgendered, middle-class American.”

Then, everybody around the table introduced themselves in the same way.

Zizek says he was petrified. The idea of introducing himself by mentioning his sexual orientation to a group of complete strangers seemed both weird and useless.

In my opinion, people who present themselves with these strings of meaningless collective identifications do so in order to compensate for lack of any individuality. As a blogger, one could choose the road of developing a distinctive personal writing style that readers would immediately recognize. That, of course, is hard and requires a lot of time, energy, and effort. It is much easier to create a pseudo-Liberal persona on the basis of important-sounding terms that create an illusion of a personality where there is none.

21 thoughts on “Pseudo-Liberal Self-Identification”

  1. Also, if she’s going to identify herself by listing privileges that she has or lacks, what about her economic status? FFS, she’s an econ grad student! What about disability status or lack thereof? Is she neurotypical? What about weight? Is she fat (or whatever the correct term is) or anorexic?

    With a bit more thought I’m sure I could come up with a dozen more things that she failed to list. I assume that she is privileged in those regards, and hence she didn’t think to list them. For shame!

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  2. Ha. You should definitely stay away from Tumblr, then. I have a second blog there and I encounter this sort of BS quite often.

    The most ridiculous I’ve seen is when people who have Dissociative Identity Disorder call themselves “multiple systems” and claim that they’re oppressed by psychologists who claim that having a part of you that thinks you’re Sherlock Holmes or a unicorn is a mental disorder.

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  3. Yeeesh.
    At my academic and work meetings, we introduce each other with names and answer the “question of the week”, which is something along the lines of “My favourite movie is…” or “My favourite type of candy bar is…” or my personal favourite, “If I were a mythological creature, i would be…” (I was a succubus)
    How about a few smiles and lack of pretension?

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    1. 🙂 I’m loving how this annoying topic is bringing out so much sense of humor in my readers. This makes me very privileged as a blogger. But I belong to an ethnic minority, so that’s OK. 🙂

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  4. The problem is they think they objectively identify themselves in terms of advantages or disadvantages in society, when they’re not really doing that at all. I’m convinced that any benefit can turn out to be a disadvantage in certain circumstances and vice versa.

    To make things even more complicated, one’s capacity to turn a disadvantage into an advantage is often a feature of intelligence or a powerful will.

    However, if one wants to cash in one’s advantages or disadvantages in the immediacy, in an academic setting, before even embarking on the game of life, one is of course free to do so.

    I think this shows a lack of wisdom, adventurousness, and even an ability to know what life entails – for instance, that it is not about sitting passively in your stall, but about moving around and trying things.

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    1. ‘I’m convinced that any benefit can turn out to be a disadvantage in certain circumstances and vice versa.”

      -Exactly. Life is so much more complicated than privilege vs oppression. Of course, it makes life so much simpler to analyze this complexity in terms of a reductive binary opposition.

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  5. bloggerclarissa :
    ‘I’m convinced that any benefit can turn out to be a disadvantage in certain circumstances and vice versa.”
    -Exactly. Life is so much more complicated than privilege vs oppression. Of course, it makes life so much simpler to analyze this complexity in terms of a reductive binary opposition.

    When I first came to Australia 20 years ago (and indeed, to some extent, this has never ceased) people began insinuating that I thought I was “special” in some way. Of course, not having been brought up in a competitive individualist culture, nor indeed in one where one maintained any “specialness” as in the sense of a new soap powder being considered “revolutionary”, I had no idea what they meant.

    It took me about ten years to realise that they thought I thought I was special because I came from a society that had been partly racially segregated until three years before my family migrated to Australia. It was presumed that I had a self-conscious notion about my individual superiority — hence the continuous jibes.

    In reality, such were the cultural and historical differences between me and my Australian counterparts, that I couldn’t even attach a particular meaning to “special”. The best I could do was with “special” was that you experienced it when you were allowed to have some Coke or potato chips on the weekend. Or, you felt vaguely “special” when you had your birthday.

