Current society, quite understandably so, has a fear of imposed conformity in the name of unity. History has repeatedly given examples of oppressive systems under the disguise of unity – feudalism, castes, communism, fascism, theocracy, nationalism, and authoritarianism. This legitimate fear has resulted in the populous back-lashing against government and order – manifested as distrust of organized religion, distrust of social systems such as medicine and academics, distrust of most economic and legal regulations, distrust of any position of power – leading to an ungovernable condition. Appeals to social harmony and unity today are met with such resistance and suspicion. (Ironically, current society also embraces very uniformed practices in economics, education, health care, agriculture, and governance, to name a few).
Promotion of unity, therefore, cannot take a superficial approach, lest it be criticized by historically informed and socially conscious observers as, at best, hopelessly naive and unrealistically idealistic; and at worst, threatening, dangerous, and oppressive – claiming it to be a suffocation of diversity, a silencing of thought, and a violation of freedoms and rights.
To intelligently promote oneness, conceptions of unity must increasingly become related to and coherent with the principle of justice, which necessitates the preservation of diversity. Diversity is a source of strength; while uniformity, even the replication of something correct, is always weak. The purpose of justice is achieving unity, and unity can only be sustained through the power of justice. Unity is the governing dynamic of reality, and justice is the means of its expression through social reality.
What are the questions we can ask that help guide us towards achieving this coherence?
6 replies on “Fear of Uniformity”
How should diversity be preserved?
As we increase unity, some cultures on the margins will be lost. Extremely small, isolated cultures lose their children to emigration. Their language and oral traditions slowly die.
As the world unites, some cultures die, but everyone gets to sample more. Is it better to have 100 cultures where each is unaware of the other 99’s existences? Or better to have it shrink to 50 cultures that all of us have an opportunity to sample.
Who decides how much cultural destruction is acceptable? Surely the elders in these small dying communities would love to force their children to stay. If we can force 10,000 young people to stay in their small dying community and keep their culture alive, the 7,000,000,000 other humans will have an opportunity to taste a bit of that preserved culture and we’ll all be spiritually richer for it. (Except for those 10,000 kids, they’ll practically be slaves and hate us for stealing their freedom.)
Thank you Becon, for offering two questions regarding achieving coherence between unity and justice. “How should diversity be preserved?” is a great question, one that requires a tremendous amount of reflection on how justice and unity are conceptualized, on understanding true human nature, and creating a coherence framework through which to view the world. It’s true that as world civilization advances, some cultures will not maintain the same form that they previously took. In our current age, however, it’s difficult to imagine anything being lost. Every single culture and every single individual can contribute to the generation and application of knowledge; and with the explosion of communication, integration, and access to knowledge and its storage, the unique contributions of all peoples can endure. To consider your example, it’s obviously better to have 100 cultures that all contribute to the betterment of the world! Why choose between a false dichotomy? A question that follows is, how can we as a human race draw from the diverse talents and capacities of all of humanity; how can we manifest the whole range of human potentialities?
Some cultural expressions will be antithetical to the direction and goals of a new world civilization. These, instead of being actively sought out to stifle, or targeted through one group deciding what values are important and what are not, will, instead, gradually and naturally fade away and become irrelevant – similar to a child outgrowing his clothing. Of course, humanity could choose the path of warfare and strife, but we could just as easily choose peace and unity. Neither choice is more difficult than the other; they both require the response of social structures and human consciousness. And with either choice humanity is evolving. What the choice does determine is the level of suffering during our transition.
As an ecosystem progresses – called the process of ecological succession – it is the grass that creates the conditions which allow the transformation to the shrubs, which then creates conditions that allow for transformation to the mid-sized trees, and so on. In this case, the grass is not destroyed and taken over by the shrubs, and they are not, in turn, destroyed by the trees. It is one patch of land, one mass of carbon based molecules, one ever-changing ecosystem, united under the same physical forces, and constantly transforming structure and function as it matures. So it is with humanity – one body, constantly developing and evolving, changing social structure and relationships, as it evolves towards a world civilization.
” In our current age, however, it’s difficult to imagine anything being lost. Every single culture and every single individual can contribute to the generation and application of knowledge; and with the explosion of communication, integration, and access to knowledge and its storage, the unique contributions of all peoples can endure. To consider your example, it’s obviously better to have 100 cultures that all contribute to the betterment of the world! Why choose between a false dichotomy?”
You’re absolutely right that from this point forward, almost every culture will be extensively preserved for posterity. No culture has to literally die.
But I wasn’t just talking about having a record of them. Is simply reading a book or watching a film enough? I’m talking about being immersed in other cultures. Not all 100 cultures will remain active. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. As the local population becomes diluted, it will be harder to have an authentic cultural experience. All that will be left are museums or pathetic little replicas that look like renaissance faires. It is not a false dichotomy.
I agree with you as well, that not all cultures will remain active. However, like ecological succession, their contributions to society will allow transformation to occur; and since our goal is transformation, our question becomes how diverse cultures can generate knowledge that propels the advance of civilization. It’s less about “cultural experience” or recording a snapshot of a culture in time, and more about furthering the betterment of the world and creating new cultures – a culture of learning, a culture of unity, a culture of cooperation, a culture of consultation. As the world changes, so shall all cultures. But, it will be current cultures’ contributions that lead to this change.
A solid, sensible answer. Thanks.
I think this is an important point: “Diversity is a source of strength; while uniformity, even the replication of something correct, is always weak.”
Just because we have found an approach to something successful, or enjoy the personality of a particular friend or are entertained by a certain movie, we cannot continue pursuing those things and expect positive results to continue as a result of uniformity. Look at your friends, they’re sure to be very different. The more different, perhaps the stronger your friendships.
As society continues to evolve, this concept, that diversity is a source of strength, needs to be at the forefront of approaches. How will we provide social services? What will the structure of education be? What will the backbone of our economy be? Whatever the answers, uniformity is not the way to apply them.