Monday, November 30, 2009

Diversity: What does it really mean?

I just caught a snippet of a commercial espousing the virtues of diversity and it occurred to me just how bass ackwards the whole concept has become.

Suppose you have three people in an office. One likes hard rock, one likes hip hop and one likes country music. Each hates the other two types of music. That's diversity. They may agree to tolerate the other types so that they may have their turn to select their music, but a general mish-mash of the three would satisfy nobody.

Everyone pretending to like everything is not diversity. It's conformity. Conformity breeds mediocrity. The pursuit of one's passion breeds excellence. You can't excel at anything if you adopt the mindset that everything is just as interesting as everything else.

Diversity in a society is a healthy thing. Allowing others to indulge their likes so long as they allow you to indulge yours is tolerance. A willingness to try new things is good. Being compelled to accept everything as equal in value is not.

Maintaining diversity doesn't require convincing everyone that everything is great. It just requires that everyone accept that you don't have to rid the world of something just because you don't like it. For example, if I live to be 5,000 years old, I will never understand why some people will pay $2,500 or even 25 cents to go see Barbara Striessand in concert. However, I don't feel compelled to put a stop to it, unless I were forced to attend such a concert in the name of some convoluted diversity training.

Diversity also means that you don't define someone by a single aspect of their character. I may get along great with a big country music fan in other areas that we agree on. Once I know a whole lot more about somebody, I can assess the pros and cons and determine the extent to which I can tolerate or enjoy their company.

Of course, diversity is often used in terms of race and sexual orientation. Disliking someone because of their ethnic make-up is stupid. Pretending to like someone because of their ethnic make-up is equally stupid. Hating someone, or denying them equal rights because they're gay is dumb. Expecting me to march in a parade in celebration of their gayness is just as dumb.

If you want to celebrate diversity, be yourself. Let others be themselves. If someone else being themselves is really getting under your skin, leave. If it's your house, ask them to leave. If you're in a situation where neither of you can leave and you can't come to some mutually acceptable accommodation, well, that's when diversity gets entertaining for the rest of us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are women getting a raw deal in the U.S.?

The discussion on the O'Rielly Factor, in the culture warriors segment, started out as whether or not conservative women were under attack in the media. Both women expanded on the idea and made the case that women in the U.S. of every political brand, face a tougher time than men in the way they are scrutinized and judged in general. I agree, but I think a good deal of it is self-imposed.

Before I get too far, please don't shoot the messenger. This is not how I believe things should be. It's how they are. When people attack or praise an individual, they do so in a manner that's optimized for that individual. In other words, they try to push your buttons. How do you get under a woman's skin? Criticize her clothes, her hair, her physical features. Professional women wear a wide variety of clothing in a rainbow of different colors from day to day and from person to person. Professional men generally wear the same uniform; slacks, shirt, jacket and tie. The big expression of individuality among men is the tie, and that's usually red, blue or yellow. There just isn't much to criticize.

Of course, I'm generalizing. But generally speaking men don't care much about their hair either. You're not going to traumatize the average guy by criticizing his doo in front of the whole office. Remarks about guys' weight and/or physical appearance don't carry nearly the impact that the same remarks about a woman would make.

Men don't face this type of criticism because it's simply not that effective against them. They face different types of attacks. If you want to denigrate a man, you call him a wimp, say he's not good with money, or with women. More generally, you imply that he is not in control of his own destiny or area of responsibility.

If women don't want to be subjected to superficial judgments, it's up to women to place less emphasis on it. "Society" doesn't tell women how to dress or what to look like. For the most part, other women and gay men do. If you don't want to take their direction, just stop. As long as you seek the approval of the fashion Nazi's, you are at their mercy. Superficial attacks can't hurt you without your full cooperation.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

From health care to slavery

One thing I've found very discouraging amid the uprising of some of the citizenry against government bailouts and takeovers is that many still don't seem to grasp the core issue. As they protest one bunch of programs, they express a different wish-list of other things the government should do in terms of directing the behavior of individuals and markets. We're on our way to hell in a handbasket and most people are concerned about the brand of the handbasket.

Consider this; if you make well above average earnings, you're already working about half the time for government when you add up all the various taxes and fees. If you make average wages or lower, you're not a threat to the game plan. Most of your earnings are going to subsistence. You don't have the time or the resources to do much more than maintain, maybe a bit of recreation, but nothing that would constitute game-changing activity.

Many of the very wealthy are working with our top government officials to create their own little Utopia. As they're "feeling your pain", being very compassionate, "fighting for the little guy", they're traveling the world with their entourages attending various conferences, forums, summits, think-tanks, staying at the finest of hotels, enjoying the finest of foods, wanting for nothing and taking several "well-deserved" vacations every year.

It didn't come about with the Obama administration. It's been in development for decades. First one divides people into interest groups, highlights everything negative, convinces folks that nobody "deserves" any misfortune or misery in their lives and that it's up to the government to eliminate it. At the same time, demanding relief for yourself is very selfish. Your concern should always be for "others" (everyone except you). So while your personal quality of life may be on the decline, it would be horrible of you to bring that up when so many others will obviously be helped by all the lofty new public assistance programs, safety regulations and planet-saving policies.

All this has come about in a democracy. The people have successfully been sold on the idea that security and mere survival are more important than individual freedom. We voted for this. We are creating a far better world...for the less than one percent of the people who happen to be in charge. The rest of us are increasingly becoming worker ants; expendable labor providers. Government's takeover of health care is the final nail in freedom's coffin. We have tasked the government with taking care of us. If you have kids, you know that with dependence comes submission. "As long as your under my roof....". We're about to get everything we demanded. All it will cost us is our selves. Congratulations.