The identity obsession of the right and the left, by Carlos Granés

It is enough to have a little memory to verify that in the last twenty years certain theoretical innovations, radicalisms and activisms of the left they have ended up serving their enemies on the right. Anyone who remembers the anti-globalization fury that somatized the most active leftism of the late 1990s will be able to recognize very similar elements, almost a familiar tinkle, in the new discourse of the radical right that is reaching parliaments and the presidencies or governments of various countries, including Italy. That old nativist and sovereignist matrix that elevated the particularity of peoples, their idiosyncrasies, their emancipation and even picturesqueness as an asset that made the world a diverse and entertaining place has adapted wonderfully to the most recalcitrant right-wing discourse.

If before it was the leftists who feared like their worst nightmares the McDonaldization of the world, the tyranny of the multinationals and the loss of sovereignty and particularity, today it is politicians like Giorgia Meloni who rant against international finance and loss of identity to which speculators and hucksters aspire, and in general all those who want to make us simple uprooted consumers exposed to the ups and downs of commercial fashions. Disconnected from the national lifeblood, they think, we lose all will and reason, because will and self-determination are a national matter, not an individual one.

that obsession, that identity tare has been on the agenda of the right, first, then on the left and now in the two. While some talk about gender identity, sexual identity, racial identity, the others are enough and have more than enough to talk about national identity. The left bases its demands and claims on the color of the skin, on sexual options, on traumas and on the victimization of the excluded, and also on peripheral identities that want to emancipate themselves from central governments that supposedly crush their peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. The right that Meloni embodies conforms rather to the classic triplet of fascist thought, God, country and family, the same values ​​that are on the rise within the most right-wing circles and that are also defended by another president of dubious extremist ancestry, the Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro.

That is precisely why the new leader of Italy and the old president of Brazil angrily combat any other identity that fragments that territorial and traditional vision. Neither Meloni nor Bolsonaro, nor Macarena Olona or Santiago Abascal, are interested in the Italian, Brazilian or Spanish identity that they defend being atomized into racial, sexual or peripheral identities. Somehow an old fight is being reissued. If the fascists defended the integrity of the nation and fought, considering it solvent, the class identity that communism sponsored, today the populist right defends national traditions, religion and Western civilization, while the populist left denies all of this: it is anti-bullfighting, it is curious about any form of spirituality except the Catholic one, it abhors national symbols and it vindicates and protects and promotes any identity that proclaims itself a victim of something, be it heretopatriarchy, colonialism, neoliberalism, globalization, the canon Western culture, systemic violence, the Spanish Transition or windmills.

And hence how irritating and unbreathable the climate of Western societies is becoming. As in the twenties and thirties of the last century, identity postures have become increasingly aggressive and clumsy, maximalist and intolerant. Those of the ones and those of the others share the same element: they abhor cosmopolitanism, plurality and tolerance; they distrust those who, as Amartya Sen proposed, understand identity in a much more open, desacralized way, without a rigid and pure structure that determines it. Ultimately, what they defend is a trench: that of mine, that of those who share the same hierarchy of values ​​and see those who defend other virtues as a threat. They are two forms of communitarianism, one linked to the public idea of ​​nation, the other linked to the private idea of ​​identity feeling. What equals them is the transcendent tone, the grandiloquence and the belligerence; lack of self-irony and sense of humor; also the resounding way in which they trample public discussion. Although, above anything else, both are a high-sounding cant and an unbearable pain in the ass.

The identity obsession of the right and the left, by Carlos Granés