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Diversity

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On September 7, Fox News host Tucker Carlson ran a series of video clips promoting the idea of diversity – presumably, ethnic, cultural and otherwise – in America, and then proceeded to take on the idea.

It has become an increasingly heated topic, much more so than two or three decades ago, and Carlson went right at it.

He offered a series of questions:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are?
Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.
And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech, to just a handful of tech monopolies? And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?

Fair enough. A good many people around the country have been asking such questions, and answers should be given, not just assumed. They’re not always universally obvious, though there are ready answers.

I’ll offer some of those in a moment. Before we get there: What do we mean by “diversity”?

Most simply, it means (in dictionary definitions) a range of different things, a variety, a mix. It can refer to a variety of anything; a television network could be said to offer diverse programming if it airs enough different kinds of shows.

That’s not exactly what we’re talking about in a political or social (or even business) context, though. What we’re really talking about is things like race, religion and ethnicity – and a resistance in some quarters to anyone who is distinctive from oneself.

This makes diversity is one of the flash points in our society. It is something we should discuss seriously and not dismiss.

So to move on to Carlson’s questions:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? The broad answer is, we gain strength from a larger pool of experience, skills, strengths, understandings and points of view. Narrow and limited perspectives – smaller pools of knowledge and perspective – increase the likelihood of mistakes.

Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Carlson needs to explain who exactly is proposing “diversity” as a national motto. Unless you count “e pluribus unum,” or “out of many, one,” the slogan on our national seal and on some of our currency. From Wikipedia: The 13-letter motto was suggested in 1776 by Pierre Eugene du Simitiere to the committee responsible for developing the seal. At the time of the American Revolution, the exact phrase appeared prominently on the title page of every issue of a popular periodical, The Gentleman’s Magazine,[10][11] which collected articles from many sources into one magazine.”

Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are? In fact, marriage and military units are excellent examples of how diversity can work very well. In my own marriage, my wife and I have some things in common but also a number of differences – different skills and interests, perspectives and aspects of background (not to mention genders). That’s not a weakness in the marriage. We’ve made many things happen, and avoided many mistakes, because we jointly brought more to what we do than would have been the case if, say, either of us had been working with a clone.

In the military, concerns about diversity weakening cohesion often were brought up on the front end of a change in more varied forces. The concerns nearly vanished in most cases as the greater variety of personnel wound up contributing far more than any (most illusory) loss of joint identity. The Congressional Research Service said in a 2017 report that diversity in the military is “associated with better creative problem solving, innovation and improved decisionmaking.” Those sort of traits are becoming increasingly critical, not only in the military but also almost everywhere else.

Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question.
The honest answer is that a little effort and communication results in greater understanding. That’s not kumbaya; that’s just the way people relate to each other.

And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech, to just a handful of tech monopolies? Not sure where Carlson is veering off to here; the question about the growing power of the big tech communications companies is a serious and legitimate question, but it doesn’t have a lot to do with diversity as such. Nor do they have much to do with “freedom of speech,” which is a bar that limits governmental restrictions on speech; it does not, never has anyway, limit Google or Twitter or for that matter my blog from limiting the speech disseminated there.

And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired? Still got a job, Carlson? Oh, right, you work for – well, actually, for 21st Century Fox, which in its 2017 annual report said it “appreciates the importance of valuing and serving a diverse marketplace. Different backgrounds and characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, gender, disability, culture and sexual orientation, bring innovative viewpoints and merit to the creation of our content and products.” Discussion is diversity is quite public and ongoing, so it’s hardly being silenced.

As for fired, that generally has related to companies which have policies and practices much like the one you work for. If those companies fire people on grounds of statements they make, it’s because they have a commercial, business or public relations reason for doing that.

As for shaming: That could work only to the extent people agree shame ought to be attached to expressing the idea. Approbation shouldn’t attach to a dispassionate discussion of the concept. But the idea of diversity, in this country, often is linked to attitudes about race, about a willingness to accept even the humanity of people somewhat different from oneself. In a country of many kinds of people, where we must work together to succeed, a certain amount of concern about trashing other people is probably appropriate.
 

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