Exclusion

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Life                      -                    Death
Together               -                   Apart
Include                 -                    Exclude


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Is it a given that any system of social organisation will necessarily exclude someone or other?

If a thing is only a thing because of all of the things it is not, then identity is predicated on the idea of exclusion. As a person you have an identity because you say yes to some things, and no to others. You allow certain things within your borders, whilst keeping others at a distance.

Thus, inasmuch as a collective (a locality, a community, a society) has an identity, it must be exclusive.

From this it follows that when a collective attempts to include all - give everyone a place - within its boundaries, it also works to erase its sense of identity.

Inasmuch as those within the collective define themselves in opposition to those on the outside, the more people there are on the outside, the more there is to oppose; and thus, the stronger the sense of identity within the collective. As the number of people on the outside decreases, the opposition becomes weaker. When there is no-one left on the outside then there is no longer anything to oppose; and all sense of collective identity disappears (indeed, the notion of the collective itself disappears).

The communities that have managed to retain a strong sense of identity in the contemporary world seem to be those that have very definite borders; in other words, those that are exclusive.

Two that come to mind are the traditional Amish and Jewish communities. Both set very firm guidelines on the kinds of person they will and won’t accept within their collective. I imagine that most people from modern western societies, myself included, would find these communities extremely restricting, and very hard to live within.

Modern progressive societies attempt to include as much as possible within their boundaries. Words like ‘multiculturalism’ or ‘globalisation’ can be used to talk about this process. Whilst an Amish or Jewish community may exist within a larger collective (‘American’) they see themselves as very much distinct and, to a certain degree, separate from this collective. The only way they can maintain their identity is to remain a collective within a collective; in other words, to not assimilate into the greater whole. More assimilation = less identity (or to put it another way: stronger borders = stronger identity).

Thus the Amish primarily identify as 'Amish,' and secondarily as 'American.' And, inasmuch as 'Amish' and 'American' are mutually exclusive - as much as to be one means to not be the other - then one must suffer in deference to the other.

Multiculturalism faces its multiple cultures with a choice; to loosen their cultural boundaries and assimilate, to a degree, into the larger whole; or to maintain those boundaries and remain isolated.

Picture a colour wheel. The more the colours mix, the less distinct they become. When all colours are merged they become a dull brown or grey. To retain their vibrancy, they must remain separate: they must have boundaries; say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’

I’ve heard it said that multiculturalism is good because it increases diversity within a society; it brings new things, different viewpoints, ideas, experiences, and so on: it brings new colours into the wheel. However, this diversity is only possible to the extent that the cultures - the colours - within the collective do not mix. We gain diversity, but at the expense of cohesion.

This presents a schizophrenic situation: on the one hand, I want to belong to something greater than myself, a collective; and for that collective to exist it must have an identity. In other words, it must distinguish itself from other collectives. But on the other hand, I’m urged to transcend boundaries and think of myself as part of something larger. My urge to be part of a collective conflicts with the imperative to transcend the boundaries of that collective.

What really happens is that I’m asked to think of the collective of which I’m a part in an ever more expansive and abstract way. As one boundary is dissolved, another appears on the horizon. Much like Russian dolls, no sooner have I escaped one container than I find myself within another, larger, one. What this suggests is that, inasmuch as we continue to think of ourselves in a collective sense, we will always need boundaries and will always be excluding someone. For instance, we can only think our ourselves as citizens of the earth because we are not citizens of some other planet.

What affect does this swelling of boundaries have upon us? If, for instance, I'm part of a community of 50 people, chances are that I will know most, if not all, of these people. It will be a close community, at a scale that makes sense to me (a 'human scale'). I understand this collective in a relatively concrete way, inasmuch as I know the people within it and understand our relation to one another.

However, the more my collective increases in size, the less likely I am to know everyone within it. Concrete relations are replaced with an abstract sense of relatedness. As the collective becomes more inclusive, the links between its constituent parts weaken. It may be that the kind of bonds that tie together small groups of people simply don't emerge when a group exceeds critical mass.

I raise this because the pendulum of contemporary culture seems to have swung fully in a particular direction, embracing concepts like ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘inclusion’ whilst maligning concepts like ‘boundaries,’ ‘exclusion,’ and so on. In other words, we’ve swung, collectively, into an imbalance.

Another way to put it is to say that we’ve had the thesis - exclusion (tribalism, etc) - and we’re now getting the anti-thesis - inclusion (mutilculturalism, etc).

Perhaps we’re just about ready for the synthesis…


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It seems that I need vulgarity. I'm fascinated by it. The things I disapprove of define me as much as the things I approve of.

Sure, I could spend all my internet time reading my digital copy of The Wire, watching the films on ("all avant garde, all the time") ubu.com, or listening to Arte Radio. But, even given the opportunity to be my own curator, my own programmer, I throw in some stuff that's compellingly appalling, some stuff I love to hate.

Otherwise, what would there be to rebel against? How could I enjoy my trek to the cultural high ground?

