In its capacity of an imagined community (Benedict Anderson's definition), collective identities need to create feelings of common interests and solidarity between people who have never met. This is, of course, a project that cannot be carried out through reason and logic. Applying the light of reason to identity will lead to its destruction. So, what's left? Emotions, feelings, passions. You manage to make people emotionally attached to their identity, and they will never stop to analyze its failings.
One of the easiest ways of creating emotional attachment to an imagined community is by fostering a sense of a common grievance. If the persecuting Other does not exist you need to create it. There cannot possibly be a collective identity without an Other (both external and internal).
After the Other is created (or chosen), you need to ascribe a certain set of characteristics and a certain discourse to it. Usually, the Other serves as a site onto which you can project the desires, the beliefs, the actions that are your own but that you don't wish to recognize in yourself. Think about the whole "Jews are greedy" stereotype. This characterization has nothing to do with the Jews. It has to do with non-Jewish people wanting to distance themselves from being perceived as greedy.
After the Other is located (or, rather, appointed) and endowed with a set of characteristics, you need to create the narrative of oppression. It doesn't matter how much grounding in reality it has (it can have a lot or none at all). What matters is that it should be as incendiary as possible. In view of a common grievance, people will put aside their differences and unite around what they perceive as a shared slight.
But what's wrong with this? one might ask. People will unite and defend their collective interests. That certainly sounds as a good thing.
Well, first of all, who's going to say if they have common interests and what those might be? And then, what do we do with the Other that we created and turned into the sum of all evils? And that our group now hates so deeply? Remember, we had to abandon reason and logic in order to create our group identity in the first place. How can we now hope to turn reason back on in order to promote a political agenda that will be REASONABLY satisfying to all of us?
(To be continued).
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