WHEN IS DIVERSITY NOT DIVERSITY?
It seems that the chattering class is all a-twitter about Barak Obama's recent spate of white male cabinet appointments (USA Today 1/15/13 Opinionline "Is President Obama running a boys-only Cabinet?"). Indeed, these picks would seem to be in stark contrast, for example, to the long noble litany of past minority and female appointments to the office of Secretary of State: Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright. Susan Rice, who will stay on at the UN, would have been a perfect addition.
But let's take a closer look. What do these "diverse" people have in common that far outweighs any importance one could attach to variations in gender or skin color? Simply this: they are all without exception aggressive promoters of and paid apologists for the militarized national security state.
Let's take a closer look at the credentials of these paragons of consensus in diversity. Madeleine Albright stated without hesitation that the death of a half million Iraqi children was difficult but "worth it" to achieve US political objectives. Indeed, in her 5/12/96 interview with Lesley Stahl, she didn't even challenge the numbers. Colin Powell now regrets his UN statements claiming that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and admits that his instincts failed him but they certainly didn't stop him. He had been on the slippery slope of service to the state long before that fateful day at the UN. In any case, all his experience leads him to conclude that Obama nominee Chuck Hagel is "superbly qualified" to be Department of Defense Secretary. Condoleezza Rice's contributions to the Iraq war are so impressive that her earlier work for the Chevron Corporation is often overlooked. Not really much of a jump from Chevron to the State Department when you think of it. Surely to her dismay, it may not be possible for Hillary Clinton to get Syria into the US client-state column before she leaves to be replaced by fellow Yale grad John Kerry. Not much diversity there either. Susan Rice's large holdings in TransCanada, the company seeking to build the XL pipeline to the US, eminently qualify her for a promotion to oversee US international relations (not to mention her own international investments). Her hard line on the Palestinians is another point in her favor, but she got just a bit too eager a bit too early over Libya so she will have to stay at the UN. Well, there's good obstructionist work to be done there too, Susan. Don't forget Jeane Kirkpatrick, a role model for how to bully the world into thinking inside the US box.
The list of items of consensus on international issues held by all these supposedly diverse individuals is not hard to crank out: Israel is a vibrant democracy and our great friend, a Palestinian propensity to violence has brought their problems on themselves, Americans are victims, US intentions are always altruistic, someone else is always the problem, terrorists are all around us, Middle East wars are not about oil, all problems have military solutions, economic strangulation ( of Cuba, Iran, North Korea) is preferable to negotiation, etc., etc.
Indeed, bipartisan consensus in diversity is not limited to the State Department and could just as easily be found in the Supreme Court, the Congress, and last but not least in the White House itself. All these institutions engaged in state-sponsored myth propagation are equal opportunity employers.
How did we get here? Most individual cases can pretty easily be explained by old-fashioned opportunism and careerism--say what you need to say to get where you want to go. We might quibble about whether these individuals started off with some principles and sold out later or played the power grab game right from the get-go, but it's hardly important. Another problem is the poverty of US politics. Don't forget the last painful election cycle, which was all about "the middle class." Shallow middle class identity politics enables the politicos to cobble together interest groups to win elections leaving bigger issues like global warming for another day. Identity groups can easily be bought off with appointments or piecemeal legislation without challenging powerful vested interests. When it comes to issues like global warming there's no vocal constituency except for opponents like big oil, big coal and the automobile industry. Marrying phony diversity to lip service on these pressing issues is a prescription for more of the status quo.
We do need diversity--a diversity of creative ideas, ideas that courageously challenge the status quo and not just put new faces on old myths. We constantly hear from media pundits that we need more "bipartisanship." I contend that we have far too much of it already. Finding the middle ground between the center right and the extreme right in the US context, which is already far out of the mainstream of world opinion, is not going to solve humanity's most pressing problems. We need a new updated form of democracy, not one from centuries ago, if we are going to take on the myths of the benevolence of capitalism and limitless growth and replace them with a system that prioritizes meaningful jobs that fill human needs instead of CEO and stock holder bank accounts.
The first step has to be to challenge the notion that our system is fine, that we just need to tweak it or get more involved to make it work better. No. It has to be dismantled totally. It's not just a matter of coming up with a new document, but a matter of coming up with new values, a plan for survival, a strategy of resistance and eventual revitalization.
Diversity is not diversity when different kinds of faces are saying the same thing. Diversity is diversity when different faces say different things in a common effort to build something new. The Occupy Movement was perhaps a start because it asked the right questions, but in any case we have a long way to go and no time to waste on handwringing about diversity that is not diversity.
Email address removed