[Momus]
'Portrait of the artist as a young snob'


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Once upon a time borders played a significant role: they guaranteed the continuation of collective identities. Today, borders no longer guarantee anything and halt (almost) nothing.

Flows of all kinds are the hallmark of our time, making borders redundant.

[Alain De Benoist]
'The European New Right Forty Years Later,' The Occidental Quaterly, vol. 9, no. 1, Spring 2009, p. 72


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Group cooperation requires identification and solidarity, which are undermined by too much diversity. 

Liberals emphasize the latter, whereas Traditionalists emphasize the former.

Traditional religion has played a crucial role in the development of group solidarity, which is responsible for cultural-social vitality and commitment to the future. Hence, Haidt says that the decline of religion in modern society might have devastating consequences.

[Michael Zimmerman]
'The Republican Advantage'


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The first step forward is that from school-age upward our societies must reassert a shared national narrative—including a common national culture.

Some years ago the German Muslim writer Bassam Tibi coined the term "Leitkultur"—core culture—to describe this. It is the most decent and properly liberal antidote to multiculturalism.

It concedes that in societies that have had high immigration there are all sorts of different cultures—which will only work together if they are united by a common theme.

[Douglas Murray]
'Cameron's Multicultural wake-up call'


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Tolerant? Oh, God. Yes, I know - that's what they drum into you at school.

No, Blake was not very tolerant. He didn't even think tolerance was a good thing. It was just more slobbering. He thought it blurred all the outlines and muddled everything - that it made all cats gray. So that nobody would be able to see anything clearly and sharply.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p. 28


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Tolerance                      -                    Justice
Agreeableness               -                   Conscientiousness
Anything                       -                    Something

Those who proclaim the virtues of tolerance believe that they’re tolerant but generally that’s not the case. They just don’t want to accept the responsibility that playing by the rules would bring.

And being useless and unable to move towards a valuable goal and failing to hold anyone else accountable as a consequence of their equivalent failures does not make you tolerant, it just makes you unable to move forward in the world in any productive manner.

We know that these two axis of value - tolerance and justice - are associated with two cardinal personality traits: one is agreeableness and the other is conscientiousness.

People on the radical left - politically correct people - tend to be very high in agreeableness but they tend to be very low in conscientiousness. And that begs the question whether or not their tolerance is a consequence of their avowed love of other people or their hatred for the fact that any structured society requires adherence to a shared set of ordered beliefs and the capacity for people to compete within those ordered beliefs to attain success or victory.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Tolerance as a vice'


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Nationalists feel a bond with their country, and they believe that this bond imposes moral obligations both ways: Citizens have a duty to love and serve their country, and governments are duty bound to protect their own people. Governments should place their citizens interests above the interests of people in other countries.

There is nothing necessarily racist or base about this arrangement or social contract. Having a shared sense of identity, norms, and history generally promotes trust. Having no such shared sense leads to the condition that the sociologist Émile Durkheim described as “anomie” or normlessness.

The trick [...] is figuring out how to balance reasonable concerns about the integrity of one’s own community with the obligation to welcome strangers, particularly strangers in dire need.

[Jonathan Haidt]
'When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism'


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To this day, our lives are largely spent in drawing boundaries. Every decision we make, our every action, our every word is based on the construction, conscious or unconscious, of boundaries. To make a decision means to draw a boundary line between what to choose and what not to choose. To desire something means to draw a boundary line between pleasurable and unpleasurable things and then move toward the former [...]

Every boundary line is a potential battle line, so that just to draw a boundary is to prepare oneself for conflict. Specifically, the agonizing fight of life against death, pleasure against pain, good against evil […] but in seeking to experience the positive and eliminate the negative, we forget that the positive is defined only in terms of the negative. To destroy the negative is, at the same time, to destroy all possibility of enjoying the positive. The root of the whole difficulty is our tendency to view the opposites as irreconcilable, as totally set apart and divorced from one another.

While it is true that buying and selling are in some sense different… they are also—and this is the point—completely inseparable. In other words, buying and selling are simply two ends of one event, namely, a business transaction. In just the same way, all opposites share an implicit identity. That is, however vividly the differences between these opposites may strike us, they nevertheless remain completely inseparable and mutually interdependent, and for the simple reason that one could not exist without the other [...]

[Ken Wilber]
No Boundary, p. 18, 21-2

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 Contact is not simply a matter of joining or togetherness, but involves a heightened awareness of the distinction between self and not-self;

in other words, contact occurs at a porous boundary, one that holds self and other apart, but at the same time permits interaction and exchange [...]

“The contact boundary is the point at which one experiences the ‘me’ in relation to that which is ‘not me’ and through this contact, both are more clearly experienced”

[Herb Stevenson]
'Paradox: A Gestalt Theory of Change'


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Every ‘good' scientific theory is a prohibition: it forbids certain things to happen. The more a theory forbids, the better it is.

[Karl Popper]


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Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel 
The Principle of Polarity
This, Not That 
Bondage 
Entropy

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