Musings on Inclusion

11 Mar

One does not join a community by loudly and obnoxiously demanding entrance.  One joins by sharing the community’s goals and working with others to achieve them.

-Jay Maynard

One of the persistent problems with left-wing solutions to social problems is that their solutions are based on a sense of what humanity should be, rather than what it is.  Communism and suchlike require humans not to be humans to work … and, as humans are humans, they fail spectacularly.  Diversity and Inclusion, one of the current left-wing bugaboos, tend to hit the same problem when left-wingers try to devise solutions; their Diversity and Inclusion educational sessions (nagging sessions, to everyone else) are based on faulty understanding of humans, so they fail.  It shouldn’t be surprising that the results of Diversity and Inclusion lectures are almost always less Diversity and Inclusion.

This would be bad enough, but what makes it worse is the fact they are unable to acknowledge the flaw within their understanding.  It is unthinkable, for them, that they might be wrong.  Instead, they seek to devise theories that transfer the blame elsewhere – ‘white fragility,’ for example.  This further weakens Diversity and Inclusion, not least because it is obvious to the targets of their nagging that they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.  An obvious show of ignorance is not conductive to respect, let alone agreement.  Instead, people pay as little lip service to Diversity and Inclusion concepts as they can get away with and then conduct themselves as they see fit.

I do not claim to be a social psychologist.  However, in the course of my life, I have transferred between multiple schools, colleges, a lone university and several workplaces, as well as attending a number of conventions.  I know more than I want to think about social exclusion because, not to put too fine a point on it, I was one of the excluded.  I feel more than words can say for the victims of social exclusion, simply because I’ve been through it myself.  But I also understand – as a member of groups that have been regularly marginalised – that social inclusion and exclusion issues are both surprisingly simplistic and yet strikingly hard to overcome.  Counterproductive social engineering techniques are not the solution.

And I don’t stand to gain by prolonging the problem, so that’s another mark in my favour <grin>.

It’s easy to say that social exclusion is the result of racism, sexism, whatever-phobia or something along those lines.  However, this cannot be true.  If it was, I wouldn’t have had any problems finding acceptance in groups that matched me.  But I did …

There are, essentially, four ironclad rules of social acceptance:

1) It takes time for people to accept you, particularly if the social groups are already established by the time you arrive.

2) The more different you are from the group, the longer people will take to accept you.

3) The more you push for inclusion, the more people will push back and exclude you.

4) Some people will never accept you at all, no matter what you do.

Pretend, for the sake of argument, that you’re a teenager who’s just transferred from one school to another.  You don’t know anyone at your new school.  Worse, everyone else has spent the last few years building friendships and relationships that don’t have any room for you.  They may not deliberately exclude you, but – to all intents and purposes – that’s what they’ll do.  They simply won’t be used to having you around.  You won’t get invites to parties, you won’t make easy friendships … etc, etc.  I’ve been there.  Believe me, it’s thoroughly unpleasant. 

If you happen to be a great footballer, for example, you’ll probably find acceptance very quickly.  Social groups are organised about core purposes and the footballers will be delighted to have a new player who loves to play (although if you displace someone else, as Harry Potter did, beware of the knife in the back.)  However, if you happen to be someone different – a nerd or geek, or a transgender – expect to find it harder to gain widespread acceptance.  The more you focus on what makes you different, the more you’ll be pushed away.

It can be painful – oh yes, it can be painful – to be excluded.  It’s easy to lose one’s cool and demand inclusion, either by forcing one’s way into the group or appealing to authority to order the group to let you in.  And yet, it doesn’t work.  The child who forces someone to play with him gets pushback, hard pushback, as soon as the teacher is looking away.  It gets worse when kids become teens (and later adults, even though they’re meant to be grown-ups) and they demand inclusion.  People will resent you and resist you even though you just want to be friends.  And if you want the group to change, that will be a thousand times worse. 

And yes, some people will never accept you.  They may be scared to change – if they had problems getting accepted, they’ll fear what’ll happen when someone new joins the group.  Or they may be afraid of what you’ll bring in your wake, rightly or wrongly; they may fear that you will demand changes after changes until they’re kicked out or simply made permanently uncomfortable.  Or they might be just jerks.  <grin>.

