Identity Phantasmagoria

Smoke and mirrors is a technique used in magical illusions to make an entity appear to hover in in the air. This technique was frequently used in 19th century phantasmagoria shows, a form of horror theater that also used lanterns to project skeletons, demons and ghosts onto walls, smoke or semi-transparent screens.


Image by theilr - source: Flickr

Nowadays we have a modern phantasmagoria of political smoke and mirrors keeping us trapped in a horror reality. This reality is one where the smoke and mirrors create the illusions necessary to preserve the current power structure in which the privileged few hold power over the bewildered masses. One of the greatest tricks in the arsenal of those in power, is the lantern that projects the false dichotomy between the many social identities we label ourselves with; identity politics are the smoke and mirrors used to divide we, the people, and to distract us from the ones creating the smoke and holding the lantern.

Something that is described as smoke and mirrors is intended to make you believe that something is being done or is true, when it is not: The new budget isn't smoke and mirrors; it's an honest attempt to reduce the deficit.
source: Cambridge Dictionary

As someone who considers himself a "lefty", it's particularly hard to criticize the war for social justice, because so many people of my age on "the left" just will not listen to any of it. I can understand that, because in essence there's absolutely nothing wrong with demanding equal rights for marginalized groups. The marginalization is real and often systemic, I know this because my father lived it as a black man here in the Netherlands, and let's not even talk about how bad it is for black people living in America where young black men make up one third of the prison population; that is, if they even make it to prison and not shot down before they're even arrested. And yes, it's true that gay people are fired or not allowed to get married, just because they love someone of their own sex, and that's wrong.

But... What if the poor white man is treated equally disdainful by the powers that be? What if the poor white man is indeed poor, has a hard time finding a job and when he finds one, it pays so bad that he needs a second job? And what if his white wife needs to find a job as well? And their white kids too? Or else say goodbye to the house or the kids' education. What good is it then to fight for equal rights? That's why the identity politics as we know it, is just smoke and mirrors. It's the politicizing of gender, race, sexual orientation and so on, to create a distraction from the real problem all those social identities share. And that problem is the man operating the lantern, the smoke and the mirrors. The middle class is already a thing of the past, there's only the very rich and the increasingly poor, so there's no use fighting for the right to all be equally poor, disenfranchised and powerless. Yes, it's good to be outraged when you see social injustice, but it's also good to remember that much of that comes from the greater systemic economical injustice that's keeping down the 99%, and it's better to fight that greater injustice.

Watch this short segment about Biden's only plan thus far for his first 100 days in office should he become the next POTUS. What I found interesting, and what made me write this post, is the remark that many young Republicans are in fact voting against the cultural tokenism of the Democrats, and not necessarily because they agree with the Republican party on issues like climate change. If that is indeed the case, it's another proof of how effective the illusion is, because both parties are equally bad at providing economic justice...

Krystal and Saagar: Biden confirms his main priority is cultural tokenism

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