Inclusion, Belonging, and Other Secular Challenges by Dr. James Patrick
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion.
Behind each word is a “woke” criticism of American culture, a culture that confesses two genders only; a culture that believes its duty to its citizens is discharged when they are afforded the opportunity to succeed, ignoring the fact that generation after generation certain groups are less successful than others; a culture that refuses to welcome every person into every social scene, every activity, without regard to that person's moral choices, background, or social location.
“Inclusion refers to the procedures organizations implement to integrate everyone in the workplace. In other words, diversity indicates the "what" and inclusion the "how".
“Use inclusive language.” This means abjuring the use of any language that hints at different roles for men and women, so the words man, woman must go. “Expose yourself to counter stereotyping imagery,” so that a Martian would believe the clients of Sewell Cadillac are mostly African American. “Empower mentors for underrepresented groups.” This must mean giving minorities a voice. “Use social media to amplify new voices.”
Once can imagine situations in which, with the exception of the first of these beatitudes of “wokeness,” this advice might do good. (As regards the first, it is as Newman said the role of the gentleman never to cause pain. The polite have long and traditionally voided the painful use of language). This month Stanford published a list of harmful words. “Facing mockery, ridicule and widespread internal and external criticism, Stanford University finally took down its Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) website this week.” The question is. “Why was it ever proposed?”
A judicious critic might suggest that the woke rules are for the most part more ambiguous than evil, although ambiguity can work its destruction more effectively than flagrant error. And be it remembered that Our Lord warned against ambiguity: Let your yes be yes, your no, no, anything more is evil. The first woke principle, however, is an attack on reality, making it impossible to tell the truth by drawing distinctions. A woke catechism suggests that DEI is a program directed toward the workplace, which is certainly the case, but it overreaches into commercial and educational and broader economic spheres. Its motive is the destruction of any ordered society. Richard Weaver’s Visions of Order argued that any living cultural order is defined by what it excludes, and this is true even of the woke world. What is excluded is any defense of a moral order reflecting any judgment that any behavior other than denial of DEI is evil, deleterious, or destructive. The cost of refusal to bake a cake celebrating homosexuals unions is economic destruction or life dedicated to legal protests. The cost of bringing a school board under the normative moral control of ordinary parents may at the margins be an investigation by the FBI.
Defenders would say that DEI, and particularly Inclusion is proposed in an attempt to give everyone a chance to belong; its detractors would say the cost is too high; for defenders of perversion--the word itself a judgment--and the surgical mutilation of children to be included without comment is not possible. But the reason DEI is not laughed off the public stage is the fact that, like most errors, it contains some truth or at least recognizes a cultural problem. What and who belongs and what does not? In the 1830s Andrew Jackson’s regime was brought under pressure because the wives of his cabinet members would not sit down to dinner with the wife of General Eaton, the Secretary of War, whom they considered a loose woman. Not being respectable was social death. Now it is the obvious intention of the government to break down any grounds for moral judgment that might imply exclusion by appointing to cabinet office exemplars of moral disorder and parading them before the public what is actually disgusting and pitiable as normal and good.
And this raises the intransigent problem of belonging in a secular age. Belonging is at some level a function of shared vision. A large percentage of millennials do not believe the human race belongs here at all; the cosmos would be better without us. Half of us belong to a Church; half do not. Perhaps thirty or forty percent of us believe that a small child from the moment of conception is a creation of God and beloved of him. Another thirty percent considers that same child an unfortunate impediment to pleasures. Many believe that it is the function of the state to care for each of us, others consider this same solicitude a prolog to slavery. There is not much middle because so many of the questions are by their very nature binary or largely so.
There is now no shared public criteria for belonging that are not economic. It was Ricard Rorty who said that reality was anchored in one’s ability to carry on a conversation with those with whom he agreed. And this has come to pass in the broad culture. It is significant that DEI, although having larger applications, many damaging, is presented as an attempt to encourage belonging in the workplace. For that is the context to which most of us belong. What one is experiencing might be called the re-medievalizing of the West, the actions humans take when, as in the collapse of the Empire in the West, the structure to which they have belonged becomes weak or disappears. The principal evidence of this is the re-emergence (among the would-be survivors) of the family as the central structure capable of bearing the weight of belonging. For some blood is thicker than water.
This is hardly a mass movement, but it is significant. It has been observed that, having foisted easy divorce on the proles, the elite are somewhat less likely to indulge in it. Bill can diddle with innumerable women and Hilary will still be there because she knows divorce is, among other things, very expensive and bad for business. Ancestry.com is doing land-office business.
Politics is now consistently skewed in favor of genealogy, casting a halo of family piety around nepotism. Who would deny that at some level Washington is a family corporation? A minority of middle-class parents care enough about their offspring to revolt against an educational system that, face it, tends to destroy the future of their families. It is encouraging occasionally to see an enraged father attacking a school board because he does not want his child abused in any of the several ways public education encourages. When Church is ‘successful’ it is often because the husband comes back because he has children, for whom, if he is a certain UMC person he will do anything, including bribery and prevarication, to get them in a college he thinks spells success. Why do old people, many of whom by the accident of having been born at the right time, and of the right parents, are actually rich, not just go live in Venice, or Cannes. and spend it all? It’s the grandchildren, stupid, and the illusory notion that if they have a little money they will be safe.
This essay was delivered by Dr. Patrick in his Text and Talk Series for the Lewis Tolkien Society.