February 28, 2023 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Critics of ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ and their love of antipolitical politics
They accuse colleges of answering to the Politburo of Wokeness. What they are telling us is less about politics and more about who they are.
You have heard me say, and will keep hearing me say, that politics is not something that happens to us. It is us. We, the human beings inhabiting this planet, are political creatures living lives of political creatureliness, on account of being humans who evolved from the creation of this planet.
A longing for those bygone days “when everyone knew each other,” “when everyone got along,” “when things made more sense,” when there wasn’t so much fuss, is an example of the political creatureliness I’m talking about.
The difference is that political creatureliness is honest. It is who we are. Longing for a time when we were not who we are is dishonest. It denies humanity. It insists on being above the coil of our creatureliness, as if we did not evolve from the creation of this planet, as if we were more like God.
The antipolitical politics
The status quo, or “the way things are,” is a product of politics, a product that is in the process of becoming something else, a process that is generating and regenerating at the same time. Politics in, politics out. In, out, in-out-in.
So when critics of politics insist on politics being less political, bear in mind they are telling us less about politics and more about who they are. Mostpeople tell us who they are, tell us in unmistakable terms, but we often deny what’s in front of us, partly on account of believing that political creatures on this planet do not possess or exhibit political creatureliness.
Politics and humanity are impossible to decouple. Yet much of our political discourse is oriented toward decoupling them. Our discourse, therefore, privileges one politics over all others right away. It’s antipolitical politics.
I’m reminded of the fad among supposedly neutral observers lamenting the state of speech and academic freedom on university campuses.
There’s a sense among them that the New Things are somehow spoiling the Old Things with their insistence on diversity, equity and inclusion.
It’s on the strength of this spoilage that supposedly neutral observers call out the ideological “threats to academic freedom in America.”
Missing as usual is the concession that the Old Thing used to be the New Thing, and that the New Thing became the Old Thing because the New Thing once upon a time challenged, defeated and replaced the previous Old Thing.
This process of status quo-challenge-defeat-new status quo is as predictable as winter breaking into spring, and it’s predictable because human beings are political creatures whose desires, interests, ideas, principles and follies are always already in a state of conflict and disorder. They only seem at peace when enough people have enough reason over enough time to stop fighting – when there’s a general agreement that the Old Thing’s time has come.
That this process of growth, decay and renewal is invisible to mostpeople doesn’t bother me much because everyone is paying attention to other things far more concrete and pressing than the vagaries of political creatureliness.
I am bothered by the sophisticates passing off their views, which are the views of the status quo, as if free of the sin of their politics, as if free of the stink of their shit. I can’t say frequently enough how radical it is for the sophisticates to deny humanity in order to gain an advantage over humans who are not so sophisticated as to deny their creaturely link to humanity.
Voice of God
Again, I think of the critics of university campuses acting as if professors of any personality of any field of study are not enmeshed in the families, communities and institutions as much as anyone else, so that when professors lend their support to the New Thing, they are accused of politics.
Universities have always been sites of political, religious and ideological conflict. If “universities that promote ideological conformity do students a disservice,” as declared by The Voice-of-God Economist, universities have been doing a disservice to their students since the inception of universities.
That is an absurd statement unworthy of respect. Yet here we are, expected to respect a 180-year-old magazine (that’s called a “newspaper”) that says, without blinking, that “academic excellence is not enough” on college campuses. “Applicants must also submit a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) statements explaining how they will advance these goals.” And:
That may sound fair enough, except that a promise to treat everyone equally would constitute a failure.
That is an absurd statement unworthy of respect. Yet The Economist can expect and will receive unworthy and undeserving respect less because of what it says than because of what it is: a global organ of the status quo.
Treating students equally is treating them fairly, which is an “ideology” that’s been around since, I dunno, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and other religious venerables around the world. Are we expected to think the Golden Rule is a radical ideology? Of course not. That word is saved for liberal reformers speaking up for the New Thing against the Old Thing.
In purest form
Ironically, The Economist Group, which owns The Economist, does not deny its nature, its humanity. It does not insist, as the 180-year-old “newspaper” does, on being above the coil of our creatureliness, as if it did not evolve from the creation of this planet, like all human things. It does not act like God.
The Economist Group says it is “committed to diversity and inclusion” and works to “actively foster an environment where all are seen, heard and supported to succeed.”
That’s not an absurd thing to say, but it’s made absurd by a “newspaper” that suggests such commitments are handed down by the Politburo of Wokness.
“Rather than asking applicants what they have done to further racial diversity and equity, institutions of higher learning might start asking how they plan to further real diversity of thought,” the magazine said in its February 11 issue.
That’s antipolitical politics.
In purest form.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.