Genuine vs. False “Diversity” and “Multiculturalism”

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A few years ago a group of people from an accrediting agency for a particular school in the university were on campus. I was part of a group of faculty who taught core courses invited to talk with those individuals. One of them asked me how I included “diversity” and “multiculturalism” in my Introduction to Philosophy class. I replied that “We read a number of writers from very different cultures: Plato and Aristotle from Ancient Greece, St. Augustine from North Africa, St. Thomas Aquinas from medieval Italy. In order to discuss Aquinas adequately, I have to mention Maimonides, of the Jewish faith, and several Muslim Arab philosophers.” Needless to say, that is not what the woman asking me the question wished to hear.

But what I do in my teaching is teaching diversity. There is a huge difference between the culture of Ancient Greece and medieval Arab culture. The ancient philosopher Plotinus may have been influenced by Indian thought. Sometimes I refer to Buddhism’s view of causality as having some similarities to the modern philosopher David Hume. That is true multiculturalism–taking the best philosophy of many times and places and cultures and presenting it to students.

But there is an alternative view of diversity–one that understands “diversity” only in terms of race, gender, class, or sexual orientation. Frankly, this is an abysmally ignorant position. Region and local traditions are much more a part of cultural diversity than the aforementioned factors. Even with the same sex, race, class, or “sexual orientation,” there is a great deal of cultural diversity. Compare, for example, a black farmer from Tennessee with a black resident of Newark, New Jersey. Most of the time, the cultural difference between the two is extremely sharp. For another example, take so-called “homosexual culture.” A number of homosexual individuals, and I have met and talked with some of them, absolutely loathe the culture of “coming-out” and “in-your-face” of many homosexual rights advocacy groups. One told me once, “I don’t flaunt my sexuality; why should they flaunt theirs?” Yet “queer studies” tends to take homosexuals as a monolithic group. Thus, what is called “multiculturalism” falls into its own racial, sexual, and class stereotypes and refuses to recognize genuine diversity. Even “dead white European males” are diverse–compare Plato with Hume, or Kant with Nietzsche. Or in literature, compare Belloc with Wilde. Reducing individuals to their gender, race, class, and/or sexual orientation creates cartoons out of people, and both the particularity of the individual and the richness of his culture is lost. What is sad is that even liberal academics have told me that they realize such a simplistic account of diversity is totally flawed. But they tow the party line because those who promote the simplistic view of diversity are about power–and when they gain it, they wield it over other academics. As a result, diversity morphs into the politics of victimization–“I’m a victim, you’re a victim, he’s a victim, she’s a victim, wouldn’t you like to be a victim, too?” The so-called victim, who often lives in a middle-class household with an education provided by scholarships favorable to a “victimized” group, uses his so-called “victim” status to set himself as higher than others.

I will continue to be multicultural in the genuine sense. I do not exclude any philosopher from consideration in my readings on any grounds except quality and/or influence. My students get a better sense of diversity than any student who goes through a politically correct course in pseudo-diversity.

Majoring in Minors; Minoring in Majors

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Warning: Politician Ahead!!!

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A few years ago I heard a Democratic congressman from a district adjoining mine speak. He told a story of two men having a conversation. One man admitted he liked to drive ten miles an hour above the speed limit. This man was well-respected in the community and a churchgoer. The other man then said, “I just lost all respect for you. How can I have any respect for a man who is a hypocrite?”

What is ironic about the congressman’s story is that he is a strong supporter of abortion. In his political campaigns he makes a great deal of his attending church and his religiosity. Yet he supports the de facto (if not de jure) unlimited right of women to murder their unborn children.

The irony is that the congressman would call someone who drives ten miles an hour above the speed limit a “hypocrite,” yet he does not recognize his own hypocrisy in supporting abortion. Now if he did not claim to be a Christian; for example, if he were an atheist, I could respect him. But since he claims Christian identity and supports what is, in effect, murder, I cannot have such respect. He majors in minors (the venial sin of breaking the speed limit) and minors in majors (the mortal sin of abortion). Yes, there are liberal Protestants and liberal Roman Catholics who support abortion–but I have infinitely more respect for an atheist or agnostic than I do for a theologically liberal Roman Catholic or Protestant. The atheist or agnostic, at least, is honest in what he claims to be.

