Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Diversity is our strength?

in which I attempt to deconstruct and detoxify some talking points. Forgive me, please: this is probably going to ramble.

IN THE PAST MONTH: Two figures, one a Canadian maverick politician and the other an American television equivalent of a shock-jock, have asked -- the Canadian obliquely, as Canadians are won't to do, and the American directly, as Americans are wont to do -- whether diversity is a strength.

Both were, of course, instantly met with howls of outrage, name-calling, and worse. That's what you get for asking questions nowadays...it almost doesn't matter what the questions are. Nobody to my knowledge bothered to answer the question. That's because this question belongs to an ever-growing pile of Queries That Can't Be Made. 

The other side has theirs too: you can't ask why Colin Kaepernick kneels, for instance. They see a spoiled brat of an NFL player who doesn't respect (variously) the flag, the anthem, the troops or the country. We see a man peacefully protesting the fact his country routinely shoots unarmed people who look like him. I've dared to bring that up in various forums and I'm immediately shouted down and told that black on black violence kills far more people than cops do. Very true, and very much besides the point. Any further suggestions on my part as to how black culture got so nihilistic are ridiculed and I end up withdrawing.

The pile of un-ask-able questions on our side is ever-growing, so much so that you can forgive a conservative (if, you know, forgiveness was still a thing) for failing to keep track of them all. Hell, I just ran into a spot of trouble a few nights ago with the word "folx". 

Yes, that's how some people spell it now. I read a few articles about it and some even more radical spellings like "womxn" -- good luck pronouncing that, talk about erecting a barrier in the name of tearing them down. The x refers of course to the multiplicity of non-binary gender identities, and again, conservatives can be forgiven for asking what percentage of the population identifies as something other than man or woman, and why it seems like it must be 90% or higher just lately. 

I wasn't actually yelled at, but I was treated as if I was an innocent child, all for questioning why we have to further neutralize a term like "folks" that even my interlocutor conceded was already gender neutral. There's complexity, yes, and gender is not as simple as many believe it to be...but then there's complexity and abstraction for its own sake. 

Maxime Bernier, the man who abandoned his party to start a new one, tweeted the following:

Canada under extreme Liberal multiculturalism: While a statue of our country’s founder is being removed in one city, a park was recently named after Pakistan’s founder in another, in the presence of M103 Liberal MP sponsor. 

Pakistan independence from India led to 1M deaths.

Why not celebrate instead the heritage and renewal of aboriginal cultures? That would unite us in positive way. Cult of victimhood and obsession with past wrongs instead of focus on the progress made and to come are another sick characteristic of extreme PC and multiculturalism.

I discussed the statue removal here. I get both sides of this particular debate. First Nations can't be too happy seeing the immortalization and glorification of a man who is ultimately responsible for suffering, death, and a very serious attempt at eradication of their cultures. At the same time, he does loom large in the Canadian national identity for completely unrelated reasons. 

I somehow missed Jinnah Park in Winnipeg, named after a founder of Pakistan. And I'm fully with Bernier here. Doesn't Pakistan have parks? What connection does a founder of Pakistan have to Canada?  Somehow I doubt there's a movement afoot in Karachi to rename anything after anyone or anything Canadian. I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.

About that 'cult of victimhood/obsession with past wrongs' remark, which rubs people so hard the wrong way they spark. NOBODY IS DENYING PAST WRONGS WERE COMMITTED. Nobody is trying to suggest they really weren't so wrong (or if they are trying to suggest that, they can certainly be educated). What people don't understand--and thus hate--is the idea that somehow they're personally at fault for things which happened six generations ago. 

To which we say, well, by acting a certain way, by saying certain things, you're perpetuating the same culture that allowed those wrongs to be committed. And that really is hard for people to grasp. Witness it in another context: how many men have you heard lamenting that they can't even look at a woman any more because if they do they'll be charged with rape? In the age of #MeToo, many men actually feel that way. And they'll say "hey, I was just catcalling her, doesn't she want to know she's attractive? I'd LOVE to be catcalled!"

Deconstructing toxic thought patterns is hard, hard work, certainly when you don't even recognize they're toxic. Many men really WOULD love to be catcalled, and thus have a great deal of trouble understanding how women perceive it as threatening and very much unwelcome. 

But instead of making allowances for how hard it is to change your entire way of thinking about something and upend a lifetime's conditioning, we just dismiss the questioners as racists or misogynists. That, too, is ever so much easier. 

Let's move on to Tucker Carlson, who said this on Fox News the other night:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?

Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.

And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech[...]? And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?

Gee, Tucker, tell us how you really feel.

Just like Bernier's tweets, this was instantly and vociferously dismissed as racism...which proves the point Carlson made at the end there. 

