Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Diversity Myth

Study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity
By John Lloyd for The Financial Times

“A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University’s Robert Putnam, one of the world’s most influential political scientists. His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbor to the mayor... In the presence of diversity, we hunker down…We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”

Now before you call me a racist lets allow that ethnic or racial diversity is just another way of saying cultural diversity which is just a simpler way of saying religious, political and social differentness usually accompanied by different hairdos . While no one with an ounce of political sophistication (me!) would stand up and say racial diversity within communities is a bad thing. I’d bet a lot of people would say that religious, social and political diversity within communities often causes a god awful amount of trouble. It would be hard to find a place in the world where this arrangement is working and pretty easy to see where it isn’t. Anywhere some colonial power or other overbearing Pluto-technocratic body has arbitrarily decided the lines should be drawn, for instance.

Which leads me to think; maybe this Melting pot idea is just another self- reinforcing institutional myth? The US is a unique and very young experiment in melting. Nowhere else have we built a nation on a clean slate (thank you, small pox) with nothing but immigrants. Throw in lots of oil and wow, totally unfamiliar paradigm. Now, can you imagine the Swedes and the Italians having a common government? I just almost peed myself laughing imagining the Swedes quietly and methodically drinking themselves to death while the Italians stab each other and set themselves on fire. Accordingly, you’d have a hard enough time getting Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate NY to agree on what to get for lunch, trying to get Texas and Vermont on the same page and you’re eating at the Wacko diner on Delusional lane in Crazy town. No one with half a synapse would ask culturally dissimilar European states to get together and make stuff happen. Why do we so persistently ask it of ourselves?

The great beige global community where differences fall away is just an enabling myth for corporate exploitation of poor people and their unprotected resources. In practice, Globalism’s goal is to replace native culture with consumer culture so that a system that can’t live without growth has somewhere to peddle its crap and it’s easier to peddle crap to a homogenous, indoctrinated blob. Surely, these folks live in miserable conditions a lot of the time but I bet you dollars to donuts that most immigrants would much rather stay home. Maybe if the IMF and WB made loans that actually benefited the countries they deign to serve by investing in the transfer of knowledge and skills to build their own infrastructure to address their own needs according to their own vision, rather than requiring them to hire foreign contractors for over-scaled projects designed to enrich the contractor in an obvious bid to place these countries in a state of overbuilt indebtedness that renders them hopelessly and permanently pliant to the exploitative wishes of our overarching agenda (care of the Milton Friedman School of Empire Building), they’d stay put. Maybe if we didn’t seed and support so much unrest abroad; if we used our wealth and influence to combat injustice rather than perpetuate it as far as it serves our economic agenda; they’d stay put. No one wants to melt. Ironically, melting is the antithesis of diversity. True diversity is present when people can stay where they are and evolve independently of some all encompassing corporate or Imperial agenda.

As for us “United States”, there is a big difference between discussing how to implement universal health care and discussing whether or not we should have it. Only one of these conversations is going to be productive, the other is a tired and mangy dog and pony show being drug out for yet another turn around the dusty circus ring. We might as well continue to debate abortion rights or gay marriage. These are yes or no questions. Not debatable. We must respectfully walk away from the table if we hope to advance with integrity and purpose in any direction. My previous post on Oligarchy reinforces this Small is Beautiful argument.

There is nothing wrong with feeling out of place and moving somewhere that suits you better. (I think 75% of Rhode Islanders do this. Then they move back, though. What’s up with that place?) Isn’t this determination of individual utility exactly what our religiofied free market system asks us to do? How about small, regional government where we don’t argue endlessly and hopelessly about fundamental rights while positive community endeavors like sustainable energy initiatives, small scale organic farming, local reserve currencies, decentralized holistic education and the chance to cooperatively succeed in meaningful endeavor wither on the vine. I don’t want my tax dollars to fund another brutal, corrupt and unwarranted war. I don’t want to support globalism. I don’t want an ever increasing portion of my inflation depleted earnings to line the pockets of the Fat Man. I can live on solar and hydro and without Pepsi! Even if we respect each other (and that’s a big IF) and wish each other the best, we shouldn't reconcile ourselves to living by a set of watered down rules that leave us frustrated and unsatisfied and continually struggling with each other in the nonsensical support of a anachronistic myth. Texas should be free to outlaw abortion and all forms of taxation, sell guns alongside the gum at convenience stores and teach creationism in their completely privatized school system if that’s the way they want to go.

