Many of us will be happy to see the end of a difficult year. However, the change to 2021 doesn’t guarantee that we are out of the storm yet. Nonetheless, the fact that several vaccines have appeared gives us hope that our dominance over Covid-19 is commencing.
Despite the difficulties, 2020 marked a new beginning for Our Own Identity with the production of 18 articles, six of which dealt with the science behind the concept of “universal identity”. Others explored the differences between current perspectives of identity and the new paradigm. At the same time five items were added to Thinkspot through the Letters to America Series. Why all this focus on “identity”?
In November’s article, reference was made to President Mary McAleese’s observation that things in Ireland are … mostly better than the past. The pandemic is a wakeup call that casts doubt on overly optimistic views about the future. The coming years will always bring improvements in certain areas but, at the same time, throw up as many challenges as encountered in the past.
Social divisions in the West illustrate this point. The divisive presidential election in the US is symptomatic of deep social rifts, which are more pronounced now than, perhaps, at any time in living memory. In the words of author David French, so-called “identity politics” are, … ripping us apart. The picture is reinforced in Europe where a recent study observed that … external pressures and internal tensions have reached a level not seen since the EU’s inception. It is suggested that the impact of “identity politics” is to blame for … the rise of populist and anti-EU political parties across Europe in the post crisis era and their successful exploitation of cultural and immigration fears in particular. Whatever the reasons, a divided Europe is undeniable.
The EU’s preoccupation with European identity is reflected in its budgetary allocations, particularly under the Cohesion and Values heading, which amount to one third of the 2021-2027 budget. Yet the very term “identity” is recognized as one of the most complex phenomena within European studies and the social sciences. It a “fuzzy” concept because it evades any clear-cut definition and is, as a result, characterized by conceptual ambiguity. How can such a vague notion guide European policy? It can’t. At least it cannot do so successfully, and this probably explains why the EU’s target of getting citizens to “buy in” to the European project has had a mixed reception.
The new paradigm of “universal identity” is derived from a succinct definition of the term and indicates that a long-standing conundrum (think Ship of Theseus) has been removed. It follows that the avenues of thought which were obstructed by the paradox must be re-examined. In conclusion, the concentration on identity is justified and will be continued in 2021. It remains to be shown how perspectives on issues like Irishness, Europeanness, heritage, nationalism, beliefs, the future of human identity, etc., change under the new paradigm and what potential influence might these adjustments have on citizens and institutions worldwide.
Watch this space!
 French, D., 2016 (18th May). Identity Politics Are Ripping Us Apart. The National Review.
 Mendon, et al. 2020. The future of the EU: new perspectives. The UK in a Changing Europe.
 Borz, G., Brandenburg, H., and Mendez, C. 2018. The Impact of EU Cohesion Policy on European identity: Results from the COHESIFY citizen survey.COHESIFY Research Paper 14.
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