Questioning Diversity – speech for session on my book at The Battle of Ideas

This is the text of the speech I gave at the session about my book, 'The Tribe: the liberal-left and the system of diversity' at the Barbican, London on Saturday 13th October 2018. It differed a little in delivery. Further details of the session and the participants are here.


Hello Everyone. Thank you all for coming.

Also a special thank you to Jon [Holbrook] and the Academy of Ideas for arranging this session.

And another special thank you to Christine [Louis-Dit-Sully], James [Panton] and Helen [Dale] for agreeing to participate and for wading through this book of mine.

I hope we can have an interesting and lively discussion about it and the issues it raises.





So, let’s get into it. What is this book all about?

I’ve been reflecting on this and I think I could give a lot of answers.

Of course, on the surface it’s about the politics of identity and the politics of diversity. I started off writing it in order to highlight some of the problems that are arising from them.

I also started off with what I call ‘the liberal-left’ or ‘progressive liberal-left’ at the forefront of my mind. I had become increasingly interested in its role in promoting these forms of politics based around such things as gender, skin colour and sexual orientation – and came to think that this is what defines it as a sort of identity group in its own right.

So there is another theme there about what has happened to liberal and left-wing politics as it has embraced these forms of identity politics while virtually abandoning that based around class.

But I could also say it’s about our modern world and the technocratic forms of power that are dominant in it. By this I mean those who govern us treating government as a technical exercise: to maximise things like GDP and diversity for the greater good: stuff that can easily be measured.

Another important theme is the relationship between the individual and the group – whether that’s a racial or gender group or a social/political group like the liberal-left.

For me, the nature of the self is as much ‘out there’ in the group as ‘in here’ in the individual, but we do have that special little window of freedom.

However, that little window is vulnerable – and so is our relationship to the truth.

Sometimes it’s convenient not to tell the truth – and our group commitments play a big role in leading us away from it. 

Not necessarily by lying.

But by sidestepping the truth. Avoiding it. Turning to other forms of truth that are more convenient – for ourselves and our groups.

To a large extent I see this as being just part of the human condition.

I say right at the beginning of the book,

‘Collective life has its own justification – to be together and through that to survive and prosper now and into the future.’ 

We can’t do without groups. And to exist they must have some sort of definition – i.e. some form of identity.

Joining a group or being part of a group is inherently political. Indeed I think it is the essence of politics. But what we normally call ‘identity politics’ is different to this.

It’s simultaneously a sub-category but also much bigger.

It’s a sub-category because it focuses on only certain kinds of identity relation – like skin colour, gender and religion. (By identity relation I mean something that we link to or that others do, thereby tying people to their skin colour and other such things.) 

These forms of identity politics are integrated into a totalising view of the world, which claims that certain identity groups – notably men and white-skinned people – are dominating society and oppressing other groups. 

This is a form of universal knowledge, and it justifies a politics which favours those victim groups like women, non-white-skinned people and Muslims while seeking to suppress the oppressing groups.

In theoretical terms, the simplicity of this account may be a weakness. But politically it’s a strength.

It’s so easy.

Some groups are victims and others oppressors. The righteous way to go is therefore to favour the victims and disfavour the oppressors.

That’s all you need to know. 

Simple. 

And so we arrive the identity politics we all know and love, in which the world appears as an antagonistic conflict between identity groups – and which we set up an antagonistic conflict between identity groups to counter.

Or something like that.

Thankfully, the reality isn’t quite as clear-cut. In practice, we know that a lot of the time people from these oppressor and victim categories get on pretty well.

Men and women sometimes quite like each other.

There are now many more than a million mixed-race Britons which shows how white-skinned and non-white skinned people sometimes get on OK too. 

Yet despite many of the activists’ claims falling down when scrutinised, they seem to go from strength to strength – picking up awards, receiving government grants and forcing big organisations to do what they say and give them money. 

Again, we can see a political strength.

And this is one reason why I talk about diversity as a ‘system’ in my book: because favouring people according to things like skin colour and gender has become a model for how our major institutions should go about their business – and this helps make it a model for the rest of us too.

We favour the favoured groups and the organisations which represent them, as long as they represent themselves and their groups as victims.

This model comes out of liberal and left-wing politics, especially the Labour Party in this country.

Labour now has an extensive infrastructure of identity group favouritism integrated into its rulebook and structure – including All-Women’s Shortlists for MP selection and the powerful role of Keith Vaz as BME representative on the party’s governing body. 

The party also, almost automatically, takes the side of favoured group representatives when they have a grievance – such as when Islamist organisations complain about the Prevent anti-terrorism strategy or feminist groups demand higher pay for top female journalists at the BBC.

This is a model of outsourcing authority to people who appear as representatives of these groups as victim groups.

And we can see it appearing all over our society now.

We can see it in organisations paying activists to come in and instruct their employees on how to talk about their identity groups. We can see it in the police throwing resources to combat hate speech while neglecting conventional crime like theft. We can also see it in big media organisations like the BBC and Channel 4 producing more content led by people who present themselves as representatives of favoured identity groups and who are often overtly political in asserting that role. 

