The Aristotelian Mean of Identity

We currently live in a world where the ideal of individualism is reaching its extreme. Gender is now fluid. Race is a social construct. These group identifiers based upon biology are now optional. Everyone is a unique individual, completely unlike any other person, and has the complete capacity to choose who they want to be and how they want to identify on a whim. We are all also completely interchangeable. If this is not an extreme, I don’t know what is. The final nail in the coffin of this extreme is post-humanism; the idea that we can now become something other than human, and that is certainly our last collective identity.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have collectivism, whose extremes include communism and fascism. During the twentieth century, both of these ideologies have shown themselves to be extremely detrimental to human civilization. However, collectivism is not the same thing as a collective identity.

As human beings, we are by our very existence social beings. We are born into a family, or at least to a mother, and are raised in a world with other humans. We are born male or female, barring rare exceptions, and we are most often born into one race. These are collective identities determined by genetics, and genetics determines more than these two factors in our lives. Our height, hair and eye color, athletic disposition, intellectual capacity, and several other aspects that are intertwined with our genes are decided for us at conception. Additionally, epigenetics can change our expressed genetic profile given our environment. This subject is outside of the scope of this article, however, it is necessary to point out our initial framework as humans.

Essentially, our genetics make us a unique individual on this planet. However, we share the vast majority of our genes with the rest of humanity. We are both unique individual configurations of DNA, and we are part of a genetic collective. We exist in a balance of individualism and collectivism, and we must recognize this if we are to survive.

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that the ideal state of any virtue was to be found in the mean between its extremes. Courage is a noble virtue, however, too much courage is foolhardy and too little is cowardice. We have to find the balance between excess and deficiency in all things. This is true for identity as well, however our balance is between individual identity at one end and collective identity at the other.

In order to avoid the extremes, we must first recognize the difference between chosen identity and predetermined identity. Predetermined identities are things that are unchangeable by reality; race, gender, height, eye color, IQ, pretty much the things you get in trouble for saying cannot be changed. Chosen identities include; religion, political ideologies, sports team affiliations, recreational activities, etc.

You can tell we are in a place of extreme individualism by the fact that the most controversy within the identity discussion arises when discussing race, gender, and national identity, especially when genetic determinism is discussed. You can choose any religion you want, change it on a whim, and no one cares. You will get more pushback from a Browns fan if you decide to become a Steelers fan than if you are a Catholic and choose to become a Protestant or an agnostic. We recognize the choice inherent in these latter collective identities, however, we cannot seem to accept the reality of an absence of choice in the former identities mentioned.

The extreme of individualism insists that all identities must be optional, including the predetermined ones bound by genetics and reality. In this extreme, you can choose to be a man, a woman, or something else entirely. You can decide to be white, black, Hispanic, or anything else you want (there is controversy over this, however, the principle applies.). You will soon be able to choose between human and cyborg. We can tell this is an extreme because it ignores, and sometimes violently so, reality. The research regarding genetics, and the arguments about national identity are irrefutable. Japan is Japan because of the Japanese people. It has nothing to do with the land other than that the Japanese people live there. The same is true for the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and every other European country. It is also true for the United States. Americans are not Mexicans, and to assume flooding the States with 30 million Mexicans will not change the structure of the country is foolish and an obfuscation of reality.

Being born white is not evil. Neither is being born black or Hispanic. However, making value judgements based upon race is very evil. We have to recognize that our predetermined identities will characterize our lives and our preferences, and we will make choices based upon those. Recognizing that individuals of different predetermined identities will have different preferences for their lives is necessary in order to survive as humans. No group characteristic defines an individual, however, predetermined group identities will influence an individual’s choices. Just as a tall person will most likely prefer a home with tall ceilings, a white person will most likely prefer a home in a majority white neighborhood. There is nothing wrong with this, and to assume there is, is to characterize the desired state of being as one of self-loathing. If I like myself, it stands to reason that I would like being around other people like me. To demand otherwise is to demand individuals hate the very characteristics about themselves they cannot change, and this position is completely untenable.

So what must be done?

We must recognize that even being an individualist is a collective identity, and collective identity is not a bad thing. We must recognize that all individuals have preferences, and those preferences are influenced by their choices and their genetic realities. We must recognize reality and not back down from insisting that it be recognized. We must also not back down from living by our preferences and insisting they be respected. Assuming that all people can happily live together under one monoculture is foolish and ignorant of reality, and we must push back when such ideas are asserted.

Where does anarchy come into this discussion?

Anarchy is a state of the absence of coercive laws and institutions, one in which all people are free to choose where and how they want to live. Individuals in a state of anarchy are free to choose with whom they want to live, collectively organize, choose where they want to live, and choose how they want to construct their societies. As long as they aren’t imposing their will on the unwilling, there is nothing immoral about this. It is only through this absolute freedom of association that humanity can prosper and flourish. Instead of warring with each other about how we all should live, let us separate and decide for ourselves in our own lands. We must bring identity back into its balance between individualism and collectivism by embracing collective identity and letting all groups of people live separately if that is what they want.

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