Discrimination and Differentiation: An Ethical Biological Issue

George Sunderland Policy Analyst, Washington, D.C.

This paper discusses the ethical and biological implications of the concept of discrimination. The author perceives freedom of speech and action as endangered by prevailing anti-discrimination laws and notes that certain of these run counter to sociobiological reality.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, discrimination is defined as "the act of discriminating or distinguishing; a distinction (made with the mind or in action); the power of observing differences accurately, or to making exact distinctions." This traditional definition is relatively value neutral, and permitted the word to be used in favorable, as well as negative, contexts. Indeed, to have called a man or woman a discriminating person was traditionally considered a high compliment to a person's judgment, discretion, or taste.

By a kind of linguistic Gresham's Law, however, the verbal equivalent of base metal has driven the verbal equivalent of gold coinage out of circulation. Since the mid-1950s in America, the word "discrimination" has come to acquire an exclusively negative shading because of its politically loaded use as a term of condemnation. Discrimination has quickly acquired the following meaning: unfair and reprehensible behavior towards a representative of a given race, religion, ethnic group, sex, or behavioral dysfunction (e.g., homosexuality). Latterly, it has been regarded as invidious and legally actionable for a citizen to even notice or comment upon the distinguishing characteristics of some offended group, even if no unfair action follows.

This new meaning of the word discrimination has spread internationally in parallel with the current Western ideological movement to compel the belief that all the races of mankind are identical. In some languages, the introduction of the word "discrimination" to other languages has resulted in linguistic monstrosities. While in English one discriminates in favor of or against something, in German the word has acquired a transitive usage as seen in the following example of the results of a playground quarrel: "Mutti, er hat mich diskriminiert!"

Free Speech: One of the First Casualties

Amusing as such solecisms are, it is a fact that in virtually all industrialized Western societies discrimination as recently defined is regarded with official opprobrium, and large sums of tax money are spent to root it out and criminalize transgressors. Indeed, Canada has surpassed the United States in this respect, as there have already been cases of individuals whose writings have been suppressed because they were considered discriminatory. Whether in Canada, America, or Britain, combatting discrimination has come to be a major function of government. Commissions are established, laws and regulations are promulgated, employees are enrolled in compulsory lectures, private businesses are obliged to certify nondiscrimination, and government security clearances can be withheld on the basis of hearsay testimony regarding an individual's alleged discriminatory remarks.

Before we consider the long-run implications of such policy enforcement, however, I would like to draw the reader's attention back to the original meaning of discrimination, and examine it as an adaptive behavior in human beings. As the Oxford dictionary definition makes clear, discrimination is actually the cognitive ability to differentiate. While this capacity may be very rudimentary in the lower orders of fauna, such as insects, as we ascend the phylogenetic scale, life becomes more complex and its ability to survive depends on simple judgments based on the ability to perceive differences. Is the creature of my own species who is approaching me friend or foe? Is that animal dangerous or tame? Is this plant poisonous or edible? Distinctions of this sort are ludicrously simple, but they form the experiential data base of any creature that expects to survive and propagate. Internalized, these distinctions become prejudices, i.e., mnemonic devices that help sentient creatures cope with unfamiliar situations. The human species, in the absence of tropism and instinct, requires the ability to differentiate.

An increasing sophistication in roles and diversity of skills in human societies came with the development of a sophisticated capacity to differentiate experience. Within individual communities there arose the separation of individual members according to roles and duties. This process is essentially the same as the free market notion of specialization of labor; the surpluses created by specialization of function permitted not only material abundance, but the development of a higher level of culture. Culture is always dependent on the perception of members of the human species as differentiated individuals, rather than as reflexive components of a group. It is the achievement of individual identity which marks the dawn of Homo sapiens.

With the acquisition of sapiency and culture, mankind developed religion and religion-derived systems of ethical conduct. A distinguishing feature of every known religion and ethical system has been the construction of a hierarchy of values. It would be a metaphysical absurdity otherwise, for a religion or ethic without a scale of values would have no justification to exist. Characteristic of all moral systems, at least until the advent of existentialism and moral relativism in the twentieth century, has been a clear differentiation between good and evil.

