There’s an antidote to the identity politics that have taken over the world: cosmopolitanism

Protestors hold a 'Black Lives Matter' sign during a night march following the police shooting of a man in Milwaukee.
Photo: America is divided over the Black Lives Matter movement. (Reuters: Aaron P Bernstein)

There is a spectre haunting our world — the spectre of identity politics, an instinctive, hardwired tribalism that leads us to cling to our own and reject those deemed “outsiders”.

It is a 21st century law of the jungle: something deeply primal. It seems we are not entirely different to chimpanzees — and just as likely to tear each other limb from limb.

Look around our world. We are putting up new walls; we are militarising our borders; “identity police” shut down debate; “safe spaces” offer shelter from “offence”; from the political left to the right, identity is shaking up the ballot box.

This is the world sketched by American lawyer and academic Amy Chua in her new book, Political Tribes.

Professor Chua traces how identity politics is remaking our world and has already triggered a revolution in American politics.

“Tribal instinct is not just an instinct to belong. It is also an instinct to exclude,” she writes.

The US, she says, is “in a perilous new situation: with nearly no one standing up for an America without identity politics: for an American identity that transcends and unites the identities of all the country’s subgroups”.

Professor Chua says the country is divided over race and class: black lives matter versus white lives matter or all lives matter.

It has at times turned ugly and violent: the rise of the alt-right and white supremacy and protests over statues, tearing open the wounds of the American Civil War.

Trump politics in a NASCAR nation

Donald Trump has seized on this moment. He personifies tribal politics and it has taken him all the way to the White House.

“Make America great again” spoke to those who felt they had been left behind; they had lost their country to the liberal elites of the Washington establishment.

White nationalists clash with counter-protesters
Members of white nationalists clash against a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, US, August 12, 2017.

Professor Chua calls this the WWE tribe, named for their fondness for World Wrestling Entertainment; these are the people who love motorsports — the “NASCAR Nation”.

Donald Trump the celebrity billionaire speaks to these people, Professor Chua says, “in terms of taste, sensibilities, and values, actually is similar to the white working class”.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, dismissed these Americans as “the deplorables”. She saw them as racist and sexist and ignorant.

Ms Clinton and…

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