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The False Diversity Of Identity, Part Two

With respect to dialogue and cooperation between people of dissimilar or similar histories and ethnicities in a fractured world, perhaps it boils down to serious people resolving the following questions within.

Can two or more people discover the fluid truth of things by thinking together? Can just and effective actions flow from an inclusive approach that isn’t based on “perspectives?” Or is there no alternative but “diversity and inclusion of different perspectives, philosophies and backgrounds?”

Though the “both/and” reaction may be valid in this case, one of these approaches urgently needs to take precedence in the global society.

A common example of the idea of combining different perspectives is the metaphor of a ship at sea.

“Imagine two ships. On one ship, the crew lacks diversity, with all the sailors sharing a similar background and philosophy of the sea. On the other ship, there is true diversity, with a crew composed of sailors from different backgrounds and with different perspectives.”

“On the first ship, there is unanimity about the choice to move in the direction in which they are headed, with the whole crew agreeing it is the right course. Unfortunately, the whole crew is wrong. They sail into a storm and sink.”

“The other ship was also briefly headed towards the storm, but because of its diversity, there were a number of sailors onboard who questioned their initial course. After a brief debate, in which everyone was included, the crew decided to change course, avoiding the storm and eventually arriving safely at their destination. Diversity saved their voyage.”

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Apart from the laughable notion of a captain surrendering his authority to democratic debate in a moment of crisis, the underlying premise is false. The ideal of merging “different backgrounds with different perspectives” does not result in clarity of collective action, but the fragmentation of “my truth” vs. “your truth.”

That’s the fetid soil that’s grown right-wing extremists, who as yet have found no bottom in America. They are working hard to turn DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) into a four-letter word.

Wingnuts such as Phil Lyman, a Utah Republican gubernatorial candidate, take thinly veiled racist potshots from landlocked states at the Maryland governor, Wes Moore, who is black, for the Baltimore bridge collapse: “This is what happens when you have Governors who prioritize diversity over the wellbeing and security of citizens,” the lying man wrote.

Asked how he felt about being referred to as Maryland’s DEI governor, Moore curtly told CNN: “I have no time for foolishness.” Later, after admirably dealing with the immediate crisis of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Moore addressed the question: “We all know very well that Black men, and Black young men in particular, have been the boogeyman for those who are racist and think that only straight, wealthy white men should have a say in anything,”

The attack on DEI is an attack on affirmative action, the decades-long successful program in the United States to level an economic and political playing field historically tilted steeply in favor of white elites.

For affirmative action’s progress not to become a Pyrrhic victory, the ideal of combining perspectives needs to be superseded by an approach that builds on the successes of affirmative action, while letting go of its limitations.

DEI’s limitations derive from the assumed separateness of identities and the spreading confusions of relativism. The hard truth is that insisting on a “diversity of personal perspectives” does not produce dynamism but decay, and does not yield greater clarity but increasing disintegration.

There is a different approach to dialogue and decision-making that isn’t based on personal perspectives and identities, but rather on shared questioning and the insights that flow from it.

Making space for marginalized groups to enter economic and political life is essential; the fragmentation and disintegration produced by upholding personal perspectives is harmful. The sum of the parts does not make a whole. There is no remedy in the vicious circle of more “diversity” based on distinct perspectives and backgrounds.

Holding beliefs and opinions in abeyance, while holding a space for questioning together irrespective of prior perceptions and backgrounds, allows people to think together. That turns on self-knowing, not self-identifying.

People drawn from different backgrounds enrich the process of thinking together of course, but personal perceptions have nothing to do with generating shared insights that flow from truly thinking together.

It should go without saying that “for generations, paths to success were closed to people from certain groups.” But “diversity of thought” is no remedy to injustice. And it certainly does not “allow groups to recognize when the group is in danger of making an error and change course.”

Therefore it’s deeply mistaken to insist that the methodology of “diversity of thought is central to creating a healthier world.”

There is no such thing as “diversity of thought.” Thought is inherently conditioned and limited in an increasingly personal, homogenous and competitive world. The fiction of the diversity of thought is a philosophical inanity that’s contributing to mass insanity.

Disingenuously, false diversity ideologues ask, “Can we fully support populations if our imaginations are constrained by the limits of a single perspective, without diversity to open our mental windows and let in the light that illuminates new ideas and approaches?”

That’s a false choice and classic straw man argument. True dialogue isn’t a matter of “perspectives,” “perceptions,” “viewpoint diversity” and “narratives.” Such an approach is personal, shallow and inherently fragmentary, and accelerates the very social and psychological ills it purports to remedy.

The choice isn’t between a single perspective and many perspectives. It is between continuing to live in the Tower of Babel that false diversity of personal perspectives has built, or holding our personal perspectives in abeyance, and holding a space to question together.

Martin LeFevre

Lefevremartin77 at gmail

© Scoop Media

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