Friday, January 10, 2014

Diverse Thoughts About Diversity

On Saturday, Gossips reported on an initiative to ensure diversity in the City's workforce proposed by newly elected aldermen Alexis Keith (Fourth Ward) and Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward). Today, John Mason reports on the reaction to the proposal from Hudson officialdom: "New council members call for increased diversity in city's workforce."

18 comments:

  1. What does this mean: "problems [with diversity] in the private sector as well."

    How irresponsible to conflate the laudable goal of "equal opportunity" with the pandering notion that society can engineer an equality of outcome too. It's a chimera.

    Besides which, it's an atrociously bad and illiberal idea for local government to insert itself into the hiring practices of the private sector.

    The irony is that it's not the kind of thinking that can attract businesses and jobs to Hudson.

    (To be fair, the sentiment was a journalist's paraphrase of what was said.)

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  2. Society engineered the inequality of outcome that exists today. That's a historical fact. Those with the means and resources to effect change and correct the mistakes of the past have a responsibility to do it. Seems to me.

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    1. I hardly know where to begin with this statement:

      "Society engineered the inequality of outcome that exists today. That's a historical fact."

      Evidently I reject whatever it is you conceive as "history," since there can be no such thing as a historical fact.

      (How is the word "fact" useful in any context anymore, except to bludgeon each other? My notion of factuality is more in line with what the filmmaker Andre Tarkovsky said about microscopes: "they're cudgels.")

      Your linear idea that outcomes are the result of causation leads to the next invidious implication, that such results were somehow intentional.

      Presumably, if inequality was and is "engineered" according to your lights, then without this supposed engineering the outcome would have delivered us to what is actually an impossibility, a state of "equality."

      They tried that approach in the French Revolution you know, which enough of our founders had the good sense to reject. Instead, our republic is messily founded on a set of principles which is internally structured to make equal opportunity available to all.

      Your apology for social engineering can ONLY undermine those principles.

      (I sense a redistributive subtext in your meaning, which is inconsistent with our founding principles, and in the not dissimilar way that Affirmative Action is internally inconsistent with the superb Civil Rights Act of 1964.)

      I entirely agree with you that "those with the means and resources to effect change and correct the mistakes of the past have a responsibility to do [so]." I totally agree with that.

      But the way forward as you describe it, with your premises, your promises, and your facts, can only lead to more cruelty and mischief.

      Yes, we must strive for an equality of opportunity, but you're saying something else entirely. I embrace the first, and totally reject the second.

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  3. Let not your hearts be troubled; LBJ's war on poverty, combined with the Big 0's economic stimulus, will kick in any day now...

    Fifty years of government dole has produced the single parent household as the "norm" needed to keep the money flowing.

    And although nepotism and racism are ever present in Hudson's government, an absent parent is more often the missing rung in the ladder to upward/outward mobility.

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  4. There are no historical facts. The holocaust never happened. There was no slavery in America. The past has no relationship to the present. The principles weren't designed to keep money in the pockets of those who already controlled it.

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  5. @SlowArt: I don't think that the existence of slavery in America or occurrence of a holocaust in Europe are in dispute. Certainly plenty of concrete evidence exists to substantiate each claim. I think the issue, in contrast, is that your statement that "[s]ociety engineered the inequality of outcome that exists today ... [t]hat's a historical fact" is broad and subjective. There are many people smarter than me that could support your claim, and many who could disprove it. That makes it pretty tough to categorize your statement as an "historical fact" within the context you're using it. If we both agree that our economy, for the sake of simplicity, is one based on capitalism, then isn't inequality of outcome inevitable? Perhaps even a necessity? But doesn't our socio-economic system also afford the opportunity for equality of outcome?

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  6. Joe and Ward's comments are both eloquent, and far more concise than what I can manage.

    I certainly wouldn't wish to diminish the horrific enormity of history's worst events, nor would I bolster irresponsible claims that they never happened. My approach is closer to Joyce's line, that "history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."

    But when events are no longer happening, they can only be, as in Joyce's sense, collective representations. We're entrusted to remember them as best we can, against the ever-present temptation to exploit the past by saddling it with meanings it never had.

    New representations easily take their shapes from ideologies, which permit a wide latitude in discovering things that never were. After enough repetition, the added interpretations become our new collective representations, our new "facts."

    It's in this way that historical "facts" are more mirror than telescope.

    As to the idea that the founding principles were, as SlowArt puts it, "designed to keep money in the pockets of those who already controlled it," that was certainly the intention of all the founders. Private property was and is the cornerstone of the Anglo-American insight into how best to balance and preserve all of the conflicting interests which liberty offers.

    What I was questioning was the claim, served up as fact, that our predecessors "engineered [today's] inequality of outcome."

    To take the economic argument only, if the principle of the free market was (and is) to keep money in certain pockets, it is not therefore required to deny it from other pockets. This erroneous, zero-sum fantasy is a recent acquisitions (something like a collective Marxist hangover).

    Slavery was correctly seen as the epic hazard it was by nearly every founder, and those with the greatest insight knew that it would someday be settled in the worst way possible, by civil war.

    In today's world, to take the measure of our complex history and struggle towards universal suffrage by projecting it against a simplistic zero-sum economic model is worse than mischievous, and far from "factual."

    That said, it's simply not possible "to awake" from history. It's impossible despite our facts and tools, and lately it's impossible because of them too.

