Posted on January 29, 2010

Can ‘Diversity’ Ever Be Good?

Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, August 2007

Celebrate Diversity

American Renaissance has always opposed racial diversity on the grounds that it threatens the long-term survival of whites and the civilization they created. AR opposes diversity so consistently that it would be easy to assume that it must be an unalloyed evil. But perhaps it is not. It is possible to imagine diversity that was good for a group, if the arrival of aliens improved its chances for survival. This would be the case if the newcomers were much more advanced than the natives, and bettered their living conditions and reproduction rates.

When the Europeans came, North American Indians were living in the Stone Age. The conquest of the continent by whites swept away their way of life, but it would be possible to argue that their descendants living today are better off because of it. Left to themselves, they would not have developed anything like the white man’s medicine or technology.

But how many people would be convinced by this argument? Would it be more convincing if we were to imagine a benign European presence that left most of Indian society intact and shared only useful technology? Perhaps not even then.

Over the centuries, Europeans and European-influenced people have made contact with scores of South American jungle tribes that were barely into the tool-making stage, and the results were usually bad. The newcomers sometimes massacred or enslaved the primitives, or killed them unintentionally with diseases to which they had no immunity. It is hard to know whether today’s full-blooded Indians of Bolivia or Peru would prefer that the white man had never come — it is virtually impossible to imagine how they would be living now if the Americas had remained undiscovered — but there are plenty of leftists who would argue that they should prefer the dignity of cultural integrity to subordination to Europeans and a few crumbs of Western technology.

Still, humans are glad to get running water, electricity, and Western medicine, and even if they don’t have it themselves, like to think their children might have it some day. No primitive people has ever collectively turned its back on improvement and proudly shut itself up in the Stone Age. (The Japanese strictly limited contact with the outside world from about 1640 to 1854, but theirs was a sophisticated society that absorbed useful Western technology and learning even during this period of seclusion.)

The government of Brazil, however, has established an indigenous peoples policy on the assumption that contact and the resulting diversity are never good. Brazil is one of the few countries where there are still tribes deep in the jungle who live in a purely or mostly “pre-contact” state. Official policy now is to leave those peoples alone, and to prohibit loggers and developers from interfering with them. Why?

During the 20th century, even under what were thought to be the most sensitive and solicitous conditions, “contact” turned out badly. Once they saw tools and foods and trinkets from the outside, tribesmen were unsatisfied with their own. When they came out of the forest, they had no way to make a living, and if they got handouts, they quickly forgot how to live in the forest or simply refused to go back. Many became drunks. The Brazilians finally decided that the damage done by “contact” was so great that forest people should be left alone. Even if it meant death in childbirth, rampant disease, unpunished murder, and perpetual ignorance, this was better than the devastation of suddenly being drawn into a new and bewildering world.

Though this may, in the end, be the most humane policy, one hardly knows whether to call it “liberal” or “conservative.” But it does raise questions about the purpose and advisability of “diversity.” Contact offers to primitives an entire universe of possibilities and powers that are entirely beyond their reach. Potential for improvement is so great that this would appear to be the most obvious and perfect example of the benefits of “diversity.” And yet even when these powers and possibilities are introduced with the best of intentions, the Brazilians have decided it is best to withhold them because things are likely to go wrong. Even “diversity” of a kind that should theoretically bring incalculable benefits is too damaging.

It is worth noting that no one in Brazil complains that the “no contact” policy deprives the rest of the country of the wonderful gifts the forest people could bring. Brazilians understand that they are not giving up something in not trying to get the primitives out of the forest. Nor does one hear of even the most Third-World-besotted white leftists emigrating to the jungle to live the rest of their lives in natural, untainted authenticity. No. Everyone implicitly assumes that the primitives have nothing to offer us. We have a great deal to offer them, but they cannot absorb it, so we and they are all better off if they just stay where they are.

Why is it so difficult to see why this argument does not apply to the diversity of the kind white people all around the world are supposed to be celebrating? Brazilians have finally decided that no one benefits when newcomers try to bring the Nuclear Age or even the Age of Steam to people who are still living in the Stone Age. They realize that the reverse process — ambassadors from the Stone Age bringing their “civilization” to the 21st century — would be ridiculous. And yet, this is what Americans are officially supposed to promote. Think of the “diversity” that could be brought to an American university by someone who has never worn clothes or counted past three. Why even expect such a paragon to go to classes? Let him just walk around campus radiating diversity.

This is only a slight caricature of what we are required to believe. People from failed, hopelessly sclerotic societies who have nothing to offer us (except, perhaps, for a willingness to do manual labor at below-market wages) are a wonderful addition to our society, even though decades of failure have taught Brazilians that people who bring penicillin and pocket knives to people who never heard of them end up leaving their “beneficiaries” worse off than they were before.

Can we not get the same respect and consideration as Amazon savages?