Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Dependence of Diversity Upon Liberty

Much is made of the virtue of diversity, and rightly so. Consider the history of the United States, the melting pot of the world: while many books have been written about the inevitable clash and abuse between so many disparate peoples thrown together in this exceptional nation, still many more have been written of her beautiful fruits, cultivated in the fertile soil of American liberty. It is diversity which gives choice to our liberty. Indeed, the entire history of America is an expression of the greatness which can be achieved when the infinite possibilities of diversity are given the liberty to act.

To celebrate diversity without an equal regard to the liberty in which it thrives, however, is to remove all practical worth from the former. There is a symbiotic relationship between diversity and liberty. Diversity represents mere potential, of little or no practical value, just as a mechanics tool is meaningless until it is put to use. Our toolboxes may be full, but we must above all else be free to use those tools. Diversity of thought and expression, of experience and ingenuity, of culture and belief, these are vitally important characteristics of which we are all possessed, but it is only in our free exercise of reason and unrestrained utilization of free will that our diversity flourishes, providing us with the infinite expressions of life of which we are each capable.

Is it any wonder that the Greeks placed the utmost value on mans ability to reason, or that St. Augustine later spoke of the incredible gift of our God-given free will? Even later still, Kant wrote that our highest moral virtue lie not in our circumstance or achievement, but in the ethics which we each discern and freely choose to live by. Even that bitchy syphilitic layabout Nietzsche believed in the need for the individual to formulate and express his own personal philosophy in order to achieve his highest state of being. Reason, free will, moral virtue freely chosen, self actualization; a common purpose connects even these uncommon thinkers. As mans understanding has developed throughout the centuries an ever more complete explanation of our innate need for individual liberty has emerged.

It could easily be argued that we live today in an era dominated by the issue of diversity. Globalization, information exchange, and the civil rights movement have made it so. Then let it also be argued that we have opened a new chapter in the quest for liberty, for without it we can have no expression of diversity. Life without liberty will be like the capital city of the dark planet of Camazotz, from Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle In Time:

Below them the town was laid out in harsh angular patterns. The houses in the outskirts were all exactly alike, small square boxes painted gray. Each had a small, rectangular plot of lawn in front, with a straight line of dull-looking flowers edging the path to the door. Meg had a feeling that if she could count the flowers there would be exactly the same number for each house. In front of all the houses children were playing. Some were skipping rope, some were bouncing balls. Meg felt vaguely that something was wrong with their play. It seemed exactly like children playing around any housing development at home, and yet there was something different about it. She looked at Calvin and saw that he, too, was puzzled.

“Look!” Charles Wallace said suddenly. “They’re skipping and bouncing in rhythm! Everyone’s doing it at exactly the same moment.”

L’Engle is describing a world devoid of diversity, because free will had been eliminated by a demonic figure known as “IT”. IT boasted that through the banishment of liberty, IT had achieved a world without inefficiency, unhappiness, or war. IT had achieved the ultimate sinister goal of social design: perfect equality of outcome. A world without diversity.

“…that’s exactly what we have on Camazotz. Complete equality. Everybody exactly alike.”

“No!” she (Meg) cried triumphantly. Like and Equal are not the same thing at all!”

Madeleine L’Engle’s allegory beautifully describes the dependency of diversity upon liberty. We are consistently barraged with the message of diversity, but seldom is liberty’s inherent role acknowledged. Remove liberty, and life will lose its free expression of diversity. Diversity will become as meaningless as the color of our skin.

No comments:

Post a Comment