The situation in secularized Western Europe is better in a way, since the Christians there (other than some of the state-supported clergy) take their religion seriously. But in the United States, which is technically the most Christian country in the industrialized world, it is popular in some areas of the country to use religion as a means to power. Very few Southern politicians, outside of liberal urban districts, would be elected if they were openly irreligious. So they flaunt their religious identity and condemn hypocrisy–and they themselves exemplify hypocrisy in their anti-Christian political stances. They ought to be ashamed.

Linguistic Fascists

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American society has spawned a group of individuals who make an industry of being offended and whose favorite sentence is “I’m outraged.” There are times I wish to tell them to take their outrage and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine. These fascists wish to change the language people speak to reflect their political views of what reality ought to be in terms of race, class, gender, and “sexual orientation.” Instead of language being a slow product of societal evolution, they believe language can be controlled by an elite group so that people must speak and write the language of those elite–or else.

An example is the so-called “non-sexist language” that has been forced on academia. For centuries, the English language used the terms “man” and “mankind” to refer to people of both sexes, and everyone recognized that this implied no favoritism of men over women. And though these critics point out that “they” was used as the singular for both sexes in the eighteenth century, for three hundred years “he” has been used–“they” in the eighteenth century was part of the normal evolution of language. “They” used today as a singular term is an artificial imposition that no one would use who wishes to write in good literary form. Academics have told me privately that they agree with me that the traditional terms for the human race were not sexist–but in public they toe the party line. While this is cowardly in one sense, in another sense it is a matter of survival, for the linguistic fascists have the political power in academia.

Over the years I have learned to write more elegantly in “gender-inclusive language” since many journals require it–but it is a difficult task. But on this blog I will use traditional terminology, and I generally do so in my public speaking and private conversation. There is one area in which I refuse to use “gender-inclusive language,” and that is with language about God.

Although it is true that the Bible uses both masculine and feminine imagery about God–God in His Being is neither male nor female–in direct address He is referred to as “Father,” not as “Mother.” I used to believe that God could be addressed as both because I did not understand the reason for the exclusively masculine form of address. In the Christian tradition, God is both transcendent and immanent. If God were called “Mother,” this would tend to overemphasize the immanence of God–the image “Mother” reminds one too much of “Mother Earth.” It is more of a pantheistic image than a theistic image. God as Father emphasizes both distance and closeness–both transcendence and immanence. I believe these to be natural images rooted in real differences between men and women. I have heard too many prayers by liberal ministers who use the term “Godself”–I gag every time I hear it. There are theological journals who require “inclusive language” about God–I will not send an article to those journals, for such would violate my religious beliefs. Linguistic fascism wins out in those journals.

Students are taught such pablum in schools, especially the singular “they”–and I cannot count off for such usage in their papers. I would if I could. Most ordinary people continue to use traditional language, and in recent years “man,” “mankind,” and “chairman” have come back into vogue in many news broadcasts. In academia a committee chairman is a piece of furniture, a “chair.” I wonder how they tolerate a term such as “humankind” since that word has “man” in it. Perhaps academic fascists will change the spelling to “humynkind.”

Academics live a sheltered life that emphasizes coming up with new ideas for newness sake. That trend, combined with the influence of the 1960s radicals on academia, have stifled intellectual freedom in many places. Part of such stifling of freedom is imposing politically correct language on professors and students, to the point that some professors will penalize students’ grades if they use traditional language for both sexes.

What can be done? Academics who are in “safer” places need to speak up more against academic fascism, including linguistic fascism. Those whose jobs would be in trouble if they spoke up can talk to those people, including students, whom they trust. The process will be “three steps forward, two steps back,” and there is a risk of failure–but such risk is worth standing up to intellectual totalitarians.