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Integrity and identity politics

By Michael Thompson - posted Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Brisbane Writer's Festival has touched on a sore point of identity politics when the opening address by Lionel  Shriver challenged the concept that only those who feel oppressed should be permitted to write or speak about it.

This is becoming a common theme amongst any group who is put upon. No one except the victims have a right to be heard on questions of oppression and discrimination. Only those who know what it feels like can really tell it like it is. Anything else is just a continuation of the domination and cultural imperialism that has brought about the state of affairs that leads to the subjugation of minority groups. Whether it be women, minority sexualities, ethnic or racial groups they all want to stop anyone from outside the particularly affected from expressing an opinion.

There is a lack of integrity here. On the one hand they are claiming to be victims of all those with 'privilege' and yet they seem intent on stifling anyone who might have the capacity to help them. History is full of stories where leaders amongst the majority in society have fought for the rights of minority groups and won. It is a fact of life that some have more power than others and this is not necessarily a bad thing when power is used appropriately. Some leaders have used their power and influence for good and brought about real change.


If those who complain about such 'interference' are genuinely seeking to be rid of all those things that make their lives so unbearable then they will reach out and work with those who have the capacity to help bring about change. When they insist on their independence from those in power then the question needs to be asked about what it is they really want. Do they want justice and freedom from oppression or do they want to visit some revenge upon those whom they see as oppressors?

Do they only want freedom from oppression if it comes about by their own doing? If you are truly downtrodden you will look everywhere for possible assistance and take hold of a helping hand. You will work with those who are in a position to make justice possible. Liberation is the end goal and not power or revenge. Insistence on freedom 'my way or no way' is the sure sign that it is not the welfare of the oppressed that is motivating this action to silence or put down those with any power of influence.

Trying to limit your helpers to those within the 'community' shows that it is about having power and control over that community. In the end it shows the same oppressive and patronising  attitudes to your own fellows which you accuse your opposition of having. Power has no value unless it is used for good. If the aim is to control your own community in order to seek revenge over those whom you judge to be your oppressors then it is the wrong reason for stifling outside assistance and grabbing all the control.

Those who protest about any 'privileged interference' should be questioned not only by their own community but by the wider society. Those inside the circle should be putting pressure on their leaders and spokespersons to take help when it is offered in good faith. If those leaders want freedom from oppression then they should open their arms to any help. If they only want power over their own people with the ultimate aim of revenge then they should stop trying to convince the rest of us that they are under any type of hardship.  It just looks so incongruous to be crying victim but rejecting help. They need to put up or to shut up.

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About the Author

Michael Thompson is a freelance writer and blogger interested in social issues. His particular focus is on exposing the emotional manipulation that passes for reasonable and logical debate in many social issues. He believes civilised society changes for the better when it does so for good reasons and not because the loudest, most aggressive or most manipulative of its citizens get their way. His blog can be found at Social Justice Issues.

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