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Excerpt from The Culture of Make Believe

Diversity (p. 418)

From chapter "Distance"

A salient feature—probably the most salient feature—of our culture is a near absolute intolerance for and hatred of diversity. Oh, I’m not talking about a phony diversity where we put up with people with different color skin or different sexual orientations (so long as the people are still White) though often we do not put up even with these variations. I’m not talking about putting up with little black boys, so long as they wear expensive shoes made by little brown girls hired on the cheap by female managers wearing men’s clothing and bumping their heads on glass ceilings of corporations overseen by white males for the purposes of making profits for themselves and their share holders. Nor am I talking about homosexual males (or females) working as engineers for these same companies. I’m not even talking about literate white males railing against their own privilege. All of this is tolerated. None of it is diversity.

So complete is our inculcation in this tradition of intolerance for and hatred of diversity that at this point any sort of real diversity has become almost unimaginable. Real diversity is a flock of passenger pigeons so large it darkened the sky for days at a time, and it is polar bears in Maine. Diversity is wood bison in Pennsylvania, and an ancient forest in New York City. Diversity is the capacity for a community of humans to confront trees, or fish, or human beings with no thought of how to best use them, how to turn them to profit. Diversity is a life lived with no concern for production, but, instead, lived with attention paid to the particular moments that pass, one by one, each bringing new beauties and carrying us at the same time that much closer to death. Diversity is entire communities integrated so fully into particular landscapes that the landscapes become more complex, more alive, more themselves, because of the presence of the communities. Diversity is water in rivers that is clean enough to drink. Diversity is an undammed river flowing from mountain to sea, turning no turbines. It is the rank smell of salmon decomposing to feed the forest and to feed the salmon’s own children. Diversity is an abundance of wild cultures, each unimaginably different from all others, each grounded in its particular place. Diversity is complex languages and relationships derived from specific localities, in no way standardized across terrain. Diversity is communities, and individuals within communities, determining their own fates, dependent only on each other and on the land, neither beholden to, nor controlled by, distant entities or institutions. Diversity is dances for the hunt, dances for the spring rains, dances bundling your community together, dances for helping the dead make their passage to the next place.

Diversity is life being life, life branching toward the beauty of this particular leaf on this particular tree, this particular ant struggling to carry this particular piece of food. Diversity is life living for its own ends, with no consideration of instrumentality. Diversity is a hundred thousand simultaneous dances weaving seamlessly, no partner controlling any other. Diversity is the uncontrolled and uncontrollable flowing of human and nonhuman life, the abundance of human and nonhuman variation. Diversity is the capacity to perceive others in myriad ways, all of which are dependent not on preconception but on circumstance. If we cannot perceive others in a diversity of ways, we will destroy the diversity we cannot perceive. It has been so long since we perceived the world in diverse ways that we no longer perceive it as being possible. Our deification of production has blinded us to all ways of perceiving others, other than as means to ends. Not only does this lead ineluctably to perceiving these others with contempt, and hatred when they resist, but if you perceive the ancient forests of what is now New York City only as so many dollar bills, soon enough you will not have ancient forests, but instead New York City. Increasingly, we truncate our perception of that which cannot be controlled or used, then use what we can and destroy what we cannot.


In a nutshell, our culture’s real response to diversity is this: Nothing shall be deliberately or unthinkingly allowed to detract from the central movement of our culture, toward monolithic control, toward production—which, after all, is nothing but the turning of the living (forests) into the dead (two-by-fours), the living (mountains) into the dead (aluminum cans)—toward the annihilation of all that is different. In other words, it calls for the annihilation of life. Production is the manifestation in the physical world of the psychic process of objectification. It is the turning of the subject (a cow, for example) into the object (profit on the hoof, as agribusinessmen say). To do so, necessarily kills the subject, first inside the objectifier’s experience, and then in the physical world.

Production, however, is not the end point. Production, deified as it has become, is not the god who stands behind the god. The god who stands behind the god is annihilation. Where does our production lead us? Psychic death. Emotional death. Physical death. And, as should be increasingly clear to anyone paying any attention whatsoever, it is leading us ever more quickly toward the death of every living being.