"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Diversity–A Nice Idea In Principle, But One Which Ultimately Leads To Separatism

Diversity is a nice idea. Races. ethnicities, gay, straight, transgender all sharing space within a context of tolerance, understanding, and respect.  A post-modern, accepting society in which anything goes.  Fundamentalist Christians rubbing shoulders with Castro queens; secular progressives in enlightened debate about  Biblical imperatives and nihilism without rancor or defensiveness, whites empathizing with black rage; economic conservatives and committed liberals exchanging views on inequality, opportunity, and entitlement in an atmosphere of mutual respect and desire to expand knowledge and deepen empathy.

This, of course, is an idealistic pipe dream.  History – and especially current events – have proven that diversity promotes separatism, the hardening of pre-established positions, and an increased mistrust of those who hold opposing views.

How could it possibly be otherwise? How could a lionization of sectarian, parochial interests and identities result in anything other than a militant defense of individualized positions?
Secularism assumes mutual respect and an acceptance of a difference of opinion; but the encouragement of such political, economic, and social diversity can only result in a renewed sense of entitlement and separatism.

The French government, in reaction to the wave of Islamic militancy and its rejection of centuries-old commitment to liberté, égalité, fraternité, the foundational core of French society, is revising its school curriculum with a new, renewed focus on laïcité – how inclusion within the mainstream of French society and culture is the way to prosperity, respect, and progress.  Yet ethnic and religious identity have become so much the organizing principle of new Muslim immigrants, that tinkering with the curriculum is clearly too little, too late.

Diversity in the United States has a distinctly racial character.  Black Americans are encouraged to celebrate their difference from white America.  The black experience is valid per se.  Whether the culture of the streets, the dynamic of single-parent households and the primacy of grandparents, the energy and expressiveness of rap and hip-hop, all is valid, universally acceptable, and an important contribution to the norms, mores, and preferences of the white majority.

The gay lifestyle- exuberant, anti-establishment, and dynamic – is accepted in toto. It is as valid, substantive, and valuable as its heterosexual equivalent.  Regardless of Biblical injunctions, perceived threats to conventional social partnerships, or non-Darwinian reproductive imperatives, it is to be celebrated.

However, is a socially Balkanized America the ideal?  Are there not risks to encouraging separatism and highly individualized groupings?  Does not a multiplicity of sub-groupings contribute to divisiveness and antagonism?

“We are all French”, say French traditionalists hoping to immure the increasingly independent ethnic and religious groups within the Fifth Republic.  Yet these groups increasingly say, “We want no part of it”.  The secular state is not our master, only God.

“We are all Americans”, echo progressives who see an even greater value in a a dynamic, entrepreneurial democracy which, through aggressive inclusion, can only become stronger.
Nothing could be farther from the truth.  America is split along enough lines (rich-poor; urban-rural; religious-secular; liberal-conservative) without adding more fissures.  The more separatism is justified and celebrated, and the more that minority interests are celebrated, the less willing social minorities are to join the body politic.

The encouragement of cultural identity must precede integration, progressives contend. Blacks,women, gays, and Hispanics need a safe space to gain confidence, to consolidate political power, and to mobilize against what is perceived as the white majority oppressor.

The social history of the 20th century is a testament to the contrary. Italians, Poles, Irish, and Jews all came to America to assimilate, to adopt and espouse American values of enterprise and individualism; and within one generation they had become more American in outlook and aspiration than the native-born. 

The classification of individuals – gay, straight, black, white, Anglo, Hispanic – does a disservice to them, for they will first and foremost be put in small boxes rather than judged according to more universal criteria.  Intelligence, creativity, ambition, insight, entrepreneurial spirit and drive are secondary categories.  A black man will always be a black man first.

Such exclusionary diversity encourages divisiveness and hostility.  ‘Black Lives Matter’ is not so much an outcry for civil justice as it is an expression of hostility, mistrust, and anger.  All white police are the enemy.  All whites are the enemy.

Sexual politics have become increasingly segmented.  Not only do gays regard straights as conservative, unenlightened, and backward but white progressives fuel the conflict by championing alternative sexual lifestyles.  There is no room in the liberal tent for fundamentalist Christians.  Homosexuality is not simply a minor expression of human sexuality, but a lifestyle as good if not better than any other.  Muslims are welcomed regardless of their troubling radical wing.  Questioning the role of Islam in international terrorism is off limits.  As a result Muslims are let off the hook
An unquestioning, uncritical acceptance of ‘the black experience’ denies critical analysis of persistent inner city dysfunction.  More importantly it gives poor black communities license to avoid responsibility.

Where is the balance?  Immigrant Italians, Jews, and Poles kept what was integral to their culture but not prejudicial to their assimilation into mainstream American culture.  Southern Italians quickly jettisoned abusive patriarchy, ultra-conservative sexual mores, and omertà.  They kept family, church, and community – all Italian and American standards.

In other words, social integration is better left alone.  If the majority culture is perceived as one of value (all immigrants and domestic minorities want a better life à la American middle-class) then sub-groups, whether immigrant or immigrant will sort out the relative value of old values vs new.
The Law of Unintended Consequences rules today.  Progressive interventionist policies and programs promoting inclusivity have done just the opposite.  Black students at a liberal Quaker Washington school sit at their own tables, in their own sections of the bleachers.  College fraternities and social associations are no longer configured according to intellectual, athletic, or artistic criteria but by race, gender, and ethnicity.  Individualism is neutered.

Separatism is increasingly the rule everywhere.  The Middle East in particular but other regions as well are fracturing along ethnic and religious lines.  Old national boundaries are  irrelevant when considered against the demands of higher religious law or imperial history.  It is no surprise that ISIS wants to create a Muslim caliphate or that Russia wants to re-incorporate stray bits of its empire.  


Are the days of a tolerant, inclusive, respectful, but ultimately homogeneous nations or societies numbered?   Is America really not one country, but many?

The days of those who hearken back to an earlier time when the Republic welcomed all comers on the proviso that they adhere to its foundational principles appear to be numbered.

Perhaps secular nationhood is an outdated concept; and those that aspire to a theocratic state or one of ethnic purity are ascendant.  Perhaps sexuality, race, or national origin do indeed trump notions of secular communalism.

The horses are out of the corral.  The train has left the station.  Traditional Americans who lament the fracturing of the body politic will simply have to get over it.

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