Don’t Maximize General Diversity in Communities

What are the different kinds of diversity within a community? Lets say Culture and Strategy are the highest abstractions for traits. Culture is less about what we want to achieve (i.e. excludes ambition) and more about who we are. Therefor, culture contains things such as a demographic and an accepted morality. Strategy, on the other hand, is about choosing a system to solve the problem at hand, or how a community functions.

This is why the idea of “Culture Over Bureaucracy” is interesting. It hopes for Strategy to be an emergent quality of Culture. An attempt at functional anarchy. The goals of the community are reached from a bottom-up Bias Towards Action.

Arguments Against Anarchy
The argument: some constraint is good for us; absolute freedom is not.

Durkheim, the sociologist who found that freedom from social ties is correlated with suicide also gave us the word “anomie” (normlessness):

“Anomie is the condition of a society in which there are no clear rules, norms, or standards of value. In an anomic society, people can do as they please; but without any clear standards or respected social institutions to enforce those standards, it is harder for people to find things they want to do. Anomie breeds feelings of rootlessness and anxiety and leads to an increase in amoral and antisocial behavior. Modern sociological research strongly supports Durkheim: One of the best predictors of health of an American neighborhood is the degree to which adults respond to the misdeeds of other people’s children. When community standards are enforced, there is constraint and cooperation. When everyone minds his own business and looks the other way, there is freedom and anomie.”

“Sociologist James Hunter carries Durkheim’s ideas forward into the current debate about character education. Hunter describes how before the Industrial Revolution, America valued certain virtues of ‘producers’–hard work, self-restraint, sacrifice for the future, and sacrifice for the common good. Since then, there has been a ‘Death of Character’, which refers to a shift away from valuing characters that embody certain virtues, and towards a focus on individual preferences and personal fulfillment. This shift from the intrinsically moral term ‘character’ to the amoral term ‘personality’ may exist in proportion to the shift from a producer society into the mass consumption society.”

“A second cause of the death of character could be inclusiveness in response to a diversifying America. The result was a shrinking set of unanimously held moral ideas. At its extreme, this refers to the “values clarification” movement from the 1960s which taught children to find their own values, and refrained teachers from imposing their own. ‘However, asking children to grow their own virtues is like asking each one to invent a personal language–a pointless and isolating task if there is no community with whom to speak.'” (Jonathan Haidt)

Why we shouldn’t morally diversify
“Celebrating diversity might encourage division, whereas celebrating commonality would help people form cohesive groups and communities.”

So again, lets say there are at least two main kinds of diversity within Culture: Demographic and Moral. Demographic diversity (race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age) is in many ways a calling for justice, for the inclusion of previously excluded groups.

“However, moral diversity is essentially what Durkheim described as anomie: a lack of consensus on moral norms and values. Once you make this distinction, you see that nobody can coherently even want moral diversity.” (Jonathan Haidt)

Moral diversity may be wanted in intentional learning environments to evolve perspectives, but it is not wanted with the people we socialize with.

Therefore, from this view, diversity is like cholesterol: some kinds are good, others bad. Perhaps we shouldn’t try to maximize both. Its good to be open to people of every demographic, but it is also good to work together towards a common, shared identity.

So it would be nice to have a richly textured common ethos with widely shared virtues and values (i.e. wisdom, courage, humanity, justice, curiosity, temperance, and transcendence). “But the loss of a language of virtue, grounded in a particular tradition, makes it difficult for us to find meaning, coherence, and purpose in life.” (Jonathan Haidt)


Behavioral Difficulties
One can be morally opposed to something, but not behaviorally opposed. In some cases this is good. For example, consider a trolley that is going to kill 5 people. You are standing next to a switch, and if you hit the switch, then it will only kill one person. Do you involve yourself in the dilemma by hitting the switch, thus saving 5 people?

Now consider an analogous situation. 5 people are dying, but they can all be saved if you steal all the organs from a living person. Do you involve yourself in the dilemma by kidnapping and killing this one person in order to save 5 people?

The first example is more abstract, and is therefor judged mostly on moral grounds. The second one is more grounded in the real world, and thus is more behaviorally entangled.

As another example, you can learn about the moral arguments of not eating factory farmed meat, and as a result be morally against it, but then continue to eat factory farmed meat.

Therefor the most difficult part in working towards less moral diversity is finding and implementing the appropriate behavioral reactions.

The solutions here do not come from general principles. Morality is difficult because its an accumulation of edge cases. Therefor, moral education is more about training in problem solving insofar as morality is about these edge-case dilemmas.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s