Many, maybe most people on Youtube and social media generally make me feel unusually smart, even though I am relatively uneducated. This is a statement on the mass stupidity of social media more than a statement on how smart I, as a first year university drop out, might be. The standard of debate in social media is abysmal. Most creators equate volume of argument with veracity, some sort of argument by volume fallacy. There are however some creators who make me feel very stupid and very unsmart, and I am delighted when this happens. It is why enjoy watching Jordan Peterson, even though I disagree with him on many of his teachings.
Another Youtuber I enjoy listening to is Alfvoid. I have viewed quiet a few of her videos from following anti-feminist link and have consumed many of her philosophy videos, especially those related to Stoicism.
It was while listening to her video “Why Do I Only Criticize the Far-Left?” that she mentioned the “Master Slave” concept of Hegel. I have not read Hegel but I am familiar the Hegel Dialectic. Everyone is agreed that Hegel is difficult to read and interpret so I have not yet resolved to read him. I decided to google the Master Slave concept of Hegel.
I came across a video on the Philosophy Tube channel explaining the Master Slave Concept.
I do not know who was the narrator for Philosophy Tube. He did give an overview of Master and Slave in a light hearted way, maybe too light hearted for some. He seemed however to have swallowed the post modern koolaid and this showed through when addressing some criticisms of Hegel. It seems he had used Hegel as some use Nietzsche to push an agenda. Of course Hegel “was a racist” as the de rigour post modern tribute paid when talking about “dead white men”. I do not know if this was true or in what context. He quoted from a psychiatrist and philosopher who noted there was little dialectic between black slaves and their owner. I can understand this but my understanding of the Hegelian Dialectic was of it being being different ideas, not specifically between groups or identities. Identities are not ideas. Hegel’s idea of the master/slave relationship, is a dance and each being in need for the other seemed to have been lost in “power dynamics” and identity politics.
Discussion got around to “Misrecognition”, of identities not being viewed and respected as they wanted to be. This is the core of many identitarian political movements and one that is from my perspective disempowering because one can not ultimately control and direct what sort of recognition one will receive from others. However activism towards exactly this is instead characterised as “empowering”. This is counter to my stoic outlook, as understood and admittedly not always perfected, by myself. A sure recipe for disappointment, rage and a cycle of misery.
Yet I know that misrecognition does hurt, as every human alive has at some time experienced this, and as every human who has not can still appreciate what such would feel like. This is obvious because all of us goes to great lengths to avoid such a fate. This contrary to the doctrine of identity politics who believe one can not empathise with with the suffering of an identity group unless one is of that identity. However the source of the influence and power of identitarian movements is the fear of social ostracism and loss of livelihood and friends. The fear of “misrecognition” is the big bulldozer of identity politics even as the theory of identity assumes that no such power could be possible. Are identitarians lying to themselves or to others or both?
Fear of misrecognition is biologically based. We all need strokes and social acceptance from others to make us happy. We get dopamine and endorphin releases from such social engagement. But the deeply biological aspect is that happiness is only the apparent outward effect. Ultimately our instincts reward behaviour not so much what is in OUR interest but that which is in the interest of the deep brain brain and does so even at the expense of our safety or any rational reason. We are happy only in so far that being happy is conducive to our reproductive opportunities, and we will be unhappy and irrational if instead that is conducive to our chances of reproduction. This comes down to the question of “What is us”, the part which pursues our interests, blind that these are instinctual and not at all what you decided, or the watchful part which can see our instincts? Are we simply what our genes are assembled or are we emergent of our genes and not actually our genes themselves? Do we want to reproduce with all the risks and energy that go with that along with chemical releases, or do our genes want to reproduce and we are just the vehicle allowing that? Is it us who pass on our genes or our genes which pass on themselves?
The male praying mantis acts to fulfil itself, seemingly wanting to become dinner for the female but acting in a very risky way. The men who go to war with a real risk of death or injury in preference to receiving a white feather and being socially ostracised.
So the desire to be properly recognised which so central to identity politics is the unaware, unenlightened instinctual part of our being. Because reproduction, and not our happiness or welfare, is the prime motivator and is as deeply irrational as it is unconscious, behaviour manifesting thereof can be very dangerous and can not, in total, be in the welfare of the human race. Such movements will not embody wisdom, caution or nuance but will resemble barbarism. We have seen this in another identity politics of an earlier period. The Jim Crow years in the US south and the KKK. There is another danger of identity politics. Newton’s 3rd law of political extremism could well say “Identity politics on one side of politics will result in an equal and opposite reaction on the other side of politics”. Indeed we have seen an increase in white nationalism in recent years in response to left identity politics. I eschew identity politics of BOTH the left and the right.
But there is another problem with identity politics and “misrecognition”. Some people want to be recognised as Napoleon or Jesus. Are they entitled to be recognised as such? Obviously not. Or the people who believe they are the unwitting “stars” on their own Truman Show as described in the “Truman Syndrome”. While most of us are not grandiose paranoid in our delusions, the difference between us and them is one of degree rather then essence. If some recognition entitlements are invalid and this is not known to the “misrecognised” themselves then to what extent are all of us also unknowingly labouring under lessor delusions? 72 genders anyone?
I heard of a great metaphor from Peter Bhoggassan comparing political extremism to a spinning top. There is a speed of spin at which a spinning top will break apart and political extremism with its identity politics is akin to a top spinning out of control.
So “misrecognition” is really shaped by understandable desires, biological in origin, but which if taken to extremes will lead to ruin. In this there is something akin to the teachings of the 4 Noble Truths of the Buddha, the middle path or the teachings of Stoicism.