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I consider myself Gen Y, not Gen X, although I am admittedly on the cusp of both.

I find myself looking back on the 2000s these days with immense nostalgia because the fundamental feeling I remember is that it was a positive message about individual empowerment: Be who you want to be, don’t identify yourself by what you are.

In part I see identity politics as the reponse to the discovery that life is not so simple: who you can (easily) be is still greatly affected by what you are and where you came from.

But when you merge individualism (“I am unique and important”) with this discovery, the result can be pretty indistinguishable from “selfish rants about why I and my peers are not succeeding as much as we would like”.

When a well-educated, professional LGBT woman claims without irony that their life is horrible compared to that of the long-term unemployed rural white man, something in our ability to seek and understand the idea of “common good” in a nation is broken. Badly broken.

The problem is that the insiders and “winners” all look the same, but the outsiders and “losers” don’t feel the same sense of camaraderie.

The way I think of it is that acceptance into the insider circuit requires passing a whole lot of unwritten tests, with complex caveats and exceptions, where the rules change constantly and you probably won’t even know you are failing.

Drug user? Outsider (unless it’s cocaine). Person of colour? Outsider (unless you have a degree). English as a second language? Outsider (unless you are a celebrity).

I could go on. The point is that outsiders need to band together, not create an artificial wall that puts everyone who has failed their specific “outsider” test on the other side of it.

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