Thursday, April 14, 2016

Why Group Politics Is Not Good for Diversity Working

In today's America, when its demographics continue to grow more and more diverse in race and ethnicity, when even gender, sexual orientation, lifestyles, and other dimensions are shifting and becoming diverse as well, an awareness of diversity is essential – not only as praxis for institutions and organizations – but basically for individuals themselves.

It is an ideal society when peace, justice and compassion reign, when people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, ideologies, worldviews, and preferences can co-exist without conflicts, tension/fear, discrimination and isolation.

But such is human nature that people tend to congregate with like-minded individuals, thus, the thriving of groups: social, religious, political, clans, you name it.

Groups thrive because of their strength, and among the signs that a group is thriving, or is healthy and strong – based on their group dynamics – is group cohesion or ego strength (sufficient to permit assimilation of new ideas and new members, to use conflict instead of being destroyed by it, to hold to long-term goals, and to profit from both failure and from success situations). See more here

On one hand, there is something good in this – there is strength in numbers, an expression we often say when we mean one gets support from others in the group. It is defined as the emotional and morale strength from a group of people See also this:

Yet, issues and challenges also exist when there is too much attachment on the values the group professes and live by. As the definition above says, that kind of strength can lead to a “mob mentality.”

Indeed, it is a fact of life that individuals often tend to go with the flow of their group, afraid to go out of their comfort zones to speak up against injustices, unfairness that their group tends to promote.

Hence, the challenge of diversity working in society is so great it seems insurmountable. There will always be – in any society – resistance to anything, anyone different from the mainstream – among the closed-minded, rigid members, or those fearful to break the status quo.

Now we come to what we call Groupthink, a term said to be first used by the social psychologist, Irving L. Janis, to describe the phenomenon wherein people tend to strive to gain consensus within a group

When people engage in groupthink, they set aside their personal beliefs and adopt the group's ideas or opinions. In many cases, to avoid disrupting the peace and uniformity of the crowd, people would rather keep quiet about things they disagree about.

This psychological phenomenon results in an irrational or dysfucntional decision-making outcome.

What often can be observed in societies today that often goes hand in hand with discrimination is stereotyping, one of the symptoms of groupthink. According to the 1st article on groupthink mentioned above, stereotyping leads members of the in-group to ignore or even demonize out-group members who may oppose or challenge the groups ideas.

Other symptoms of groupthink are:
Unquestioned beliefs lead members to ignore possible moral problems and ignore consequences of individual and group actions;
Rationalizing prevents members from reconsidering their beliefs and causes them to ignore warning signs.

This brings to mind, Milton Friedman (1912-2006), an American economist awarded with the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy.

Milton Friedman spoke on the evils of collectivism, a form of groupthink, in a forum at the University of Chicago, saying in part: “Where do you have the greatest degree of inequality? In the socialist states of the world. Don’t look at what the proponents of one system or another say are their intentions, but look at what the actual results are.[...] The most harm of all is done when power is in the hands of people who are absolutely persuaded of the purity of their instincts and the purity of their intentions. […] I have no reason to doubt that Lenin was a man whose intentions were good, maybe they weren’t, but he was completely persuaded that he was right and he was willing to use any methods at all for the ultimate good.”

Here is one example of how collectivism - in providing healthcare - is not doing diversity any good. An American doctor, John Hunt, MD, gave up his medical practice in the US,
but went to Liberia to continue working as a doctor, due to what he said in his interview with Foundation for Economic Education, as the system is so profoundly broken and immoral now that I had to pay heed to brilliant modern philosopher Paul Rosenberg, who recently modified the quote attributed to Edmund Burke. Rosenberg says, “The only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to obey.” See more here

Another article explains collectivism as:
The result of refusing to think gives those in power carte blanche to think for us. This is the essence of collectivism […] The refusal to think for ourselves is at the root of most (if not all) of the corruption we face in our current political system. Naturally, when we allow others to think and make our decisions for us, we give up that which makes us free in the first place: our personal responsibility and thus ownership of our own lives. Thereafter we enter into a vicious circle where we expect others to take care of us – to fix what ails us and to keep us happy – but since we are all individuals with different wants, desires and needs no one solution will cure all.

Some thoughts on Collectivism:
The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.” - Pope John Paul II 

The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.” - Edmund Burke

"I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there’s something wrong, pass a law and do something about it." - Milton Friedman

Group Politics: How group politics work
The workings of group politics – an example of groupthink - is such that members strongly adhere and limit themselves to their group's political ideal(s), without expanding their horizon to appreciate and understand other groups' political beliefs. 

There is a tendency to be closed-minded about anything or anyone outside their group's political ideals – so hatred and distrust of anyone who disagrees with them often come about; they can also over-estimate their power and influence, as explained above.

Disadvantages of Adhering to Group Politicswhy Group Politics Not Good for Diversity Working
Following Irving Janis' line of thinking when he expounded on groupthink, group politics gives rise to problems, such as giving in to pressure to conform to the group's uniformity, and feelings of self-righteousness, much to the detriment of diversity working in society. See this:

Not only will institutions fail in their work towards the greater, common good, but inner tension and struggle between doing what is good and bad, between what's right and wrong, will assail the individuals themselves – for sure, many will be pricked by their conscience. 
Imagine these scenario: Yesterday, I watched a man of my group stamp his boot underside on the USA flag. I then learn that man's group is the same as mine. What am I supposed to do or think?

Questions a person struggling between his/her individual values and that of his/her group may ponder:
1. How I felt when others were protecting their own because of the group.
2. Now I am faced with the decision to defending my group, or defend my values over my group's.

Individual vs Group Values
Each of us, human beings, have our own values instilled deep within us: nurtured, formed from birth, reinforced by our circumstances, environment and experiences. No matter how we suppress or repress them – due to outside pressure, these values will always remain in us. Deep down, these values we hold dear are part of who we are.

If individual members just go by the flow, or give in to what the group values and lives by, usually ingrained by the group's elite leadership, whether the group's values may be right or wrong - the individual loses his/her right to think, judge situations properly, and loses his/her confidence to speak up and break the status quo. We cannot, as individuals, just blindly hand in our precious rights to a handful, selected few, to tell us what to think and do.

The group suffers in the end for having a limited vision of what is good for the group, and the general society at large.

A Milton Friedman quote rightfully points out why groupthink or group politics is not good for diversity working, in a specific way:
In my opinion, there is not a single thing you could do in this world that would do more to improve the condition of the black people who are in the lowest income classes, of the black people who have been most affected by discrimination, there is not anything you could do that would be more affected than the voucher scheme. Why? Because as I said to you before, and I challenge anybody to deny it, that there’s no respect in which the black and the slum is more deprived than in the quality of schooling he can get. He’s much worse off in that respect than he is even in the quality of the housing he can get and in the quality of the automobile he can buy and the quality of the job he can get with given education.

Real diversity working is when there is free, safe exhange of ideas among ALL members, check and balancing of values when the greater good is at risk or compromised, or individual's values are likewise compromised. Diversity working in society is when there is real freedom, equality and justice, and when no one, by choice, will have to live below poverty. Each individual in the society has the capacity, and should be given that opportunity to contribute in whatever way one can to the betterment of his/her life and others, to promote the general welfare of society making sure each one gets his/her fair share of the country's benefits. A society of diversity working is where each can have the equal opportunity to lead, to serve, to critique, to question, to speak up. 

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect). –Mark Twain, Notebook