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  7. lol forever at white men denying the existence of institutional privilege & the direct benefits they reap from it.

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    1. Yes, but what period are you addressing?

      There are too many who'd conflate all historical periods into one universal truth, and then leave it at that.

      Why would anyone do that? And how can it really help the situation?

      In itself it's totally mischievous and irresponsible, but it's much worse when a politician does it for cynical reasons - to achieve a self-serving outcome.

      (I'm NOT suggesting that you're doing that, D.)

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    2. As I see it, this discussion is addressing the question of the government's role in remedying perceived problems within the private sector.

      While I'm not making a purely libertarian argument that there's no place for this in the big picture, what's laughable is the very idea that local government will 1.) be capable of any level of authentic insight, and 2.) be able to achieve anything positive as a remedy to its supposed insights.

      Exercises such as these at the local level always come with big price tags, they suppress employment opportunities in the short- and long-run, and they generate huge resentments before they finally collapse in the end as failed and misguided experiments.

      Here's a terrific idea: let's not do that.

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    3. @Dave: Certainly white men benefit directly from institutional privilege, but do all white men? Among those who do, do they all benefit equally? Do WASPs benefit more than Catholics who benefit more than Jews? Do those of Anglo-Saxon descent benefit more than Italians or Greeks? What about white-looking men from Chechnya? Rich white vs poor white?

      If some benefit more than others, and still some not at all, how do we measure and quantify the direct benefits being reaped? If we're going to try to level the playing field, or make up for past wrongdoing why don't we make the target group the disenfranchised poor in the community, regardless of race or ethnicity?

      I'm sure Hudson has families that have been there for generations, steeped in poverty, both black and white. I support breaking the cycle of poverty 100% as long as the goal is to help ALL who need it and not turn away those who aren't the right color. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination.

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    4. Here here, Ward. Again, very eloquently said.

      My own forebears reached Boston and read the same sign everywhere, "Irish need not apply."

      Hudson ought to be looking forward right now and doing its damndest to attract employers.

      This business of diversity is a bit of a side issue, although I honestly don't know a single person who'd grudge more diversity in local government, and no do I.

      My beef is with the demagoguery of politicians. My message to them: ATTRACT GOOD EMPLOYERS HERE.

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  8. Finally to return to the opening statement, "problems [with diversity] in the private sector as well," what was the Common Council President suggesting?

    Because Mr. Moore's meaning was being paraphrased at the time, here it is again in context:

    "[Moore] said he'd like to have a task force 'to look into what we know and don't know.' Questions have to be looked into, such as whether this committee would address just municipal and county employment, or problems in the private sector as well."

    Whether or not the statement was a case of opportunism, made easier by the disinclination of most residents to wade into a discussion about race, what is the implied form of action that government might take to remedy such perceived "problems"?

    (And keep in mind that even a governmental perception of a thing is a species of action, which invariably develops into subsequent and more substantial actions.)

    Thus for a potential employer looking to invest in Hudson, which of the following is more ominous: the invariable conclusions that such a "task force" would reach (whether true or not) when studying diversity in the private sector, or the subsequent remedies Mr. Moore would apply in his way to the problems which his task force perceives?

    Because Mr. Moore's paraphrased statement already may have had the effect of deterring the employment opportunities he ostensibly aims to address; and because he knew that pontificating on the subject of race in this manner effectively placed him above criticism; I must conclude that he was demagoguing a difficult issue for personal reasons, and at the expense of potential jobs in the private sector.

    In his position as council president, he should be more responsible in future than to demagogue on subjects such as race or jobs.

    From the phrasing in the Register Star, it's apparent he's lost sight of the proper limits of responsible governance.

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  9. The hysteria that always rears its head anytime diversity is uttered boggles the mind. No one is asking for quotas or preferential hiring. What the Aldermen propose is better outreach (or outreach for the first time) which encourages members of underrepresented communities to apply. Hudson has large African - American, Bangladeshi and LGBT communities. What would be the harm if our governments recruited employees from the groups who actually live in Hudson? For years many positions have gone unposted and unadvertised, only to go to the cousin, nephew, wife or brother of another connected individual. A workforce and police force which better reflects Hudson's diversity would go a long way to foster better relations between citizens and their government.

    Congratulations and thanks to Aldermen Garriga and Keith for hitting the ground running. I completely support their efforts.

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    1. Remove the lion's teeth? Your suggesting anarchy to monarchy.

      Lex is just the beginning of painful experience, for (white) males in Hudson politics.

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  10. Victor, did you even read this thread? Council President Moore allegedly spoke of "problems in the private sector."

    That means that a usually bungling local government has just signaled its willingness to meddle in the affairs of local businesses, when it's employment that supposedly concerns our leaders.

    I'm all for diversity in government, but government increasingly knows no limits for its usually misguided actions.

    If you did read this thread, then I ask you to read it again. Then please address the implications of Mr. Moore's meaning with more fidelity to the issue being discussed: the private sector.

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  11. Why President Moore would bring up the private sector in this context is beyond me when it is the city and county governments houses which are most not in order.
    By allowing the creation of this committee, Mr. Moore has the power to begin to address in the light of day, the long standing inequalities, nepotism and dysfunction that has been endemic for far too long. I hope he will give the newly elected members the tools they need to begin addressing the problem.
    Time will tell.

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  12. Much better said, thanks.

    In addition to which, I agree.

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