Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Equality is Peace; Freedom is Slavery; Diversity is Strength

In his appendix to Nineteen Eighty-four, George Orwell recounted, “Words which had once borne a heretical meaning were sometimes retained for the sake of convenience, but only with the undesirable meanings purged out of them.”

As I attempted to settle on a topic, I realized that much of much of what we complain about today has been brought to us by doublespeak. I can’t pinpoint when our words lost their meaning. I can’t describe how our language got this way. And, I can’t say who orchestrated their dilution. But, I will say that, among others, the words Freedom, Diversity, and Equality are on the verge of losing all meaning.

Henry Ford once wrote that "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black." This is precisely the type of freedom we proclaim to have. If you aren’t yet convinced, look at the following choices I made in the past month:

  • To work for more than $6.55 an hour
  • To wear my seatbelt when I drive
  • To not smoke when I am in a restaurant
  • To drive a vehicle that gets more than 20.7 miles per gallon
  • To use a jetski no later than one hour prior to sunset

Now, am I free because I was able to do everything I wanted to do? Of course not! The lion at the zoo isn’t free simply because he can eat and sleep as much as he likes. The point is so simple it has been forgotten: it is meaningless to have the freedom to do something unless you are also free to not do it.

Freedom can be personal and well as political. The sexually “liberated” individual can only be sexually free if he is capable of living chastely. The alcoholic cannot freely choose to drink until he can say no, as well as yes, to the next drink.

Freedom allows us to be different. That is the great part about our country. The founding fathers realized that freedom means being able to worship however you like even if it seems foolish, being able to say whatever you like even if others disagree, being able to live wherever you want even if others would rather have you live elsewhere, and being able to choose any occupation you like even if the public doesn’t need another artist.

When laws are passed mandating where you can live, what contracts you can write, what cars you can drive, what schools you can attend, and how you can practice religion, your freedom to be different is gone. With it, true diversity is gone. Real diversity fosters the growth of cultures. Amish villages, Native-American communities, Buddhist temples, the Church of Scientology, the University of Notre Dame, German neighborhoods, Chinatowns, and Jewish districts can only exist within a free country. Such true diversity allows various cultures to develop and enter into dialogue. Unfortunately, as G.K. Chesterton summarized,

“The modern world seems to have no notion of preserving different things side by side, of allowing its proper and proportionate place to each, of saving the whole varied heritage of culture. It has no notion except that of simplifying something by destroying nearly everything.”

Why doesn’t our society tolerate such diversity? What is wrong with it? Well, consider two of your friends; one will be taller, one younger, one smarter, one faster, and one more attractive. When you have two different things, groups, or people they cannot be equal in attributes or they wouldn’t be different.

Now wait a minute, isn’t equality a founding principle of our country? If we are to ensure equality, we can’t have differences. We will have to redefine diversity to mean every basketball team must have one Caucasian, one African-American, one Asian, one Hispanic, and one Indian. Who cares if individual cultures can no longer exist – we will have one assimilated nation! Diversity will no longer be a measure of how Catholic a university you are amidst different universities but rather a measure of how many different religions you can include at your school.

Under the goals of modern “diversity” every neighborhood, school, and church will someday be identical. In his work Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury prophesied the effects of diversity and political correctness run amok,

"Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don't step on the toes of the dog lovers, the cat lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico. The people in this book, this play, this TV serial are not meant to represent any actual painters, cartographers, mechanics anywhere. The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean. Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca. Books, as the damned snobbish critics said, were dishwater. No wonder books stopped selling, the critics said. But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, for the comic books survive. And the three-dimensional sex magazines, of course. There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God.”

I think it is safe to assume we don’t want to live in a society where books are illegal nor in a world under the eye of big brother. Yet, both Bradbury and Orwell have warned us that our current trajectory leads to dystopia. What has gone wrong?

Our concept of equality has been entirely corrupted. The Declaration of Independence proclaims that “All men are created equal” not that “All men are equal” nor that “All men ought to be equal.” Thomas Jefferson understood that governments ought to guarantee an equality of opportunity. The only way to ensure that all men are equal is to ensure that all men are the same. No one is naive enough to believe that 300 million people freely making their own choices will always be equal. Therefore when someone claims they want all men to be equal, they are implying that they will force them to be equal.

In legal terms, this naive desire for equality is represented by the principle of disparate impact. This principle holds employers liable for using neutral tests to promote employees if it will benefit one group more than another. When we begin to hope for this sort of equality we are forced to redefine diversity, making every group the same. Sure we may be happy with this scenario. We may all want to make the same decisions, but unless we have the option to be different we will never have true freedom.

Abraham Lincoln once asked, “How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” We can complain about the state of our neighborhoods, society, or government all we want, but as long as we continue to talk about five-legged dogs we will remain just as crippled.

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