Monday, February 05, 2007

The Vagaries of Undiscriminating Standards

The supreme principle of social morality today is "nondiscrimination"--the exclusive use of financial and bureaucratic classifications in place of traditional ones. Only formal qualifications and free-floating personal qualities that have somehow been separated from any larger setting can be taken into account in social relations, except to the extent the larger setting must be considered for the sake of neutralizing any effect it might otherwise have.

One must of course make distinctions, but under the new order permissible distinctions can only relate to wealth, neutral bureaucratic classifications, and things that (supposedly) no one cares about personally. Other distinctions would be invidious, so they must all be rooted out. You are allowed to distinguish Yale and Harvard graduates, but not Mayflower descendants and Senegalese immigrants. Military experience can count, but not the experience of being raised a man rather than a woman or for that matter the consequences of 1,000,000,000 years of sexual dimorphism. Personality, character and loyalties can matter, so long as they have nothing whatever to do with cultural background. You can exclude people from teaching who haven't taken useless education courses but it's a crushing objection to sex discrimination that some women are bigger, stronger and more stoic than some men.
-Jim Kalb

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