Diversity: The Death Knell of Individualism

Our Constitution guarantees us life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our Bill of Rights and the following amendments dictate that we shall all treat each other equally in any public venue whether through race, religion, ethnicity or social “class.”

Although it’s not possible to legislate morality, the law does make provisions and consequences for abiding by our Constitution and its laws. However, until an offense is observed and officially objected to, we are all left mostly to our own consciences to determine what actions must be taken and how far we can or must go in aligning with those Constitutional dictates. Yet, in the Constitution there appears to be a lot of room for interpretation…or misinterpretation depending on what perspectives are taken and what level of perception exists within our personal and cultural dictates or, namely, each of our clans. It appears that equality among our citizens is not enough for some. Diversity is no longer simply a tolerable perspective but seems to be developing into a problem involving an expectation of deference. Contemporarily, it has ceased being regarded as an allowance and now appears to have become a requirement amidst what behaviors and preferences are expected or required among our citizens and depending on our clans and our affiliation with them. Diversity is no more regarded as a permissible allowance but now a required deference. So, what has happened to our concept of equality?

First then, what is diversity and second, how should it be regarded in relation to our citizens and how we treat each other? To understand this, we must first look at its meaning and then how it is being expressed and can be best applied.

Diversity, as a derivative of divert from the Latin divertere (14c), is “to change the direction or course of; change the aim or destination of; or turn aside or away." Simply put, it is simply changing direction. But as with all words of any import, time and culture add dimensions that are not often understood or agreed with, especially, for those who have a classical or literary education of which most of us, especially recently, don’t. In our common language we interpret the word as simply being different but in our deeper and perhaps unconscious perception we receive its meaning as a need for turning away from our own familiar direction and preference.

Our current confusion with diversity expresses itself in concert through several different perceptual avenues; inequality, the social erosion of thinking for ourselves, low or high cultural context, religion and lack of individual courage.  Let’s first look at inequality.

Almost everyone has a need to belong and be accepted as they are without any requirement to meet standards that might be different from what we have become familiar with or trained into. In the same way, different races and cultures, invariably, differ from each other in what is preferred, trained and then expected by our respective clans. When another culture or race intermingles with the long-time standing tradition of the cultural or race oriented behavior of our country, we feel an almost automatic resistance toward their behaving or their doing things any differently than what we’ve become familiar with. This not only extends to new changes between a traditional culture and a commingling culture, but even to anyone of our own culture entering our environment that does things differently, consequently, assuming that we will adjust to them in any way. Now, let’s take a look at thinking for ourselves.

There is a growing social erosion of thinking for ourselves that is becoming more and more prevalent every day. We seem to have experts and pundits espousing social rules for our behavior in every daily activity we find ourselves involved in. Doctors have received Carte Blanche in dictating their rules about our health. Advertisements tell us what we must do to smell “right,” look “right,” be smarter, faster, cooler, more intelligent, more desirable and wealthy. There is a drug that’s appropriate for every ailment under the sun independent of any causative circumstances or actions we should consider ourselves. On every level we’re being told what to think, feel, and what we should want. The insinuation is that if we don’t follow the socially prescribed rules we are labeled as odd, inadequate, unlovable, undesirable, and should be abandoned or ostracized by socially “acceptable” groups. There is something wrong with us if we even support the “wrong” political party. We’re slowly being trained out of thinking for ourselves. We’re being conditioned to consult an “outside source” for even unimportant decisions for fear of being criticized, shamed or ostracized by our peer group. On top of that, everyone of any influence is being investigated for anything that appears to be wrong doing. We’re now seen guilty by our accusers until proven innocent. We are being made to feel paranoid over the validity or properness of any action or inaction we take. We’ve been trained to become afraid of expressing ourselves in public for fear of reprimand or shame, especially, on college campuses. Now, let’s take a look at cultural context.

Our Western culture, especially in the U.S., has developed a pattern of values based on independence, individual accomplishments, self-reliance, personal strength and responsibility and being “actualized”, as a psychologist would call it, to be our level best independent of any outside support or assistance. This type of life perspective has been termed as belonging to a high context culture.  It is based on individual effort and the personal gain of recognition from a person’s peers and clan. Until recent years this has been the primary goal and perspective of most Americans.

Over the last ten or so years this perspective has been being slowly ebbing into a belief that others and the family are more important than any individual efforts or accomplishments. It has also been rapidly becoming more and more of a politically correct expectation that individuals should sacrifice their own interests and well-being in favor of the family’s interest and their clan’s well-being, political or not. By definition, psychologists call this perspective of a race or culture low context. That is, that the group is more important than the individual. In low context cultures the family or “clan” is dependent on the individual’s alignment for its structure, stability and well-being. Low context culture also has been gaining in a growing a current presence in our population now that is largely due to the tremendous influx of Hispanics into our American culture through an overwhelming emigration from “impoverished” countries.  Consequently, African Americans, seeing the Hispanic culture as having the potential for increasing their own influence and advantage over their host country, have recently aligned themselves in a similar perspective. For their elders, it is simply the resurgence of low context cultural traditions that were slowly buried during their assimilation into slavery as the African culture has, historically, been a low context culture. For the younger generations, it is perceived as a method to achieve social and economic advantage for their families and clans. Nevertheless, these minority cultures have serendipitously “co-focused” their objectives, mostly unconsciously, but still hold a conscious desire for their own separate advantage over the culture they have immigrated into whether introduced to it through enforced slavery, as with African Americans, or escaping their own national poverty as with the Hispanics. It should be noted that the earlier African American generations began with a low context culture but since their immigration here, their offspring very quickly acclimated toward high context objectives. This split between generations accounts for the mixed response toward aligning with the similar low context Hispanic drive toward achieving family and clan advantage. It should also be noted that the Christian base of our own population also professes to align with the values supported by a low context culture and have provided a virulent climate for the low context perspective to propagate. Lastly, let’s look at individual courage.

Having courage depends, essentially, on the propagation of one of two perspectives. First, that the individual has faith and trust in their own abilities and resources or, second, that the individual has the belief or hope that they will be taken care of and supported by the clan or family that they’ve aligned themselves with. The latter perspective has achieved an accelerated dominance in our culture due to the reduced tendency for people to actually think for themselves and the increased tendency for them to make their decisions based on externally dictated protocols.

All these factors may individually seem like they are inconsequential as to how we relate to other people who demand an attitude favoring their view of diversity when we relate to them. Yet, their combined effect produces a fullness of influence from so many seemingly different angles that it seems overwhelmingly natural for us to acquiesce to what’s being demanded of us. The fact that have been lulled or even trained into allowing, almost exclusively, external influences to determine how we act and believe is the primary reason that we have become convinced that it is our responsibility or even duty to sacrifice our own potential and well-being in favor of capitulating to the advantage others might gain over us; intentionally driven or not.

To look to the values and expectations of others who inhabit the world around us to the exclusion of our own gut feeling and common sense sabotages any semblance of personal autonomy or self-determination. Diversity has become a tool geared toward enabling the tyranny of the weak and the “less fortunate.” With the rise of a socially contrived requirement for acquiescing to the demands of this new diversity we have gone well beyond the tipping point for being able to save any autonomy, personal dignity or individualism that we may still possess. Despite the claims of our professed “superiors,” including those hiding behind the cloth of religion, we are not responsible for the fate or condition of others.

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