Common-Humanity Identity Politics and Common-Enemy Identity Politics

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Jaco van Zyl:

"In their 2018 book The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt categorize social activism into two types of worldviews, namely Common-Humanity Identity Politics and Common-Enemy Identity Politics. The former describes a type of social religion where the well-being of all humans is prioritized based on shared human values and common goals. It is a “social religion,” where all humans are equally included, and members of society are often referred to in familial terms. Historically, common-humanity identity politics has aimed to unite and harmonize racial, gender, and other strata of American life—and not to destroy, “dismantle,” or “cancel” any cultural artifacts of American heritage. The latter worldview, however, endorses a value system where an ever-growing list of aspects in American society are identified as “problematic” and consequently deserving of destruction. People who live by this worldview are vigilant and alert, ready to identify an enemy: a historical figure, an academic subject, language use, religious doctrine, a specific religion, a tradition, or a demographic based on immutable properties (gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.).


The common-enemy position has a well-established equivalence in psychology. Dividing people and human artifacts into all-bad or all-good categories is a basic feature of the Woke worldview. By virtue of a person’s immutable features, he is assigned a group-identity and is either classified as belonging to the evil oppressor class, the common enemy that needs to be exposed, humiliated, and cancelled or the virtuous, innocent victim class that deserves emancipation and social justice. To the Woke, the individual gets superseded by the group classification from which he cannot escape. Broadly, the categories carrying historical and current culpability include the categories of male, white, heterosexual, and able-bodied. Alternatively, categories carrying historical and current victimhood and moral innocence include the categories female, black/people of color, LGBTQ+ and disabled. This worldview in which every individual is classed as either all-bad or all-good actualizes a defense called splitting. Splitting is a primitive defence of young infants and in character constellations of some adults according to which people are either seen as purely evil and hostile, or purely innocent and loving.

Within this split worldview, certain qualities are attributed to the Other, including feelings, intentions, wishes, and character traits. The attribution of such mental and character traits onto someone else can be described as the defence mechanism known as projection. Prejudice of any kind (be that sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, ableism, etc.) may be seen as the result of people projecting hostile aspects to whole groups of people. Once this split worldview has been established, guilt and innocence of the role players within every incident are determined by gender, race, or sexual orientation.


Contrary to the common-enemy worldview, the common-humanity worldview is hesitant to resort to simplistic categories of saints and monsters. It appreciates the complexity of humanity, of society, of communities and of individuals, and reflects this in interactions and expressions. The common-enemy approach in CSJT (and the accompanying wholesale designation of culpability and characterization attributed to certain races, a genders, sexual orientations, and cultures) is a regressive response to social challenges. A more adaptable and psychologically mature approach is a common-humanity worldview, positioned to improving developmental and social factors such as family dynamics, parenting styles, adequate basic education, and living environments."