Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Diversity in Silos?

Writing in the New York, Thomas Chatterton Williams raises ideas about globalism, multiculturalism, race and identarianism, which evoked a reaction in me both personal and sublime.
T.C. Williams

Let me begin with three observations.

1. Some years ago, at a Department picnic at Yale, one of the Finnish doctors in our department announced he was leaving to go back to Finland. "Veikko," I said, "Your work is going so well here. You're one of the real stars in our department, how can you leave now? A few more years and you can go back and become the chairman of any department at any university in Finland or anywhere."
He smiled and he nodded at a raucous group of children, ages 5 to 14, rampaging about a set of jungle gym equipment. 
"See those kids?" he said. 
"Can you tell which ones are mine?"
I looked and all the kids wore pretty much the same clothes--jeans, T shirts. All were babbling in English. There were many colors of skin, hair, some blond, some Asian, some Black, some mixes of all of these.
I shook my head, "They are all just kids. Wonderful kids."
"Yeah, well, but three of them are mine. They blend in, just as all those kids do. But I want my kids to know they are Finnish. A few more years of this and they'll be like everyone else--Americans."
"But Americans can be anything. We are diverse. We are everything."
"Everything but Finnish," Viekko said.
American kids. Melting.

2. Forty years ago, I spent a little over two months in London. I'd always wanted to go there. I'd grown up on British movies about the heroic, debonair, plucky Brits muddling through the war against the virulent, racist Nazis And London was just like the movies, double decker buses, black taxicabs, rosy cheeked children. In retrospect, very White. Visiting again, about fifteen years ago, I was stunned to see Arab men sitting outside at small round tables in mid day, drinking from tiny coffee cups, not at work, and certain neighborhoods, I could imagine was not in London but in Baghdad. 

3. Just last week, an NPR story about the change in a population of fish in some lake, which had been "taken over" by some "invasive species" of fish was presented as a sort of eco warning story about climate change. It seems beloved trees, fish, a whole ecosystem was being transformed by global warming. It was all I could do not to throw something at the radio.  "That's what evolution IS!" I shouted. Environment changes, a species which is adapted to that new niche flourishes. Other species cannot compete and die out. More species by far are extinct than extant.  Why make this a morality tale, when all it is is nature playing by the rules of evolution?

Now back to The New Yorker and the article "You Will Not Replace Us."

What Williams was describing was the thinking behind the alt right's chant at Charlottesville, which has been heard across Europe from France to Poland. White people, White nationalists, White supremacists, neo Nazis, identitarians all fulminating about the "invasion" of previously White nations (England, France, Germany) by Muslims and Blacks. 
Sounds pretty easy to understand--"racial purity"  antisemitism, fear of the "other," all very familiar in Trumpland.
Alain de Benoist

But there is Alain de Benoist who is decidedly emphatic about not being a White supremacist who argues we ought to keep the various races and ethnicities separate, not because he fears polluting White populations with Black people but because he thinks the distinctiveness of different peoples is under attack by this mixing and that diversity he so cherishes is under attack by globalists.

He argues that White Western Europeans have tried to homogenize the globe, first with the crusades, to convert everyone to Christianity, then with colonialism to foster European political principles, then with trade to impose economic development and industrialization and finally with imposition of moral principles they call "human rights."

Benoist argues, much as my Finnish colleague did, that diversity is to be celebrated, it is the most precious quality of human life and it's being threatened by mixing. The "citizen of the world" is simply an agent of imperialism.  He argues for diversity achieved through isolation.

His solution to immigration is to support local African nations so their citizens do not think of leaving for better pastures and hunting grounds, make them "self sufficient."

This brought me face to face with my own contradictions. On the one hand, I was abashed and, admittedly disappointed that my pristine, fairy tale London now looked like Baghdad, while at the same time I was furious at people who thought it was somehow a moral imperative to keep their favorite fish in their stream or their favorite tree in the woods behind their homes.
Terrible Swift Sword

And then you face the other factor: What if you say, okay, I like racial mixing and the melting pot thing, but what if a group arrives which says:
1/ We do not want to mix. We want to live here, but we do not want to become at all like you. We do not want to learn your language or marry into your family or allow you to do that to our family. 
2/ We detest your values, first among them, the freedom to disagree. We do not accept your disagreeing with our views and will do everything we can to prevent you from expressing your views. We are intolerant of tolerance.

What do you do with that? How does that fit your dream of diversity?

I'm still with Rev. King who hoped for the day people would be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin. 
And I think it a fool's errand to believe it's practical to hope to erect barriers to prevent people from mixing in today's world, just as silly as trying to prevent that new fish from taking over the pond in your back yard and transforming the aquatic fauna, no matter how much you loved the speckled trout who once thrived there.
That is the ineluctable law of nature, of Darwinian law.

Whether you can succeed in building a wall to prevent Darwinian law from prevailing over human populations we shall see.

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