The chasm between what diversity says and what it does is at this point so extreme that some explanation seems called for.
On its face, diversity is a moral principle–a call for respect, inclusion, and recognition of the perspectives and experiences of others.
In reality, its mode is target and persecute, tear communities apart, and enforce absolute ideological conformity via the most extreme forms of hate, humiliation, and public punishment.
Anyone who works in academia (or large corporations with human resources departments–at this point, what’s the difference?) has seen it many times: a controversy arises, usually when someone makes the mistake of speaking their mind, to their way of thinking, innocuously. For whatever reason, their words fall outside of the ever-narrowing–and oddly shifting– circle of permissible speech (think sex-change, which only five years ago was on nobody’s radar), and it is as though they had stepped on a landmine. They are a pariah, whose very existence calls for a public act of shaming, a communal profession of faith–and at the end, a sacrifice of the cleansing fire.
The pattern has a depressing predictability. Initially, someone takes offense. From there, a whispering campaign begins. Complaints are made to those in authority who, most often, have no individual stake in what is happening, but, being administrators whose very existence is predicated on the need to placate the forces of righteous anger (and whose job depends on the importance of such crises occurring on a regular basis), they take the trivial with eschatological seriousness and, not infrequently, a certain obvious pleasure in the importance of their own salvific role.
For the target, the experience is less pleasant. Now marked for destruction, he is carefully isolated. Friends and supporters fall quietly away. “Well-intentioned” collaborationists urge confession and apology with the promise of possible forgiveness–which is never forthcoming; such apologies are like the victim on the ground pleading for mercy–which only intensifies the viciousness of the beating.
In the penultimate stage, administrators, vaguely aware that this is all somehow a violation of their own stated policies, try to extract promises of silence from the victim–a non-disclosure agreement–by threats and promises. Again, pointless for the victim to sign, but it is the one sign of uneasy conscience in the institution, which at least knows that it might look bad to the alumni, and wants the victim’s profession that what has happened to him has been fair.
And then, finally, the victim, dressed in white, shorne, unburdened of all sin and ready to meet his God, is led to the pyre–and served up flaming. The community in turn is stupefied and satisfied– and (truth be told) relieved it wasn’t them. …Until the music starts anew…
How did we reach such a point? Once upon a time, free speech was said to be, and to a certain extent actually was, sacrosanct in the academy, an uncompromisable first principle, shared by liberals and conservatives alike; it was recognized as lying at the very heart of the liberal democratic enterprise. No longer.
Whatever has happened, “diversity” is at the heart, and its carefully-structured paradoxes and incoherencies contribute to both its viciousness and totalitarian character.
I am not quite sure when, but at some point in the last four decades the commitment to “diversity” entered the singularly smarmy lexicon of University Mission Statements. Gone, or at any rate relegated to the back-burner, was the old boiler-plate about the commitment to liberal education and the liberal arts, the free and open exchange of ideas, the life of the mind, the importance of free inquiry, etc. From being primarily academic, universities began to conceive their role, indeed their primary role, to be the implementation of social justice. Education became, not the transmission of skills and knowledge, or being made acquainted with a tradition of books and ideas, but indoctrination in a vision of moral truth whose God is diversity.
“Diversity” was conceived to be progress over “tolerance.” But where tolerance is largely negative–it suggests a conception of justice that demands very little from those who practice it aside from allowing other people to live their lives with a minimum of interference from others–“diversity” is missionary, its desired end-state lying far off in the infinite horizon, as ideal as it is undefinable, and finally unachievable in its ultimate fulness.
Or let those who disagree answer this: I know what tolerance looks like. But when will we have achieved diversity? Are we, for instance, to take our bearings by the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of the nation–nay world–as a whole and regard that as our ideal so that every community must reflect the larger composition of the whole? Must it be the case that every smaller community reflect every constituency in the larger “global” community? Or not constituency, but individual?
The impossibility is obvious–but crucial. Since “diversity” doesn’t in fact denote any realizable end-state–none is ever sufficiently diverse–the desired end is not a realizable goal but rather consciousness that the goal has not been reached. Guilt. Diversity is a golden butterfly, whose pursuit always calls for the maximum effort against the complacency of the now, and whose only real-world effect is to force people to self-flagellate.
But such language is too flowery and poetic. For those who live under it, the diversity regime is a shabby one, rife with hypocrisies, arbitrariness, and casual cruelties.
Perhaps the most striking feature of “diversity” is the Orwellian way the term is deployed to mean almost exactly the opposite of what it purports to mean. Like other terms it has replaced— “multi-cultural” is an example—“diversity” is patently dishonest.
What it emphatically does not mean is intellectual diversity. No one who appeals to diversity, e.g., would accept the proposition that conservatives are underrepresented in academia. To the contrary, a faculty which votes 95% left-liberal constantly invokes diversity in order to force out the only actually dissenting voices. It has occurred to only a few of them that once the conservatives are truly gone, the progressives will start shooting the liberals.
How, then, should we think of diversity? I make a suggestion: as Nietzsche’s feast of cruelty, updated for a more sophisticated age…
Cruelty constituted the great festival pleasure of more primitive men and was indeed an ingredient of almost every one of their pleasures. […] [I]t is not long since princely weddings and public festivals of the more magnificent kind were unthinkable without executions, torturings, or perhaps an auto-da-fé […]To see others suffer does one good, to make others suffer even more: this is a hard saying but an ancient, mighty human, all-too-human principle […] Without cruelty there is no festival,; thus the longest and most ancient part of human history teaches–and in punishment there is so much that is festive.