Diversity and Extremism

When I started working from home, I knew I would like not commuting. I did not expect how much I would enjoy not being around people.

I do like talking with people, but I don’t want to spend time talking about things I am not interested in. I don’t enjoy getting caught in a long conversation about a TV show I’m not interested in or a movie I am never going to watch.

Clearly that other person is into it, but I’d rather be left to think my own thoughts. I worked from home for more than two years, and I really enjoyed NOT being around people.

I read my own books, and thought my own thoughts and was perfectly happy. I chose a few social interactive events in the week, and kept to myself.

When the stay-at-home orders happened in March, I felt very ready to comply. I checked all my social media outlets, made sure my library cards were set up. I figured it was no different than how I had already been living

It was not the same.

The things I had previously relied on to give me my personalized balanced diet of other activities were stopped. That upset the balance. I remember back in April I went to store for the first time. I was overcome by the site of everyone’s faces—even though they were covered in masks—I cried to have someone tell me to have a nice day.

We’ve been separate from one another. I have not breathed the air of people around me.

For America, this has not been entirely a restful time of contemplation and togetherness. Almost immediately people gathered to protest things. There have been continuing protests somewhere in America this whole time.

I just finished a book The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop. He wrote it back in 2007 to explore a trend that has been going on for decades, or longer.

Diversity is a good thing. It’s also an uncomfortable thing.  I might enjoy spending time with people who have read all the same books as I have, who like the same restaurants and music. But it would last long. I would get bored. It would stink like a stagnant pond.

I need other people’s perspectives and ideas. I have to remember they are real perspectives not just concepts. It is dangerous to dehumanize other people.

Bishop writes “Beginning in the 1960s…social psychologists have found that like-minded groups not only enforced conformity but also tended to grow more extreme.”

For example, if a group decides the are dog people, members of the group will one-up each other by expressing more and more dislike of cats. They would end with some very extreme suggestions, like outlawing cats.

I want to avoid those extremes. My best life includes diverse, even clashing viewpoints. And the dogs and the cats need room to co-exist.

Martin Luther King Jr., whom we celebrated this week, said this:

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

I know I have both in me, Dr. King. I am trying to lean towards the good, and bring others along with me.