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Title: Conservative Identity Crises? Credit: Craig Young Comment Saturday 9th June 2007 - 4:33pm1181363580 Article: 4528 Rights
 
The Maxim Institute criticised a recent Blair administration paper on British civic education, arguing that British and New Zealand Labour preach 'identity' politics. Actually, so does the Institute itself. For those not in the know, 'identity politics' refers to the New Left social movements that arose from the sixties onward- feminism, LGBT rights, disability rights, and various ethnic and religious identity movements. The far left and social conservatives don't like identity politics for divergent reasons. The far left believes that industrial relations policy should be the be-all and end-all of left politics, although pluralist centre-leftists don't deny that an organised working class exists, and that poverty, welfare policy, industrial relations and class inequality should be amongst the focal issues of the centre-left. Moreover, they would also argue that sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender identity and ethnicity are also involved in economic inequality. The Christian Right and other social conservatives are in denial that their own political stances are just as implicated in identity politics as the feminist, LGBT and religious pluralist social movements that they oppose. It just takes different forms. Most obviously, take religious identity. However much the Christian Right may want to deny it, their membership consists predominantly of conservative Catholics, fundamentalist Protestants and Pentecostals. This has led to some conundrums in the past. Separatist conservative Catholics stick to the anti-abortion/anti-euthanasia movement, and still haven't forgiven fundamentalist co-belligerents for mocking their rosaries in the nineties. Conservative Calvinists disparage Pentecostals for their supernaturalism and superstition.Pentecostals retort that at least their churches are growing and alive. They're far from being generic 'conservative Christians,' however much that term of convenience serves for convenience. Apart from denominational differences, there are the reactive and oppositional identity politics of the minor league backlash, some of which have lasted longer than others. There's no such thing as an anti-feminist woman in New Zealand nowadays, apart from the odd individual like Muriel Newman and Barbara Faithfull. Instead, most anti-feminists are fiftysomething and above misfit middle-aged men who whinge incessantly about child custody, child support payments, and try to obstruct feminist initiatives against family violence and child sexual abuse. Anti-abortionists are another story. Happily, they've mostly succumbed to the pressures of migration, mortality and ageing, leading to the current situation of prune faced elderly women and men sourly telling the rosary outside abortion clinics. There are other examples of oppositional politics. In New Zealand, conservative Christians tend to be royalist, not republicaans, although they're not unanimous about religious sectarianism. Indeed, the Maxim Institute has contradicted itself on this issue. It opposes increased Muslim immigration to New Zealand on the one hand, while it also supports the work of the conservativeinterfaith World Congress of Families on the other. As for the Christian Right's antigay elements, they tend to be subsumed into a so-called 'pro-family' movement these days. In the past, this tended to be a euphemism for 'advocates of discrimination against LGBT people in employment, accomodation, spousal and family policies.' However, we're not their only targets nowadays, as straight solo mums and their children, and even heterosexual nuclear families who have unemployed parents who collect social welfare benefits are now also beyond an increasingly constricted pale. The Christian Right's 'family values' politics now tend to mean 'advocates of discrimination against anyone who isn't a member of a heterosexual two parent nuclear family whose gender roles are rigidly divided, and with only one male breadwinner in waged employment.' Tell me this isn't identity politics! It is, with a fairly constricted criteria for what constitutes favoured 'identities.' The moral of this story? While the Christian Right may refuse to acknowledge it, identity is in the eye of the beholder. Recommended: Steven Seidman and Linda Nicholson (ed) Social Postmodernism: Beyond Identity Politics: New York: Cambridge University Press: 1995.   http://www.maxim.org.nz Maxim Institute Craig Young - 9th June 2007    
 
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