What do a middle aged man who has built his entire persona around constant tirades of hate directed at ‘his own people’, an aging Bangladeshi-American who obsesses over ‘white skin’ and Jat women, and a Gujrati-American millennial who attempts to ingratiate himself with white supremacist political tribes online while posing as someone who is concerned for ‘the future of the white race’, have in common ?
They are all online personae of three individuals who display a peculiar symptom of what we might call the ‘deracinated diasporic comformism’ syndrome. We need to explore what this means before we get into the specifics.
All diasporas face one common challenge, the persistent problem of reconciling your ‘difference’ from the society in which you reside with a sense of (civic) ‘commonness’, which must also be cultivated to maintain a healthy relationship with this society. There is no easy solution to this, and different diasporas find different ways. We cannot go over all of them, but let’s talk about this one.
Deracinated Diasporic Conformism (DDC) is primarily a condition born from habitual use of a strategy that has its origins in colonialism, but has been adapted to our times.
In colonised societies, when certain former elites find themselves in positions of subordination to new colonial elites, it is not uncommon that these elites begin to mimetically adopt certain outward practices of their new masters, most times, performatively. This is done to signal to the new master, the acceptance of the new hierarchy, but also is a strategy of ingratiation. For this to be successful, however, the conformist must also distinguish himself from the nonconformist with whom, in the eyes of the master, he shares the slave identity. To achieve this, the performer-conformist also has to initiate a second step, which might be either proactive criticism, visibly in the presence of the master, of some essentialised element of his ‘own’ group-identity; or, if not active, a passive acceptance of such critiques made by the master in his presence, which affirms the master’s power over ‘his kind’, with him as an accepting subjugated specimen, representing an ideal of the sklavenmoral that the master would like all his subjects to confirm to; or, a third strategy, which is slightly more indirect, having tried these two, would be to find a surrogate group, adjacent to his own, in one way or another, and try to direct the master’s gaze towards it : this is especially effective when the surrogate group is non-conformist, and the conformist attempts to ‘win favour’ by pointing this out, that is, highlighting the non-conformism (there is also an element of envy and hope for sadistic pleasure in this).
In our times, these coping strategies – as attempts to find ‘commonness’ – play out most often on social media, this is where the acute deracination element comes into hyperdrive. In colonial times, the conformist performance required more effort in the public space, wearing a certain type of dress, speaking in a certain way, etc. But one could find some refuge in the sanctity of private space.
In cyberspace, there is no sanctuary. Social media is a direct extension of the mind, and is hooked right back into the Id. Constant performance of an online adaptive personae, ultimately reshapes the mind and selfimage. When this online persona is built on foundations that are inherently self-critical, every time the individual inhabits that role, he is destroying a piece of his real world self.
The cyber life creates many pathologies, this is. just one of them. But here it is, so you know it when you see it.