It takes time for people to accept change, to accept someone or something new in their life.  I know, it isn’t easy for the person who wants – who needs – to be accepted. Why, their leftist allies demand, should they wait?  Why shouldn’t they be accepted at once?  It isn’t fair … yes, it isn’t fair.  But it’s very human.  And pushing someone too hard often makes them push back.  Hard.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating.  Groups exist to work towards common goals, from military teams to bible study clubs and fandoms.  Social groups, in particular, are organised around something the members have in common.  A Superhero Movie Club, for example, will welcome someone who wants to watch superhero movies.  Someone who praises romance movies and insists the group should watch them will raise eyebrows, then incur dislike and hatred.  And why not?  They’re trying to change the group!

The more you focus on something irreverent to the group – Diversity and Inclusion, for example – the more the group pushes back.  Of course it does.  The group does not want a diverse membership.  It wants a particular lack of diversity – it wants, to use the movie club I mentioned above, its members to love superhero movies.  If you do, you’re in; if you don’t, why would you want to join?  It isn’t unreasonable to be suspicious of someone who clearly doesn’t love superhero movies and yet wants to join.  What do they really want?

Diversity training fails for a number of reasons, but the most important – in my opinion – is that it draws attention to diversity.  The more people become aware of diversity, the more it overshadows their thoughts; the more they dwell on it, the more they mentally edge away from the other.  There’s nothing wrong with a co-worker who happens to be [whatever]; there’s a great deal wrong with a [whatever] co-worker.  And if it looks as if someone had an unfair advantage because they were [whatever], expect bitter resentment and (eventually) outright hatred. 

People want to feel comfortable.  They don’t want to live and work in a place where the slightest thing, taken out of context, can lead to accusations of microaggressions and career destruction.  And if you don’t even know where the landmines are, how can you guarantee you won’t step on one?  Simple – you keep your distance from them.  You exclude them because inclusion might come with a cost.  This is human nature.  If you make someone uncomfortable, they will exclude you for their own peace of mind.  And where Diversity and Inclusion, a single bad example somewhere else can lead to the entire group being regarded with extreme suspicion. 

It can get even worse.  If Alice’s ‘safe space’ comes at the price of Bob losing his ‘safe space,’ why would Bob not resent it?  Why would Bob be happy about losing something precious to him?  Why would others not fear the same happening to them?  The problems damaging fandom happen everywhere. 

I don’t pretend there’s an easy solution to any of the problems posed by the push for Diversity and Inclusion.  But we can at least start by recognising the truth behind human nature – and how it drives us to reject diversity and exclude those we see as potential threats.

13 Responses to “Musings on Inclusion”

  1. PhilippeO March 11, 2020 at 5:52 pm #

    You are talking like everything is circle of friend. But all those case its not about that, Diversity training happen at WORK place.

    Diversity training is not because people want to be included, but because its interest of company and management to include all employee in company activity, you want worker work professionally during work hours, not deciding who their friend are. One accountant, male or female, Asian or white, friendly or silent, is only valuable in her work as accountants, people can’t just decide to make her ‘inside’ or ‘outside’. Every accountant should have ‘safe space’ in her work environment to be able to work, Bob can’t decide that alone.

    Same thing happen in education, or military, or other place. There are minimal rule to make it is safe space for working. You couldn’t just refuse Black officer, Female lecturer, or other random rule. The institution as whole decide individual wish don’t matter.

    Besides your column is silly in its argument, no one make diversity its only goal. There are female gamers, Black Star Wars fan, or Queer author.

    Its white male fan/worker/etc who want special treatment. No one would give them that. Fan value is what she buys. Worker value is what he work. Soldier value is what he capable during fight. Bob had equal value with Alice, only their wallet or sweat matter. So it is interest of every institution to have as much value to pursue its goal.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 11, 2020 at 6:14 pm #

      First, I object to the idea that its the “white male fill-in-the blank” that wants “special treatment”.

