Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Microscopy amidst the collective  §

People tend to attribute a kind of transcendental id to groups, a unity of purpose and discrete identity that they can then use to juxtapose against the power exercise of such groups the oppression of individuals (usually individuals like themselves).

Hezbollah. Israel. Syria. Iran. Liberal bloggers. The IRA. Al Qaeda. The Teamsters. Unions.

What both people and the press fail to do is realize that such unity-identities are not all created equal. These entities are composed of people and thus each of them potentially is representative of a popular movement, voice, or sentiment—one shared, in other words, by a very large number of people.

I say potentially because, of course, not all of them are the same size. The compression-collapse of such populations into these discrete pseudo-ids hides the differences in popularity that underlie each identity, and thus hide (usually for the convenience of the powerful) the differences in legitimacy that they enjoy.

The phrase “bosses vs. union workers,” for example, gives them impression of a battle of ideological opposites without drawing attention to the actually quite central difference between the two, namely that “union wokers” represents a body of self-proclaimed aggrieved parties numbering in the many thousands while “bosses” represents a body of self-proclaimed aggrieved parties numbering only in the dozens or less. The one body of suffering is, in other words, measurably larger than the other, but through clever semantic tricks those that create truth can reduce the conflict to a kind of ‘thermodynamic’ opposition.

I have no particular reason for pointing this out. Sometimes I’m just very, very aware of it.