Dennis McInerny Series – Diversity

There are many in our society today, especially those who swing a lot of weight in the media and in the field of education, who are much preoccupied with what they call diversity. This is one of the latest fads of our intellectual elite. Intellectual elites, in our time and in all times, are very adept at succumbing to fads, and then, in more cases than not, enthusiastically drumming up support for them. Such is the case with diversity, which has now become, for many intellectuals, a near obsession. Getting caught up in fads serves as a welcome substitute for serious thought, something which intellectuals, taken as a class, and contrary to received opinion, are not particularly adept at. In general, they tend not to excel when it comes to original ideas.

Just what is this diversity about which so much to-do is today being made? If one were to look up the word in a reliable dictionary—as I just did, in Webster’s Unabridged—one would be informed that diversity is a state which is characterized by difference, a lack of similarity, variety, unlikeness, multiformity. As such, I think we would all readily agree that diversity represents a very common condition. There certainly is a lot of difference to be found in the society in which we live.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? To give an adequate answer to that question we would first have to know what kind of difference is being considered. A person who lies, cheats, and steals is different from an honest, law-abiding, and in other ways respectable citizen, but that is not the kind of difference one would want to applaud, much less actively advance.

There is a very important fact about diversity—taking it just as such, and prescinding from its being either good or bad—a fact which the self-appointed apostles of diversity, for whatever reason, systematically neglect. It is this: diversity does not have to be promoted. Diversity is quite capable of thriving on its own. Such is human nature. There is always going to be, in any society or community, willy nilly, a range of differences among the membership. Furthermore, it will inevitably happen that some of those differences will be negative, in the sense that, if not properly tended to, they will adversely affect the health of the society or community.

This negative diversity, human nature being what it is, will make its appearance and flourish unassisted, like weeds in a garden. And, like weeds in a garden, if left unchecked, it could eventually lead to the ruination of the society or community in which it takes hold and grows. Negative diversity works directly contrary to the unity and coherence of any society. It should therefore be the principal concern of dedicated citizens to bend their efforts, not to the fostering of an indiscriminate diversity—once again, that needs no fostering—but rather to the eradication of negative diversity. Contrary to what the ideological social engineers seem to think, the natural opposite to a society low on what they understand by diversity is not a society beset by bland homogeneity; it is a healthy society, the different parts of which come together to compose a coherent unity.

But clearly the ardent advocates of diversity are up to something which smacks of the disingenuous. When they preach to us on the importance of diversity in society, and clamor for more of it, they are not interested in promoting difference of just any kind, but only of the kind which reflects their ideological presuppositions. And more often than not they are promoting negative diversity, diversity, that is, which contributes to societal disunity. “Diversity,” then, must be recognized as something of a code word, as it is used by the intellectual elite, a code word that identifies a rather elaborate agenda for social change. We can get a good idea of the particulars of this agenda when we discover that something like same sex marriages is put forward as representing a recommendable form of societal “diversity.”

A specific brand of diversity which receives perhaps the greatest amount of attention and support from the intellectual elite goes by the name of cultural diversity. The promotion of cultural diversity has fast developed into a formidable movement, and is now being vigorously advanced at all levels of education, both public and private.

The basic idea behind the cultural diversity movement is that students should spend a good deal of their time learning about cultures other than there own. More particularly, students in Western countries should learn more about non-Western cultures. Now, on the face of it, this is not a bad idea. But why should we consider it as something novel, and as deserving of special emphasis? Has it not always been an integral part of any worthwhile educational program, wherever it might be found, that in it students are urged to expand their mental horizons, and take pains to learn about what lies beyond their own back yard? Hence the importance of foreign language study.

Not surprisingly, a closer look at the cultural diversity movement reveals that there is more to it than what might first strike the eye. Rather than being simply a program designed to promote better education, it is but another dimension of a larger effort that is dedicated to ideologically driven social reconstruction. Many of those who argue for the need for Western children to become better acquainted with non-Western cultures, and to develop an appreciation for those cultures, often want this carefully directed learning process to take place at the expense of the children’s knowledge and appreciation of their own cultures. In addition, pro-non-Western attitudes are often furthered along with what are at least implicitly anti-Western attitudes. And the reason for this is that the promoters of these programs, who are Westerners, are themselves affected with a deeply anti-Western bias. In some extreme cases their stance amounts to something like a real hatred for Western culture.

How to explain this? A full explanation of the strange phenomenon would require a book, and I can here offer only a couple of tentative suggestions. It seems that one reason why so many of our intellectuals are anti-Western is because they are beset by a considerable ignorance of their own culture, so that they are largely ignorant of what they so summarily reject. Paradoxical though it may sound, intellectuals are not always the best educated of people; this is especially so in the United States, particularly when it comes to a knowledge of history, even the history of their own country. The fact that intellectuals reject Western culture out of an ignorance of that culture does not, of course, excuse their actions, but it may at least make them a bit more comprehensible.

But there is a deeper, and more disturbing explanation for the repudiation of Western culture on the part of so many of our intellectuals, and that is the close association they see, and rightly, between Western culture and Christianity. Great historians such as Hilaire Belloc and Christopher Dawson have impressively demonstrated for us the fact that the principal virtues of Western culture—and they are not a few—are attributable in the main to the influence of Christianity, and, in fact, inexplicable without Christianity. Our intellectual elite know enough about Western culture to know at least that, and the knowledge disturbs them. Fully committed as they are to the total secularization of society, they see certain seminal values of Western culture, values the culture owes directly to Christianity, as irksome obstacles to their ambitious plans for the transformation of society. What they really do not like about Western culture, then, for all the decline it has suffered in recent centuries, is that it still bears upon it the, for them, disturbing marks of Christianity, a Christianity to which they are unalterably opposed.

Dr. Dennis Q. McInerny’s articles have been published in the FSSP North American District Newsletter many times through the years and will soon be published in the upcoming book Perennial Wisdom Volume II by Fraternity Publications.

March 15, 2010