      Second, in the case of businesses & the military, the Purpose of the Organization should come first not the “skin-color, sexual orientation, etc” of the members of the Organization. All too often the diversity movement “forgets” the purpose of the organization in the desire to have the “proper groups” in that organization.

      Third, I object to your “silliness” comment. Gamers & other fan organizations aren’t concerned about “skin-color, sexual orientation, etc” of their members. They are only concerned about “does the individual enjoy what we enjoy”. It is the idiot left that are more concerned about “diversity” as opposed to “does the individual enjoy what we enjoy”.

      Chris (like myself) is more interested in joining “groups that contain people who enjoy what he (or myself) enjoy”. It doesn’t matter to us if a fellow member of the groups are gay, trans, black, brown, yellow or green as long as that person enjoys what we enjoy.

      Of course, the diversity movement like other “leftish” groups are willing to exclude anybody who doesn’t have the Proper Thoughts.

      I really don’t care about the Politics/Social Views of Authors & Fans until they attempt to tell me “What Politics/Social Views I Must Have”.

    • AshleyRPollard March 11, 2020 at 6:55 pm #

      Of course there are. But, that misses the point Chris makes. People are accepted into groups who share an interest in common.

      The problem is about managing confrontation. Social media is a poor medium for managing confrontation.

    • Jorge Luis Rodriguez Perez March 11, 2020 at 9:51 pm #

      No one makes diversity one of their goals, period. Or rather, no one serious about creating a group of [insert activity here]. Diversity happens naturally, if it happens at all, it’s not a “goal” to work towards.

      I am Cuban (so, Latin). I am white, but I have at least couple of POCs in my close ancestry (paternal grandparents). I am also a member of Baen’s Bar, a members-only forum for science-fiction readers. And within that bar, I am a frequent visitor to the KratSkeller, a hangout for people that like their science-fiction with a heavy dose of military realism.

      Nowhere in that site is a quota counter for how many black/white/yellow/queer/trans/[whatever] people are members of the forum. No one there wears a “minority badge” and cries about it to all who would listen. And still I’ve found that this place, although Americans are heavily represented, has people from many parts of the world, from the American West coast to the Middle East and Eastern Europe. They just have something in common: they like science fiction, and they like it with a heavy dose of military realism. That’s it, that’s what the group is about, and that’s the point of Chris’s post. If someone entered the forum and started ranting about how we should read this book about a girl, her unicorn, and her crush on Prince Prettyboy, well, being politely ignored is probably the best thing that could happen. She’s not part of the group, and she does not want become a part of the group. Why then should anyone give her a whit of attention? She does not care about the core purpose of the group.

  2. C77 March 11, 2020 at 6:07 pm #

    I think you have some good points but I also think that the points have overlooked another side of humanity – compassion. It is all too easy to forget that there are plenty of decent people out there.

    I go to a very small 6th form with less than 30 people in my year. I have observed that when newcomers have joined, efforts are very quickly made to assimilate them into the group. Within a few days they are more or less established, as we mostly seem to be willing to accept them and help them out. Now this could be because everyone is nice, or because the group is so small differentiation is a good way to shake things up a little.

    Despite this experience, I do have absolutely no doubt that the examples
    You have faced are out there, I just thought that the argument lacked some examples of groups being very inclusive. I am not pretending the whole year group is one cohesive group – it most definitely isn’t, there are subgroups and factions like everywhere else, but it is a nice place, and I certainly try to include newcomers when I can/have the courage to. That last bit on courage is definitely human nature showing, after all it is a gamble, and survival instinct tells us that gambles are dangerous

    Really looking forward to the next Ark Trilogy, and I was also wandering whether you will ever do a follow up to The Fall of Night – still the best book I have ever read !

    • chrishanger March 12, 2020 at 6:28 pm #

      I’m glad you had a better experience than me . But as you can tell, mine wasn’t remotely happy.


