Thursday, September 5, 2013

Diversities

No, no, not that sort of "diversity." I have another target in mind. Bear with me through a brief ramble and you'll see.


I grew up in a highly homogeneous environment, which I once described this way:

I did most of my growing-up in Orangeburg, a small town in Rockland County, New York, in the Fifties and early Sixties. It was a place most modern children would disbelieve in, unconditionally.

The doors had locks: snap locks that you could force with a credit card. However, this was before credit cards, and the locks didn't get that much use anyway, because who on Earth would intrude into someone else's home uninvited?

A home with a television in it wasn't a rich man's home, but two televisions marked a household as well-to-do, and perhaps a little more materially indulgent than was really good for a family with minor children. A color television was an object of wonder. I've never forgotten the thrill of seeing Bonanza in color for the first time.

Yards were kept neat and clean. Maintaining them was regarded as a civic duty. One homeowner let his lawn go unmowed for three weeks, and thereby earned a visit from a group of his neighbors, who wanted to know what had happened that he couldn't keep up with his responsibilities.

Children of all ages wandered the neighborhood without fear. Parents were confident that their neighbors, and their neighbors' older children, would look out for the young that hadn't yet come into their full senses. A driver that honked at a child who was a little slow to cross the street risked being shucked out of his automotive armor and disciplined in public.

I remember one universally beloved little girl, named Janie, whose innocent enthusiasm for life was the delight of our block. I once caught Janie toddling across my back yard, looking for my younger sister Donna, bursting with eagerness to tell Donna something that had just occurred to her. She'd hopped out of her bathtub and scampered across her back yard and into our own to do so. She was wearing what one usually wears in the bath. Archimedes might have blushed; Janie didn't.

It was an overwhelmingly Catholic community. There were five Masses each Sunday morning, and all of them were attended to capacity and beyond. The parish priests were regarded as higher authorities than any elected functionary. When our pastor was elevated to Monsignor, we young ones were stunned that the town didn't hold a parade.

Most of the children attended the parish's grammar school, St. Catherine of Alexandria. Despite St. Catherine's huge class sizes -- classes of fifty were the norm -- standards were high, and the pressure to get in never slackened. The local public grammar school was regarded as a refuge for the children of lazy parents, who didn't care how their kids were taught; it had many unoccupied desks. Competition among the latter-grade students at St. Catherine's was intense; we all wanted to go to the local Catholic high school, Albertus Magnus, and we knew there weren't places enough for all of us....

In those years, Orangeburg's residents were working-class white and Hispanic families. I don't remember any blacks. I don't know what to make of that. Draw what conclusions you will.

There was no "diversity" in Orangeburg in those years. We were all Caucasians. We were almost all Catholics. We were almost all politically conservative. And we all loved America, wholeheartedly and with no reservations.

And we were happy, secure, and free.


"Diversity" is the shibboleth of our time. We're all supposed to bow down to it. On the left, it means variations in skin color and nothing else. On the Right, it means diversity of opinion and outlook, and perhaps in lifestyle, whatever that might mean.

If ever a false god was erected among us, "diversity" is surely one.

"Diversity" is about differences. Differences among men are to some degree inevitable. Yet no imaginable chain of logic leads from that simple observation to the conclusion that we should seek out differences, or regard them as good in and of themselves.

Perhaps I'm painting with too broad a brush. I value persons of greater erudition or knowledge; that difference is useful to me, though perhaps not to them. I value persons of greatly different experiences; the perspectives they can open to me are ones I might never have achieved on my own. Yet it still seems to me that the "diversities" so many other people praise are cleavages more likely to bring about chaos and harm as understanding and growth.

Some years ago, I challenged a left-liberal friend who'd been blathering piously about race relations with a simple problem, phrased approximately thus:

You live in a peaceful, prosperous, all-white neighborhood. All the working-age adults work; all the school-age kids are in school. Imagine that one of your neighbors were to sell his house to a black family with rowdy young members. Imagine that their treatment of their property were to be so lax as to degrade your quality of life, and perhaps the value of your property. Imagine that their caperings were loud, expansive, and reached far into the night -- every night. Imagine finally that they were to leave trash in the street in front of their house, in such disorder that your local trash collectors would refuse to gather it in. Would you feel that you have a right to demand that they behave more considerately? If not -- or if such a demand was angrily rejected -- what would you do next?