Until the end of the eighteenth century, the principle that man was a sapient individual, responsible to a deity for his acts, was undisputed within the ambit of Western Civilization. The first crack in this value system appeared in the writings of the philosophers of the French Revolution, such as Rousseau and Robespierre. They were affronted by the existence of different classes and economic conditions within society, which could only be remedied by a radical levelling of the conditions of individual men and women within their republic of virtue. The revolutionaries' plans reveal not merely a desire to alleviate the burden of immemorial poverty, but a positive desire to erase any distinction between citizens for its own sake. Forcing the King to don the tricolor rosette and be addressed as citoyen Capet could not conceivably enrich the nation, but it was seen as a positive virtue to eliminate the differences which distinguish one man from his neighbor.

An Exercise in Income and Status Equalization

The modern movement to erase distinctions among human beings thus began largely as an exercise in income and status equalization among citizens within a nation. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this movement has acquired messianic legitimation through Marxist doctrine, and has increased in both intensity and geographic distribution to the point where laissez faire economics is only permitted in a handful of states on the Pacific Rim. The political collapse of the Leninist variant of Marxism does not seem likely to significantly delegitimize the world-wide movement toward income and status levelling; on the contrary, the creation of the "Single Europe", directed by a socialist-bureaucratic secretariat headquartered in Brussels, is likely to increase income redistribution in Western Europe while putting the brake on free market entrepreneurialism further east.

During the latter half of the twentieth century, social and economic levelling have been supplemented by a global political movement for racial homogenization. Since the mid-1940s at the latest (coincident with the founding of the United Nations), political elites have regarded those phenomena which distinguish the various racial taxa in a cultural sense - economic success, scientific achievement, and artistic tradition, among other traits - as obstacles to be removed through exhortation, education, and the force of law. According to the theories of anthropological relativism popularized by Franz Boas and Margaret Meade, since all cultures are ipso facto equal, the inequalities between groups are consequently false and meretricious, and can only be explained by other factors, such as the exploitation of one group by another. This twisted reasoning lies behind such political programs as the U.N.'s New Economic Order (NEC) - global income redistribution to favor those racial groups that are less advanced - the Genocide convention (which defines statements that could be construed as leading to "mental harm" to other races as genocidal acts meriting extradition and trial), and UNESCO's programs of cultural propaganda paid for by the taxpayers of the wealthier Western counties. Within the Western nations themselves, the governmental apparatuses have implemented a panoply of legal and regulative measures to eliminate distinctions between racial groups, such as hiring and representational quotas, "antidiscrimination" laws which weaken property rights, and various measures designed to suppress speech which might draw attention to racial differences. Even more pervasive than the legal measures, however, has been the more-or-less unofficial practice of social coercion. While certain forms of speech touching on racial, ethnic, and related distinctions are not formally proscribed, injudicious remarks will usually result in pressure by organized groups to remove the offending individual from his place of employment; image-conscious corporations, anxious to avoid guilt by association, usually comply with demands of the aggrieved minority.

By this process, the First Amendment to the Constitution, which employ to legitimize various forms of non-verbal behavior (such as pornography and flag-burning) as "protected speech," has ironically become a dead letter for many traditional words and forms of speech currently ostracized by the antidiscrimination movement. The career paths of James Watt, Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, Jackie Mason, and Andy Rooney are illustrative of this phenomenon.