      • C77 March 12, 2020 at 6:35 pm #

        Hi Chris I am really sorry to hear that. One would have thought that it was simple to just be kind, especially when there are huge benefits to it, but alas it seems to escape many. But that being said, a negative world produces negative aspects in people, and vice Versa, so perhaps the key to fixing the worlds problems and that of humanity, lies in promoting kindness and other noble qualities, maybe even producing a domino effect, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking…

        Do keep up the good work, is Life during Wartime due to be available on paper? Many thanks, hope your health is stable, especially in these virulent times

  3. bret March 11, 2020 at 8:53 pm #

    The Ku Klux Klan is a community and if you’re a black or jewish person “loudly and obnoxiously demanding entrance” is indeed unwise (at best). On the other hand, if you’re black or jewish you might wish that the Klan be shutdown because you might find their thoughts and actions distasteful, immoral, etc.

    One way to mitigate undesirable groups like the Klan is to bring lawsuits against them to demand inclusion and then flood the group with people who don’t share the Klan’s ideals and once part of the group demand change, perhaps through things like diversity training. While it’s unlikely the training itself would have any direct effect, the Klan members might find it so onerous that the community basically collapses and then there’s no more Klan.

    That’s probably a long shot BUT the above is more a thought experiment than a useful plan of action.

    With other communities, infiltration and destruction from the inside probably has a better shot. Let’s say one thinks superhero movie watching clubs are evil. One can pretend to like superhero movies, but then after joining a superhero movie watching community (hopefully at the same time as other allies), move towards making attending to the community events so distasteful that everyone quits. Then, voila!, you’ve destroyed something you think is evil.

    One real-life example is that many people think that male only communities are inherently evil. I’ve seen this first hand because I belong to the Barbershop Harmony Society which was all male until last year when it was forced to admit all the other genders. Then the new non-male members started to be strongly critical of standard songs that could be interpreted as being the least bit sexist or even non-gender-neutral. Male quartets that continued to sing such songs have been intensely criticized on social media. Membership is in free fall and I’d be surprised if the society still exists in 20 years.

    So I think that many people demanding to join communities have limited or no interest in the community itself. They only want to change or destroy the community.

  4. dspring March 12, 2020 at 6:08 pm #

    I like the balance my work tries to do. Everybody is owed respect. Treat everyone professionally. Be aware that other cultures/people have different styles/preferences/expectations/social ques. The focus is on being aware that differences exist — and that people need enough awareness to make sure those differences do not create a problem. Done.

    I agree with Chris, when groups diversity discussions focus on a specific difference (race, religion, gender, food, hobbies, etc), then the discussion tends to be “about” that specific difference. That gets everybody into the space of are you good/bad/aware/not aware. It makes the discussion primarily about categorizing “you and me”. Not helpful for most people, although I am sure some people walk away with an ah-ha moment that is personally helpful to them.

    • dspring March 12, 2020 at 6:10 pm #

      Microaggression training has a bad name, but I have seen very excellent training under that umbrella. The effective training is more focused on being intentional about what you communicate than on diversity.

  5. Big Ben March 25, 2020 at 2:39 pm #

    It’s interesting thinking about he size of the group/population when thinking about “forced” inclusion or diversity.
    For a couple of centuries many Americans embraced slavery and ultimately fought a terrible war against diversity and inclusion of the black slave into larger society.
    Though no overt war was fought, many western cultures denied females complete inclusion into society – not being able to vote, for example. This is still the case in parts of the Middle East. These (men) were against diversity and inclusion, and as usual, were proven wrong.
    It wasn’t that long ago that the US government forced many southern schools to integrate, almost literally over the barrel of a gun.
    Most western universities attempt some form of diversity in their admittance processes, to varying degrees of success. Most rational people agree that a diverse student body is beneficial to all students.
    If one takes the gist of your argument at face value, you would oppose all of this “forced” diversity and inclusion.
    My point is that sometimes forcing inclusion is the just thing to do. This doesn’t necessarily apply to your chess club or weekly D&D get togethers, but we can’t cure the human condition overnight.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard March 25, 2020 at 2:45 pm #

      but we can’t cure the human condition overnight.

      And how many people are you willing to kill in the attempt?

      Sorry, when the government attempts to create “perfect people”, there will be a great loss of lives.

      But then those lives are just deplorables so it will be OK.

    • chrishanger April 1, 2020 at 3:40 pm #

      A lot depends on how long you wait for results.


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