Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Identitarians versus Universalists

Most attempts to divide humanity into two groups come from an assumption that there's an eternal war of us versus them, and the only way to end the war is for us to defeat them by any means necessary. The common grounds for "us" are social identity groups based on race, gender, religion, and, in all its forms, tribe.

I reject identitarianism. I'm with Thomas Paine: "My country is the world, and my religion is to do good." I think there's one race, the human race. I think there's either no gender or an infinite number of genders. I am a universalist. I agree with St. Paul: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one."

There is an easy way to tell universalists from identitarians: because universalists think we are all one, universalists believe in treating everyone with love and respect. Because identitarians divide the world in two, they feel free to hate and mock.

There's a strong instinct in humans to be identitarians. It gives us a simple way to understand where we fit in the universe. Responding to identitarianism with counter-identitarianism may be equally common. But the world's greatest thinkers have always rejected it.

"Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." —Eugene V. Debs

"The wise man belongs to all countries, for the home of a great soul is the whole world." —Democritus

"I am not an Athenian, nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world." —Socrates

"The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us: 'That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God's creatures. Belief in God is to love one's fellow men.'" —Abdul Ghaffar Khan

"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now." — Martin Luther King, Jr.

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