As with so many concerns of the Canberra Declaration, the issue of identity politics is a relatively recent one. It just did not exist as it now does a few short decades ago. But today we see it occurring throughout the West. It certainly is evident in a pronounced way in America, and it is being played out in Australia as well.
But some may not be familiar with the term so let’s offer a quick explanation. One online definition of the term is as follows: “a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, social background, etc., to form exclusive political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics.”
In essence it is a leftist, Marxist view of the world which says that we need to categorise human beings into various groups and political blocs. It tends to pit one group against another. Sadly, the left has been playing identity politics for several decades now.
The Canberra Declaration will continue to campaign for the rights of all and not just for some. We need to build community cohesiveness not destroy it.
It is a divisive game which tears us apart instead of bringing us together. By emphasising various groups – be they women, or blacks, or transgenders, or Muslims, or what have you – and clamouring for special rights for each group, the culture as a whole suffers and is fragmented.
Indeed, the left’s obsession with things like race, skin colour, class, sexuality and gender makes it all but impossible for a cohesive and united society to exist. It creates enmity and hatred and reduces us to warring tribes and factions. We see this especially in the universities, which of course is dominated by the left.
There we find that certain groups are becoming an endangered species. If you happen to have the misfortune to be a white male who is also conservative and a Christian, you will have a hard time getting a fair go at many Western universities.
We certainly see this happening all the time when speakers fitting that description try to hold a public meeting on campus. If the speaking session is not shut down altogether, it is harassed and intimidated by mobs of leftist activists who seem to have no belief at all in freedom of speech.
But it is not just about visiting speakers: the curriculum as a whole is impacted heavily with all this. As just one example, consider a 2017 study looking at Australian universities. It carefully examined 746 history courses on offer in 35 different universities. It found that “undergraduate history degrees in Australia have become dominated by identity politics – where subjects are reduced to class, gender and race – to the detriment of important teachings on Western Civilisation.”
It is important to distinguish all this from what has gone before. For example, the American civil rights movement was not a case of identity politics. It was about getting rid of differences – in this case based on race. It sought inclusion and acceptance, not exclusion and segregation.
Modern-day multiculturalism tends to do the opposite. It insists that all cultures are equal (with some perhaps being even be more equal than others), and claims that we can somehow all get along without some overriding structure of agreed-upon values and beliefs, Pure multiculturalism offers us nothing that unites us.
Tribalism of course has long been around, but that is not identity politics. The new leftist insistence on identity politics simply exacerbates and inflames tribal tendencies. It makes matters worth. In contrast is how Western values have long operated.
And for the most part they sprang out of the Judeo-Christian worldview. This really established the notion that we are all equal, that we are all of special and unique, because we are all made in the image and likeness of God. But our politicised identity politics groups us into various ideological mobs and pits us against other such groups.
There is nothing wrong with seeking to fit in to certain groups or identities, to want to belong, and so on. We do it all the time. But that is now being heavily politicised. It has turned into an ideological battle in which certain minority groups are “good” and certain other groups – often the majority – are “bad”.
As mentioned, this has really only come about several decades ago, and it seems to be getting worse. John Howard was right to warn in 2015 about the “insidious rise of identity politics”. He said the job of government is to govern for all, and seek social cohesion, and not appeal and cater to various identity groups.
We at the Canberra Declaration share this view. The politicisation of already existing tribalism for political ends is not going to make Australia great again – it will pull us apart and result in the end of the Australian experiment.
Mutual obligation and respect for others is the way to proceed here, not resorting to political enclaves that war against each other. Wherever possible we need to emphasise what is common to all of us and not what makes us different.
The Canberra Declaration is campaigning to build a caring, growing community of people who share a passion for a better Australia. Not just a better Australia for some but a better Australia for all.