Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interpersonal Relationships, Diversity, & the Borg of "Star Trek: First Contact"

One of my classmates asked for some pros and cons of diversity. He first asked for pros and the answers flowed freely as we almost scoffed at such a question. Diversity is practically a virtue.

Cons was a little harder. We talked about perceived cons, such as stereotyping and bigotry. But those are not so much cons of diversity, but rather cons of ignorance faced with diversity.

After class, I rented Star Trek: First Contact, one of the New Generation films. In it, the crew of the Enterprise fight a cyborg race referred to as the Borg. The Borg overtake whole races and make them part of the Borg. At one point the Borg claim to evolve, to which Data, of the Enterprise, replies, "You don't evolve, you conquer."

The Borg is a diverse group. They conquer every race they encounter, assimilating them and making them look exactly like every other part of the Borg. The Borg are one, working towards perfection.

Sounds like 19th-century German liberalism. Sounds like idealism. Sounds like a dystopian novel. Sounds like integration. Sounds like the kingdom of God.

And there I find a potential downside to diversity: assimilation. When we integrate and really experience and learn from diversity--and I'm not talking about "appreciating" diversity--we change. We become less like who we were and more like the other. Likewise, in ideal interaction, the other also comes more like us. Neither should become just like the other, though. Black should not become white or vice verse. But neither should the two meet in the middle.

Both of those options are assimilation. Race would be eliminated (which may be neither a good nor bad thing) and, hence, diversity. If diversity yields assimilation, then diversity leads to the end of diversity. It leads to sameness.

We need to have diversity without assimilation. We need to move beyond our differences with the Other and in cooperation with the Other. In this way, we can remain different and we can change, but we aren't becoming drones.

Resisting assimilation means not thinking what your professor says just because your professor said it. It means resisting authority from authors just because they are authors. It means throwing off the bonds of oppression--yours and that of others. It means throwing off the role of oppressor--yours and that of others.

It means thinking for yourself, but not by yourself.

Diversity is a wonderful thing, but we need to know why it is a good thing and how to handle it. Diversity is not just black and white, old and young, male and female. Being diverse does not mean having a day to talk about African American and female perspectives on an issue, while every other class focuses on the white male slant.

Don't simply accept diversity. Don't assume everyone promoting diversity is doing so in a good way. Think about diversity for yourself and resist assimilation, which, by the way, will mean you're promoting diversity.

No comments:

Post a Comment