If you have not seen the movie TÁR, you should. The 2022 psychological drama film starring Cate Blanchett as the titular Lydia Tár, one of the greatest living composer-conductors, is a master class in deconstructing the odd snobbish and virtue-signalling world we live in today.
In a pivotal scene with a woke Julliard student, she quotes Freud when he balks at conducting the classical masters on the basis of identity politics, he has “no interest in white CIS gendered men” he proclaims. “Don’t be so eager to be offended, the narcissism of small differences leads to the most boring kind of conformity,” she tells him. Indeed, when you look at some of the fiercest and bloodiest rivalries in history, what’s striking is not how different the opposing groups are, but how similar. The term appeared in Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents where he chalked it up to the idea that seeing one’s neighbours reflect and mirror oneself too much threatens a person’s unique sense of self, and superiority, combine that with the innate human proclivity for aggression and the desire for distinct identity, in get identity politics.
Over millennia, an individual’s identity was almost entirely subsumed by the tribe to which he belonged. Now, as Tár describes it, “the architect of your soul appears to be social media.” Indeed, the modern self is now composed of personality, career, location, hobbies, and tastes: in music, in clothes, in politics — what you like and don’t like. Modern culture and consumerism provides us the tools by which you can tweak the little details of your personal self image.
While many people argue that identity politics is essential for advancing the cause of social justice and equality, the reality is that by focusing on the specific interests of particular groups, identity politics can create divisions and foster resentment among different segments of society. This can lead to a situation where people are more likely to see themselves as members of a particular group, rather than as fellow citizens with a shared national identity.
When social media is “architecting our souls”, the easiest way to achieve this distinctiveness is to concentrate on the ways in which we are not like other people, ergo becoming hipster, to wit: “I listen to bands that haven’t been created yet.” Therefore, to avoid this superficial vapidity, we need to move beyond talking about the minor ways in which we do or want to, differ from others, by carrying your cross and staking claim to the things you really believe in and actually working to bring them about. By taking real action and bringing about the world you want, it is the surest way to separate yourself from your peers. It’s the mark of a real man after all: A steward for his fellowmen. Embrace it this new year.