We can now see there are possibilities available for playing these roles: for representing these favoured groups as victim groups and for outsourcing authority to them.

In other words, this system of diversity is working.

It’s a working system of how we can relate to each other.

And that is a very compressed version of what The Tribe is all about. 

It’s about how a certain way of relating to the world, favouring people based on their identities, has become integrated into our society. 

Anyway, now it’s time for me to shut up, so we can hear what Christine and Helen thought about it, then we can open out to you lot [the audience].


Jon Holbrook and Helen Dale have both reviewed The Tribe - for Spiked and Quillette respectively. Also at the time of writing there are 14 reviews up on the Amazon UK website with an average rating of 4.5 stars out of 5.

Comments

  1. I am just posting a view from someone who posted on another page about the debate before I posted this. His/her name was given as 'nowaylon'

    'A few sketchy thoughts following your discussion on Saturday with Dr Christine Louis-Dit-Sully and Helen Dale. Apologies if I have misunderstood what was said.

    I was interested that Christine’s criticism of The Tribe is that it is covertly “identitarian” (ie. advancing the interests of an unfavoured identities) rather than being radically opposed to all identity politics. I can see her point but surely the rejection of identity can only lead to a very narrow, individualistic view of ourselves.
    Yours is a critique of tribalism and identity in the present unique historic moment, but not an absolute rejection of either. You are not against diversity either, in the proper sense, but only the ideological, distorted sense in which it is employed in what you call the “system of diversity” which becomes antithetical to diversity, in that it excludes certain groups or points of view.
    In terms of the hard “what is to be done?” question, I formed a positive thought towards the end of the discussion, which is perhaps the way forward is always to argue for genuine diversity, not ideological diversity, and for genuine inclusion, not ideological inclusion. To give examples, in my workplace diversity and inclusion are promoted strongly in various ways, but not always in a strongly ideological or “correct” way. For instance, white women showing their “diversity” by participating in dance forms of other ethnicities, and christians and jews advancing their cultural “diversity” alongside those of other religions. Ideological systems are never absolute or all controlling - reality provides people with wriggle-room. Insistence on taking words like diversity and inclusion literally and non-ideologically can be radical!
    But of course, diversity and inclusion should not operate only in terms of group identity; this value should also apply to us as individuals. The idea of promoting and committing to “viewpoint diversity” in our institutions, as advanced by Jonathan Haidt in the US, is a good starting point. Haidt is also amazing in understanding tribalism in moral and political thinking, as you probably know.'

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  2. The problem for supporters of the system of diversity is that they are slowly waking up to the fact that the system has oppressed hundreds of thousands of poor white people, be they the tens of thousands of white children (girls AND boys) raped and tortured by Muslim men in every town and city in England, those children's families or the thousands of lone white men who have been attacked by Muslim gangs near Islamic ghettoes these last twenty five years or so. I have counted four unprovoked attacks in just two towns, Bolton and Rochdale, in the last week. The media of course never frame these attacks in this way ('it's just crime') but Muslims don't attack each other like that for there would be serious consequences within the tight knit communities.

    Everyone knows Stephen Lawrence's name: no one knows the names of Kriss Donald, Ross Parker, Richard Everitt and Gavin Hopley.

    Indeed, researching these crimes lead me to the discovery that there were a number of protests against them in the early 00s by British nationalists and that the same organisations which helped cover up the rape gangs, UAF etc. were the same ones which formed counter demonstrations and which have members inside the National Union of Journalists:

    http://rwbnorthwest.blogspot.com/2012/02/rights-for-whites.html

    https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/02/285478.html?c=on

    They have an unquantifiable amount of blood on their hands.

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  3. Questioning diversity:

    If white privilege exists, why did Elizabeth Warren pretend to be Native American?

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  4. Margaret Collins20 October 2018 at 21:42

    I don't think it can be underestimated how important this quotation from your book may yet turn out to be:

    'In 1870, Karl Marx noted how ‘Ireland constantly sends her own surplus to the English labour market, and thus forces down wages and lowers the material and moral position of the English working class.’ He added, ‘This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organization. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power. And the latter is quite aware of this.’ … '

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  5. ''It takes centuries for a place to accrue gravity and resonance, where every stone remembers and every brick speaks, so Ea Kly is still very much an improvised frontier, but as new as this Vietnamese hamlet is, and it doesn’t get any newer, Ea Kly already feels more grounded than any American neighborhood I lived in, whether in Tacoma, Salem, San Jose, Annandale or even South Philadelphia, where I spent nearly three decades. One can easily spend a decade or two in an American place and not know anything about its past characters and anecdotes, so the only shared history one has is made up mostly of tales of exploits by corporate sport stars and favorite scenes from TV shows. Born into alienation, many Americans have never experienced anything but, so they bristle at mere suggestions that life can possibly be less virtual.''

    Yet another consequence of replacement migration. Everything dissolves into the globalist goo.

    https://www.unz.com/ldinh/provincial-taxonomy/

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