Comfortable, palliative myths aside, other than its inherent ability to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a very few who are very intent upon reducing the state to skeletal remains and a creating clean slate for the privatization of everything EXCEPT a ginormous military, I don’t see the merit of a United States.

5 comments:

  1. "I’d bet a lot of people would say that religious, social and political diversity within communities often causes a god awful amount of trouble. It would be hard to find a place in the world where this arrangement is working and pretty easy to see where it isn’t."

    Go to most urban areas in America and you'll find examples of incredible diversity that work amazingly well considering the density of people. In fact, the opportunities for personal expression and freedom are often significantly greater in urban areas than they are in small, isolated areas that are homogeneous.

    I don't have the sources right now, but I know that a number of studies have demonstrated that exposure to different religious, social, racial and ethnic diversity from a very young age creates a far more open and accepting viewpoint of people's differences than growing up in a homogeneous environment.

    I don't think segregation and retreating to some libertarian reconstruction of feudalism is going to work. The whole point of ecology and environmentalism is that we live in a system that is interconnected: a web of life that is intricate and fragile. We need to learn to think in terms of larger systems, world-wide systems if we hope to succeed as a species on this planet.

    The actions of Texas have an impact on the health of the planet, including Vermont. Ignoring this interconnection and the ways in which our whole ecology of life is woven together won't help us repair it.

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  2. I would also ask who benefits from small, closed-off communities that don't have access to new ideas and diverse opinions?

    Ask the 13 year old girl stoned to death because she was raped and therefore deserved to die.

    Ask Matthew Shepherd.

    Ask the little girls in Afghanistan who are attacked and terrorized if they go to school.

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  3. Hi Peter,
    There is a lot of real estate between regionalism and the Taliban. The diversity article was a starting point/inspiration for a larger discussion of cultural inculcation of globalization/homogenization that is sought by the elites that run the show. I assert that there is more run "from" than "to" in immigration and it would be better to address the causes of their flight than to cover it in a blanket of "wow, look how enriched we all are by all this forced migration. Thai food is awesome!" The people of the southern Sudan would not have chosen to come to the US if they weren't being systematically exterminated in their homeland because of some random british fucktard’s idea of what would make a good shaped country . We would be more enriched by their continued presence and evolution in their own sphere than by their importation into ours. No one said closed off or segregated. I'm talking about self-determination according to regional concerns and values rather than the edicts handed down by the Pluto-technocrat class. I'm talking reinstating Glass-Steagall and abolishing the fed. I’m talking about having a reserve currency. I’m talking about sustainability and insulation from exactly the kind of systemic nightmare we are all balled up in right now. The imposition of a homogenized neutral standard on a diverse population with discordant needs sounds communistic to me. In a bad way ; )

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  4. "The imposition of a homogenized neutral standard on a diverse population with discordant needs sounds communistic to me."

    Actually, that has nothing to do with communism and everything to do with political and governance structures that tend to centralize power. Which can happen using any number of economic structures.

    I totally agree with you about the way colonialism and corporatism have fucked over the world and billions of people. I get that. But can you explain more about how you see placing regional concerns over global will help us in the long run?

    I think our fundamental difference of opinion stems from how we are going to face the challenges that we have created. My instinct is that most of our current problems stem from too small a focus and that we need to cultivate a greater systems approach to . . . well, everything, i.e., we need to learn how to truly think globally. I think (and I could be misinterpreting you here, so correct me if I'm wrong) you see the answer in concentrating on the local. Which of course means we are both right because focusing on one without the other will prove, ultimately, ineffective at providing solutions. In fact, there really isn't even a difference between the two. Like that optical illusion of the two faces or the cup, global and local are always present in our actions, we just choose to "see" one rather than the other depending on the situation.

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  5. Spot on, that's the difference.
    I think localism has an inherent quality of ownership that globalism lacks. When are you aren't "upstream" of an your behavior, you behave differently. Call it pride of ownership. Call it not shitting where you sleep. In the same breath, localism has tendencies towards insular clannishness that globalism lacks as well. If our technologies survive they will ameliorate that tendancy without introducing stifling hegemony. This is the "to be continued.." part of Got Oligarchy. Your question kick started my future post.
    As always, thanks for playing!

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