Liberals and other progressives have a unique talent for turning an unproven assumption into a political doctrine needing rigid enforcement.
Welfare was once sold as the prescription for all that ailed African-Americans, and school busing was going to magically eliminate discrimination. In the late 1950s and early ‘60s, blighted urban neighborhoods were going to be torn down and replaced by high-rise public housing. The theory was that people would take better care of public apartments that they didn’t own than they did of houses they didn’t own.
Undeterred by those debacles, progressives have come up with a new utopian dream; that being the inherent goodness of diversity. The new mantra is that, until every workspace in business and government has one racial type of every color under the sun and at least one worker with an alternative lifestyle, the organizations and the country will not be able to realize their full potential. This dogma has been unquestionably accepted by The Washington Post, The New York Times, most major television outlets and the entertainment industry without any empirical evidence whatsoever.
The reality is that the most diverse nations in history have ended badly. The Persian Empire once stretched from Libya to the borders of modern India. It contained people of every creed, color and religion. These citizens did not join willingly, but once conquered, they were generally free to pursue their own cultures and religions as long as they paid their taxes; after all, the Persians ran a “for profit” enterprise.
Unfortunately, diversity did not breed loyalty. Most subjects did not voluntarily mingle with other tribes and religions. When Alexander the Great showed up, the majority of the tribes and ethnic groups turned against each other as well as the central government. The Macedonians didn’t fare any better trying to rule the ruins of the Persian polyglot.
The Roman Empire lasted longer and was even more diverse. Subjects who weren’t slaves were generally free to pray to their own deities and exercise their own cultural norms as long as taxes were paid and no one challenged the authority of the Senate — and later the emperor. Those who couldn’t live by those rules found themselves on a cross or on the wrong end of an impaling stake.
For nearly a thousand years, Latin remained the official language of government and the army. The empire finally became truly diverse around the Fifth Century AD when various Germanic tribes were allowed to join on their own terms. It had become difficult to recruit Roman citizens and even colonial serfs into the army, so recruiting Germanic and Hunnish immigrants seemed like a good solution.
But the new diversity came at a price. The immigrants demanded that they speak their own language and come with own military organizations which were not much different than those of the other barbarians they were hired to protect the empire from. Soon, the Roman army was no longer Roman and Latin ceased to be the primary language in the Latin world. By 476, the empire was gone.
The polyglot Holy Roman (later Austro-Hungarian) Empire was ethnically, but not religiously, diverse. For centuries, its Catholic faith was the only thing that held it together in the face of the Muslim Ottoman Turks in the east and south and the Protestant heresy in the west and north. Modernism in the terrible form of World War I destroyed it. The ethnically diverse remnants of the empire have been at each other’s throats in the Balkans ever since.
The former Soviet Union was the first country to attempt to ideologically enforce diversity through its “New Soviet Man” concept (women were included, too). The idea was to have virtually every organization contain at least one citizen from each Soviet Republic. Those who chafed at the Socialist ideal got a visit from the secret police. Familiarity bred contempt rather than love and respect, and soon after the breakup or the USSR many of the former Soviet republics were in conflict or near conflict.
The United States has survived and prospered for two-and-a-half centuries by assimilating an amazingly diverse variety of ethnic and religious immigrants into a common American experience. You didn’t have to assimilate by law or even to deal with other races or religions voluntarily, but if you did not do so you would likely not succeed economically. The new doctrine of diversity would change all of that. Progressives will find that by attempting to enforce diversity, they will only exacerbate tribalism.
• Gary Anderson lectures on Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs.
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