    My culture was heavily ascetic and rigorously stoical most of the time, and also not particularly individualistic, but rather tribal.

    So, the concept of individual specialness that I’ve always been accused of has tended to elude me.

    Even today, I can’t quite relate to an extremely individualistic culture that upholds the competition and standing out from others as its absolute priority. That’s why I’ve chosen not to go into Western academia, but to teach Asian students instead. I’m much more comfortable, for instance, with Japanese culture and expectations, which do not take me by surprise, as compared to Western culture (which never ceases to).

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    1. This is very interesting. I’ve just had a conversation with a European colleague who teaches in Japan and who suffers a lot because the students are so different as to be completely incomprehensible.

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  6. bloggerclarissa :
    This is very interesting. I’ve just had a conversation with a European colleague who teaches in Japan and who suffers a lot because the students are so different as to be completely incomprehensible.

    The Japanese have a very, very dry sense of humour. I can wholly relate to this sense of humour (which seems impermeable to Westerners) because I also come from an extremely authoritarian (and somewhat collectivist) society. For instance, they think that any departure from protocol, especially when it is unintentional, is remarkably hilarious.

    When I began writing my memoir, I began writing it with this kind of sense of humour. I wrote, for instance, of a situation where my friend and I began gently rocking our school desk (we shared one old fashioned wooden desk between two). This was in a classroom where students were actually beaten with a wooden bat for inadvertently dropping their pencils off their desk, or some other very minor crime.

    So, we began rocking our desk very gently and then we looked at each other through the corner of our eyes and saw a gleam, which was a dare to rock the desk to more extreme angles. As we increased the extremity, suddenly the desk slipped through our fingers and fell over. Naturally, we were flabbergasted at the possible punishment that would be extracted for our “crime”.

    In my narration of this story, I drew a loose parallel between the “irredeemably falling desk” and the political situation of the time.

    I would say that this was so subtle that even many of my compatriots would not have grasped it. It makes sense whilst one is still in an authoritarian context, but less so when one has entered a liberal democracy.

    Still, if I were to narrate the story to any of my Japanese clients, they would be in hysterics. So, it just goes to show.

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  7. Why stop at race, sexuality, nationality, and economic class in the rush to give away personal details in order to sound unique and interesting? If you’re going to let strangers know everything “important” about you don’t half-ass it.

    “Hi, my name is Helena. I am schizophrenic, sociopathic, and syphilitic. I have peed in everyone’s coffee.”

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    1. At least, peeing in the coffee is something you chose to do, so it allows you to be an active agent. Ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are not chosen. Basing one’s sense of self on something that simply happened to you is very limiting and reductive.

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    1. I am a white middle-aged male who is U.S. privileged (I think, whatever that means). I am also a bible-believing Christian. I couldn’t tell you whether that is in the religious majority or the minority. I do not blame anyone else for my current predicaments. I am also, for what it’s worth, college educated. I attended an “HBC,” an “Historically Black College.” So, except for my first semester’s books, supplies and fees, I did not pay a single penny for a BS degree in civil engineering. In fact, I earned money assisting a professor in his research. I attended college between the ages of 32 and 37. I graduated with a GPA of 3.97 out of 4. For simplicity’s sake, I claim a 4.0 GPA, just to avoid pointless questions. I do not feel guilty about anyone else’s struggles. It makes me scratch my head when I see or hear about so-called liberals bending over backwards to help minorities or foreigners…or anyone, out of sheer guilt. I realize that I could have made better career decisions over the years, and probably would be doing much better now. But for the past 4 years, I have not been able to buy a job…not even an entry-level position at Home Depot. My BSCE actually seems to be more of a hindrance than a help, in my job search. However, I am determined to stay positive and hopeful. I am grateful for all of the many blessings in my life.

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  8. Found your site today and I must say it is a breath of fresh air. Great writing, insightful discussion without resorting to insults, and a good sense of humor are rarities nowadays; your blog exemplifies them all. I look forward to reading more!

    I should mention that I have breast-fed, four limbs, and blue eyes privilege. It is relevant and integral to the conversation.

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