My friend absolutely refused even to deplore, much less act against, the "diversity" represented by that hypothetical intruder family. It's all about cultural validity, she said: we must understand and respect the different ways of different peoples, and make them feel accepted where they'd previously been unwelcome. She actually asserted that she would feel a moral obligation to remain in her home -- that even if she were offered slightly more than its market value and could move without other negative consequences to her family and its arrangements, she would feel obligated to remain in her newly "diverse" neighborhood.

Gentle Reader, I couldn't think what to say to her. Could you?


The Ace kicker to the exchange immediately above was, of course, that my friend's reaction to such a development would be much different if the rowdy, dissolute, disruptive intruder family were white. That's the power of racialism in this day and age. However, my central point here is that the behavior, not the race or ethnicity, of the intruder family is what matters. Their skins could be as white as hers, yours, or mine; it would do nothing to make their behavior more acceptable. Yet I wouldn't have heard her cite "diversity" as a value to be defended or promoted were there no racial component to the problem.

Similarly, America's problem with illegal immigration isn't that the illegal aliens flooding over our borders are Hispanic, but that they have largely rejected American norms. Many have isolated themselves in communities in which American norms are not respected. They could all be upper-class Frenchmen, yet the problems they present -- mainly, indifference to American law and critical American commonalities (e.g., language) -- would be no less.

Diversity of behavior can destroy a functioning community. Genuinely destructive diversity of behavior arises from diversity of moral precepts.

It's an unfortunate fact that in the present day, moral diversity is strongly correlated with racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. That wasn't always the case; consider the Orangeburg of my youth. We can all wish it were otherwise, but that's not a license to deny the facts as they stand.

Many, many changes in public policy and Americans' inculcated attitudes have contributed to the emergence of the objectively destructive diversities we suffer today. Whether they can be reversed in any measurable time frame is unclear, especially given that there are persons who've made careers out of inflaming inter-racial, inter-ethnic, and inter-religious animosity.

A community cannot function acceptably without a common core of principles to which all its members are bound by law and custom. Neither can a nation. The differences among men must not be permitted to extend into that core.

So what's with all this guff about the value of "diversity," anyway?

2 comments:

  1. Not really on topic but I thought you might be interested to see the review of Tales of New America over at Vox Populi.
    Having read it when it appeared here, I did a review of it myself (based on the blog posts, not the finished book).
    Don't worry, I thought it was very good though my only quibbles were this:
    ''Hence, the Tales of New America that offers twenty-three snapshots from a period fifty years or so years into the future.'' I thought that timeline was more than a bit exaggerated (it came across as 'very near future' to me) and the description of it as Sci-Fi which due to the timeline and technology described doesn't really fit what I think of as Sci-Fi.
    My takeaway was ''Heartily recommended''.

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  2. The town I grew up in was quite close to what yours was like. The major difference was ours was not as predominately Catholic (Damn Swedes and Germans!).

    Still, it was, if not a simpler time, one much better defined. Things were more clear cut. You knew where you stood as a kid, and as an adult. One could, depending on a given transgression (be it "stealing" a piece of candy from the Ben Franklin, or not keeping your yard in "regs") still feel shame.

    And we also had the freedom of having our whole neighborhood as our playground. The indians never stood a chance of taking over our block..all our cowboys had their fingers at the ready, selected "stick rifles" locked and loaded with an endless supply of ammunition. The same held true for the Nazis and Tojo's minions, that great war having ended only 15 years earlier.

    And yes, we were also predominately Caucasian. There was a small hispanic population...mostly migrant workers who tended the outlying farms and ranches. They even held claim to the oldest Catholic church in town Santa Teresita. There were also a handful of asians, they did their damnedest to conform to the local standards...and by doing so...readily assimilated into our community.

    We had maybe one black family in town. To the best of my knowledge, there were no issues there.

    Bottom line, at least it used to be....and we are poorer for it no longer being there, was conform to OUR culture/community standards...or LEAVE.

    Cultural differences were, at the very least tolerated provided you were within the guidelines of what was acceptable in our town. Sharing your heritage with your neighbors...usually by bringing over a meal/dish based on same...being a normal acceptable example, was more than welcomed. Firing your weapons into the air on Cinco de Mayo...not so much.

    Fast forward to the present. One only has to go to the local high school, to see how much the demographics have changed. And to see how much the town has as well. To be sure, there are still many individual neighborhoods (My parents for example) which really hasn't changed all that much...the standards are still there) which save for the trees being much larger, haven't changed much at all. But there are now parts of town where you do have to at least be aware of what is going on around you. And there is some gang activity in the outlaying areas which have subsidized housing (forced on us by the Peoples Republic of Illinois).

    And shame...appears to be a thing of the past.

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