"The Hate Crimes Statistics Act"

However, these informal persecutions are likely to gain the force of law before the year 2000 in America. Not only is there ample legal precedent in other Western countries, but recent legislative initiatives suggest that organized social coercion by the antidiscrimination movement will eventually be supplemented by a broad range of civil and criminal penalties. In February, the U.S. Senate passed legislation emotively titled "The Hate Crimes Statistics Act". This bill seeks to encourage the Justice Department to pass judgment on whether certain crimes, misdemeanors, and civilly actionable behaviors are motivated by racial, ethnic or anti-homosexual "hate." Not only does this bill thereby involve the federal government in law enforcement activities that were previously the domain of state and local authorities, it also implicitly attempts to redefine common sense concepts of "crime." If injudicious speech is motivated by "hate," is the commission of robbery and murder by a professional criminal (which falls outside the penumbra of the bill) considered a lesser act because it was presumably motivated by desire for economic gain? On the other hand, is the American criminal class not motivated, at least in part, by hatred of normal members of society? To read the legislation, one would have to conclude otherwise.

The average middle class American might venture surprise that the political elites would regard rude language towards a homosexual as a more serious "crime" than murder, since the former merits urgent federal attention and the latter does not. But that is precisely the tendency of American political elites, whose membership is largely composed of the antidiscrimination movement. It is noteworthy that President Bush's proposed Omnibus Anticrime Act (which attempts to deal with the sorts of crime that most Americans encounter) has not received a favorable review from Congress.

It is also worth noting a feature of the Hate Crimes bill which implies a melding of government and private activist groups. A provision of the bill exhorts the Justice Department to "coordinate" its statistics gathering activities with such quasi-private groups as the B'nai B'rith and the NAACP. This statute suggests therefore that agencies of a popularly elected government are either technically incompetent or insufficiently zealous to properly carry out the law on their own. By omission, also, the bill insinuates that the average unaffiliated citizen's views on what constitutes hate do not carry the same weight as those of the abovementioned groups. The implication that a sanhedrin of private groups is required to pass judgment on law enforcement matters suggests that within a few years the socially coercive powers of private "antidiscrimination groups" will be fused with the executive and judicial power of government.

The Civil Rights bill, which was killed by President Bush but which will likely be resurrected in essentially similar form, would make civilly liable those employers who cannot prove in court that the qualifications for employment they have established are "essential" for the job description. In other words, the plaintiff would not have to prove discrimination in order to receive a judgment; while the defendant must not only prove that no discrimination took place, but also that the stated qualifications for the job (e.g., a university degree or tangible experience in the field) are not merely "reasonable" but essential. Aside from the chilling implication that the shift of the burden of proof from the plaintiff to the defendant has for the protection of Constitutional rights, this bill marvelously illustrates the unstated philosophy behind the antidiscrimination movement that has persisted since Rousseau: the refusal to make reasonable distinctions, and the desire to force others to desist from making such distinctions.

Discrimination is a Natural Process

The common denominator among all antidiscrimination movements, whether they are concerned with skin color, income, sex, individual ability, or dysfunctional behaviors, is that they resolutely refuse to honor traditional common sense distinctions that have helped keep societies on an even keel. They object to sodomy laws, for instance, on the grounds that such laws "discriminate" against homosexuals. But that is precisely the point: the need to protect society (and its children) against the kind of dysfunctional behavior which spreads disease and social dissolution. Vagrancy laws "discriminate" against vagrants. Laws to institutionalize the insane "discriminate" against the insane, and so on. Of course, when a society no longer discriminates against the insane by institutionalizing them, it ends up with more vagrants.

This litany of folly is virtually endless. The death penalty "discriminates" against those groups of people from whose ranks most murderers are drawn. Intelligence tests "discriminate" against those with lesser intelligence. English grammar "discriminates" against women. Western culture "discriminates" against all that is not Western culture. A set of stairs "discriminates" against the physically disabled. Airline safety regulations "discriminate" against the blind. Private clubs "discriminate" because they are not public clubs, i.e., open to everybody. This process leads to a startling conclusion: if something is true to its original intent or definition it is ipso facto discriminatory, because it is a set which does not intersect with all other sets. A man is discriminatory because he is not a woman; QED.

