The Establishment and the mainstream media like to say that diversity is a strength. This opinion is aggressively rejected by most of the working class, who consider it a great weakness. The reality, as this essay will discuss, is that both sides are right – but only in the appropriate context.
Since the end of World War II, the West has enjoyed great prosperity. Our stockmarkets, factories, airports and seaports have all boomed from the ever-increasing demand. Most people felt like they were getting a good deal, or that, if they weren’t, they soon would. During this great age of plenty, diversity has generally caused more pleasure than pain.
In times of plenty, diversity is a strength. When the economy is growing, and no-one has to worry about competing with each other, then diversity means an enrichment of the everyday experience of life. It means new foods, new cultural displays, new ideas. It means an exciting, vibrant increase in novelty.
In times of shortage, however, diversity means something else.
Every community is divided along fracture lines – lines of race, gender, religion, age, education and cultural affinity. In good times, these fracture lines are papered over by wealth – people don’t need to fight if everyone has enough to meet their own needs. In bad times, these fracture lines are exposed and aggravated.
When times are tough, the community needs to pull together. A given community’s ability to pull together depends mostly on its level of solidarity, and that in turn depends mostly on the number and degree of commonalities that members of the community have with each other. After all, ‘commonality’ and ‘community’ have a similar etymology.
The presence of commonality means co-operation. Where commonalities exist, people are happy to help each other, because they know that this help will benefit a person like them. This knowledge assures them that the help will be reciprocated, and not just taken. They can count on getting helped in the future, and so feel like part of a society, a wider kinship group.
A lack of commonality means exploitation. The rule is that people are willing to exploit others to the degree that those others are different from them. The greater the number of fracture lines in a community or society, the greater the degree of exploitation that exists. As mentioned above, this is no big deal when the economy is expanding, because this means new niches open up for people to move into.
In times of shortage, however, diversity means that helping other people is helping people who aren’t your kin. The natural inclination, then, is to keep for yourself, to not share. The problem here is that people get desperate in times of shortage. When people are desperate, a refusal to share with them often leads to violence.
Diversity makes it much harder to settle the tensions that arise from shortages. Two people of the same culture can use their shared moral values to come to a mutual agreement. If they have a common language, they can talk their way to a mutual understanding. Absent these things, misunderstandings lead to flaring tempers.
Arriving at a mutual agreement in times of scarcity is much easier between two natives than between a native and an immigrant. Between two immigrants, as we see in the Woolworths toilet paper fight video linked above, there is a minimum of commonality, and this regularly ends in actions that are not made from a place of empathy.
If the COVID-19 pandemic does have a severe enough economic impact to cause widespread shortages, some people are going to be forced into making some terrible decisions – and much more terrible than what brand of toilet paper to buy because their preferred one is sold out.
Faced with two patients who can’t breathe, and only one ventilator, the medical staff dealing with the pandemic are going to be forced to make decisions as to who lives and who dies. There are already reports that Italian doctors have been forced to leave old people to die on account of that there aren’t enough beds in intensive care units. Increasing diversity means that some Italian doctors will have to decide whether an elderly native Italian or a younger immigrant gets the ICU bed.
More relevant to the average person are the hundreds of small decisions that they will have to make about questions that test their loyalties. Some people have been stockpiling hand sanitiser on account of that the sudden shortage of it has spiked the price. These price gouging actions have been heavily criticised, on the grounds that not only are they shamelessly opportunistic but they also prevent needy people from getting supplies.
But in a highly diverse society, the balance of rewards is different to what it would be in a more homogenous one. The more diverse society is, the less likely such actions are to harm a person who has something in common with you. All the profit from such actions, however, you keep for yourself. So why not use a pandemic as an opportunity to price gouge? If no-one from your kin group loses out, you might as well take advantage.
Proof for these suppositions come from the fact that neither supermarket fighting nor price-gouging is happening in nations with low levels of diversity. There are no videos of people fighting over toilet paper in places like South Korea, Taiwan or Japan – and there may never be. The absence of diversity in these places means they have enough in common for people to work together instead of chimping out.
All of these problems are just part of the regular course of empires. Empires burgeon, rise, stagnate, decay and fall. The increase in diversity usually comes after the stagnation phase, as the ruling class tries to squeeze out the maximum possible expansion by opening the borders. The current iteration of the West is somewhere between the decay and the fall stages. The nations to successfully respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, like South Korea and Japan, will be the leading nations of this century.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.