August 22, 2007
Diversity, Nihilism, and the Anti-Rational MindBy Gary Wolf
Contemporary Western society is tumbling further and further into the abyss of undifferentiated mediocrity. Much of the blame is due to the ideology of Diversity, which exploits a nihilistic, anti-rational strain in our culture.
The world is now divided into two zones: the zone of culture, and the zone of Diversity. In the former, which still covers most of the planet, there is true culture, organic and deeply rooted. It is also exclusive, to a greater or lesser extent. Even where the territory is shared, one is cognizant of the fact that the cultural space is divided into two or more organic cultures. They may be co-existing peacefully or they may be locked in a struggle to the death.
In the zone of Diversity, true culture is desiccated. The first order of business is to deny the legitimacy of the culture that occupied the space before it was absorbed into the zone of Diversity. What the apostles of Diversity seem to understand all too well is that true culture is unplanned. Cultures develop slowly, layer upon layer, each layer drawing heavily upon all that preceded it. There is no master plan, no roadmap, no legislation. The movement is neither linear nor phased; it does not necessarily "advance." There can be a flash of brilliance followed by deterioration, renaissance, and finally collapse. There are countless variables and actors, with a web of nuances so dense they cannot be fully grasped by a single human mind.
Escaping the inescapable
The ideology of Diversity is an attempt to escape the inescapable. Everything that makes us human, that makes life worth living, is largely the result of processes that are beyond anyone's control. Certainly, an individual or group can impact a culture by introducing a novelty, but they are only one factor out of many. Diversity may be the most ambitious attempt yet at planning what cannot be planned, at forcing "progress" to occur, and in the one domain that is perhaps the least amenable to such tinkering.
At this point, we must ask ourselves: Is Diversity a form of nihilism? Looking back over the history of Western thought, we see numerous approaches to the nature of reality. One can be as Lucretius, seeing only the material world. One can be as Pythagoras, tracing existence to the perfection of mathematical laws. One can adhere to the Christian worldview, resting on God and His message. Then there is Descartes, elevating the rational mind to its place in the pantheon.
Though the net is very wide, what all of these approaches have in common is the exaltation of an aspect of reality. Each brings into focus a major foundation of our existence. Competing against each other for our hearts and minds, they create the marketplace of ideas.
But if the advocates of Diversity had their way, there would be no rational mind, no God, no regularity, no tradition, no schools of thought. From the vantage point of Diversity, it is crucial that these obstacles be swept away. They cause the individual to focus on behavior, not on outcomes. His world is filled with restrictions, maxims, and standards. This means that he is free to make history.
It is ironic that Diversity, which could develop only in an environment imbued with reason, is contributing to its death. The ideologues believe they can redesign society, starting with its smallest detail. One failure after another, even the totalitarian upheavals of the twentieth century, have done nothing to dampen their zeal.
The pattern is all too familiar: A boisterous campaign to control social behavior -- "Diversity in the Workplace," for example -- as the fixers of social injustice squeeze the population into conformity with their perfectly designed rational panacea. But rationality itself cannot flourish and grow without a free and open interchange of ideas. By imposing what seems to be a rational solution, they create the conditions under which reason and intellect wither away.
As Friedrich Hayek puts it,
The mental handicap radio
Diversity is nothing if not egalitarianism stretched to the bursting point. We must find a way to break out of this headlock, to return to a nuanced view of this complex topic.
I am not saying that certain aspects of equality cannot be desirable, but rather that they tend to be temporal in their usefulness. This becomes more apparent when we consider that equality involves trade-offs. The greater the equality, the greater the mediocrity, and the lesser the inventiveness. People may, in a given era, decide that it would be to their advantage nonetheless. But they must realize that the trade-off is still there.
In certain circumstances, equality may be entirely incompatible with basic survival. This is the case, for instance, when a group is threatened with invasion and possible annihilation, and must therefore encourage the development of a warrior class.
The challenge of runaway equality was well identified by Robert Bork. The demand for equality, he observes, is insatiable. The more inequality is reduced, the greater the clamor for equality. The government is the only institution that can answer the call, "which means that the egalitarian passion must always lead to greater centralized power and coercion."[ii] Bork cites a story by Kurt Vonnegut that describes, in a colorful manner, what happens when demands for equality are pushed to the extreme:
It would not be an exaggeration to say that Vonnegut's vision is well on its way to becoming reality.
Gary Wolf is the author of futuristic novels that portray worlds in which multiculturalism and political correctness have run amok. He blogs at awolcivilization.com/.
[i] F. A. Hayek (1952) The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason, Liberty Press, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979, p. 163.
[ii] Robert H. Bork (1996) Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline, Regan Books, New York, 2003 edition, p. 67.