Carlson and Bernier are both being called "anti-diversity". They're not. They're questioning diversity. It's beyond stunning how many people jump to "he asked some questions about _____, he must HATE _____!!!"

No. Just no, Instead of assuming someone's an enemy, let's assume they're sincerely questioning us. Even if they ARE an enemy, our calmness will disarm them.

So in that spirit, let's try to answer his questions.

I feel qualified to speak about marriage. And what I'm going to say about it can be scaled.

I believe diversity is critical to a successful marriage....to a point. In other words, it's not really opposites that attract, it's complements. People are attracted, and tend to stay with, partners who fill in their gaps, and whose gaps they fill in. Speaking from my life: One of a thousand reasons I love Eva is because her world is endless greys. I love grey, but my world used to be black and white before I met her. I have become more like her over time. One of the thousand reasons she loves me is because I provide her with emotional support she didn't even know she needed. And wouldn't you know it, she has become more like me over time.

Kathy and I are not married, but even so something similar applies. I have caught some of her fire, and she burns more steadily, with less volatility. We have become more like each other over time.

You can't do that without some things in common. People with radically different life goals and values do NOT make good partners. A spendthrift does not live well with a saver, and someone who desperately wants kids is not going to stay with someone who desperately does not. But people with common values and traits to offer each other will become more alike, and likely stable,  as time goes on. 

I'm much less qualified to speak on the military. My exposure to it, besides a couple of years in Navy League Cadets, is through books and movies. But it seems to me that the whole point of the military is commonality, the need to become more alike over time, specifically the time it takes to complete basic training. What you were before doesn't matter. That gets broken down, mercilessly, and you are rebuilt into one of us. That kind of team-building is absolutely critical to a successful operation. 

Common values, common goals. Diversity more than welcome...to a point.

What is that point? I'd argue it's the point at which one marker of your identity supersedes the rest of them. And right now. millions upon millions of people are seizing one aspect of their experience to the exclusion of all others...quite literally.

It's often politics, but it doesn't have to be. It can be your race, your religion, your sexuality, your gender, the language you speak....the possibilities are endless. Once any one of those things becomes so important to you that you're unable to see yourself as anything else and you start viewing the whole world through that single, narrow prism...you're lost.

Do you get along better with your neighbours if you don't understand each other or share no common values? Carlson asks.

If I don't understand my neighbour, I try harder. Pidgin. Sign language. A smile. People respond very well to sincere attempts to understand them. And how do I know my neighbour shares NO common values with me? We all have values in common. Some of us define our terms differently, is all.

See, in Canada, we've made a mosaic work. Yes, people tend to self-organize into ghettos of their peers -- that's human nature -- but one ghetto lives side by side with a second, a third and a fourth with minimal friction between any of them. Is it perfect? Of course not, there are one-off instances of violence. But all in all I'd say we've done pretty well.

In America, they've tried to opt for a melting pot, in which all diversities are welcome so long as America comes first.

Neither approach works particularly well when we start questioning what is and what isn't Canadian/American. As Harper did with his "Canadian Values" purity tests. As we're starting to do on the other side with purity tests of our own. But when we seek common ground, we usually find it.

And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech [...]?

I must confess I get tired of explaining this to people. Freedom of speech protects you from government reprisals for what you say. It does NOT, and was never meant to, do anything else. Freedom of speech does not mean I'm required to listen to you. It does not mean I'm required to give your views equal consideration. It does not mean I can't fire you for saying something that conflicts with my company's values. Believe me, if it meant that last thing, every retail and food service person most of us interact with would be giving us suggestions involving sex and travel.

When I'm feeling especially ornery, I inform the person asking this question that the goalposts have moved. There once was a time when nobody cared if you went out (pardon me, but this is what it was called) nigger-baiting or gaybashing. Hell, the local sheriff might join in. That's what people used to do to other people, simply because of who they were. Nowadays we find that behaviour abhorrent. But we don't lynch people for engaging in it. Awww, nobody wanted to hear you talk about how there should be a White Pride Day? Poor muffin.

And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?

Switching gears here, it's because we seem to increasingly be assuming the worst of people, and because we've lost all sense of nuance. The guy who lost his job because he run up to a female reporter in the street, groped her, and yelled "Fuck her right in the pussy!" deserved to get fired. The man who asks us how we've gone from two genders to seventy three in the space of five years is asking a legitimate question and should not automatically be shamed, silenced or fired. The man asking if diversity is a strength shouldn't be shunned. The woman claiming that illegal immigrants are lowering wages and diluting our national identity should be engaged on her terms. Only by doing that do you have any hope of changing her mind. Informing her she's a racist will only cause her to double down on her views.


The TL; DR: of this blog is that yes, diversity is very much a strength. What kind of world would it be if we all thought the same on every issue? Pretty boring, right?  So never lose sight of how we're different, but ALSO never lose sight of how we're the same. 

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