Do we really value diversity?


Wednesday, July 04, 2018

“We value diversity” has been stated so often that it’s become a virtual truism throughout the U.S., but do actions really confirm it? There is tremendous cultural diversity across the world, even in these times of intensive globalization. But do the people of Massachusetts, or even the people of Greenfield, truly welcome it?

Many cultures value family ties above all else, and this manifests in cultural traditions like arranged marriages, blood feuds, honor killings and systemic nepotism. Is Greenfield ready to welcome and respect these alternative cultural norms? In many cultures, workers labor for immediate needs but consider working for delayed gratification to be foolish. Are Greenfield employers ready to respect workers who come in only when they want to and then simply walk away? Will they welcome them back a few days later when they need more money? Some cultures take a flexible position on personal property, feeling that whoever needs something has the inherent right to possess it. Are Greenfield residents ready to have their property carted away by people who might want to make use of it?

I suspect that the answer to these, admittedly rhetorical, questions, is “no.” Like people everywhere, Greenfield residents welcome people who hold the same values, respect the same social norms, and embrace a similar code of conduct as themselves. In short, they welcome strangers in direct proportion to how closely those strangers resemble themselves. Or, put bluntly, people only welcome people who share their culture. Cultural diversity can be charming, until your neighbor slaughters a goat in his driveway or doesn’t mow his lawn.

But “diversity is our strength,” isn’t it? Not really. Strength derives from people sharing common purpose, ideals, traditions and standards of behavior. Any group of people is strong in proportion to how homogeneous they are. That applies to all organized groups, whether labor unions, sports teams, social clubs or military units. Those groups are strong as long as they work seamlessly together, with members so similar that they can operate as a single unit. Diversity leads to confusion, misunderstanding and resentment which weaken any dedicated unit, so none tolerate it.

We can be very good at overlooking functionally trivial differences among people, like degree of skin melanin or which house of worship they frequent, as long as they are willing to demonstrate that they are willing to embrace and prioritize our culture of democracy, personal liberty, individual property rights and the sovereignty of the law. But, that is just another way of saying that we accept “diversity” as long as it doesn’t conflict with what defines our own culture, which, to be honest, is saying that we don’t accept anything beyond cosmetic diversity.

This requires no apology. No one should be ashamed to say that their own people and way of life are superior to others and that efforts should be made to ensure its core tenets survive — that what defines them is worth preserving, and insist that their members conform to them. That is the very essence of esprit de corps, of rooting for the home team, of committing to support and protect your family, of community pride.

America’s cultural foundation in such quaint traditions as patriarchy, capitalism, the Bible and English Common Law are subject to much contemporary criticism, and there is much in America’s past that is deserving of criticism, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that, without those traditions, and their careful preservation from generation to generation, we wouldn’t have the standard of living, the individual freedoms, or the personal security that the vast majority of Americans enjoy. It’s those traditions that incline us to say that we “value diversity” and “diversity is a strength.”

In our society, focused as it is on marketing celebrity, we praise those who are devoted to change, even if that change produces only disruption instead of progress. But the real heroes of every community have always been those who carry the cultural torch from generation to generation. They ensure that, not only will future generations enjoy all of the good things that their ancestors labored to create, but that their descendants will perpetuate the beliefs, and ideals that their ancestors bequeathed to us — that our culture will be preserved.

Proudly proclaim “diversity is our strength,” but remember that you are only inclined to say that because of the conventions that your ancestors established and demanded be followed, and you are only able to say it because your ancestors gave you the freedom, the wealth, and the rigid rules that protect you while saying it. When you praise those who inspire you to create a better world, save some thanks for all of those Christian white men with guns who not only created a world that encouraged you to dream, but protected you as you slept.

John Blasiak lives and writes in Greenfield.