This paradigm, if allowed to control all aspects of society, may eventually lead to the breakdown of society itself, because the society which accepts this paradigm will not only be unable to defend its institutions philosophically, but physically as well. In the 1960s and 70s, police forces abolished height and weight requirements for police officer candidates because these qualifications "discriminated" against women. As a result, police departments must not only accept understrength women but puny men as well. Unfortunately for society, such physical specimens in police uniform are not only less able to defend themselves in a violent confrontation, their unimposing appearance means they are less able to deter violence by their very presence. A recent incident in Mansfield, Ohio, is a revealing case in point. Two prisoners being arraigned were reported to have overpowered an armed woman police officer, leading to a hostage situation.

However, the public report attempted to conceal the gravity of the situation by distorting the truth. In fact, the two felons overpowered four armed female officers and relieved them of their sidearms. The press, by covering up the truth in its efforts to avoid hurting people's feelings, is misleading the citizenry about the danger to public safety posed by misguided social engineering.

The quality of the police forces is being further eroded by requirements that entrance examinations be "normed" (i.e. fudged) downward so as to permit unrestricted hiring of various racial and ethnic minorities. As older cohorts of police officers reach retirement age, therefore, police forces across the country will have to face the fact that their personnel will increasingly consist of individuals who are either physically or mentally unfit by traditional standards. One cannot overestimate the danger to public safety that such a transformation in law enforcement will portend, but it will be extremely difficult to counter the anti-discrimination paradigm, which dictates levelling of standards and refusal to make common sense distinctions.

The standard that there shall be no standard is invading other fields critical to health, safety, and national survival. Traditionally, a fireman has required exceptional physical strength to perform the duties necessary to protect the public. The ability to carry an unconscious man weighing upwards of 200 pounds through a window and down a ladder is a punishing requirement - but it is the whole point of fire fighting. Again, however, standards have been "normed" so that physically weaker women can meet them. While the social effects of this policy may not be felt for some time, within a generation it is bound to dilute the effectiveness of another public service.

The most recent cause célèbre of the antidiscrimination movement has been the effort to abolish the combat exclusion rule in the military. The movement is challenging one of the most ancient social taboos of all, the principle that women should not fight in wars. There are many profound socio-biological implications to the overthrowing of this taboo, such as the social coarsening of women (who, according to George Gilder, are the true custodians of culture), the physical endangerment of society's childbearers, and the breaking down, in the enemy's mind, of the distinction between combatants and noncombatants.

Women in Combat

Leaving these issues aside for a moment, one should focus more closely on a far simpler and more quantifiable factor: combat effectiveness. Although proponents of women in combat consistently evade the issue, women almost invariably fail to meet the physical standards required of combat soldiers. According to tests conducted by the Marine Corps, for example, most women are unable to throw a hand grenade beyond its lethal bursting radius. That would seem to settle the argument rather conclusively, but anti-discrimination zealots refuse to see why this would matter in practice. Proponents generally fall back on the argument that modern war is such a "high tech" affair that strength really does not matter (ignoring the inconsistency that it is usually they who oppose the acquisition of expensive high tech weapon systems for the reason that they don't work anyway). Nevertheless, veterans of the British Army's slog to Goose Green during the Falklands Campaign or the 82nd Airborne Division's drop into Panama would probably argue against the hypothesis that strength and endurance don't matter in modern war.

There is also a misconception as to why certain warlike societies might conscript women. The Israeli example is often cited as a good reason why women should be allowed into combat, but this is entirely beside the point. Israel conscripts women precisely in order that they can perform administrative and supply functions which thereby free males for service in front-line units. Israeli experience with women in combat units in 1948 was disastrous, weakening the élan of males in the same unit and strengthening the resistance of the enemy.

Proponents of women in combat also glide over the fraternization issue, saying in effect that it simply won't exist among professional soldiers of either sex. This assertion contradicts all kinds of common sense experience. The feminists and anti-discrimination advocates, who ordinarily find everyday life replete with sexual harassment, rape, and oppression of the female, contend that these phenomena will magically cease to occur in the U.S. military, even under the stress of combat and the long separation from spouses and mates. In other words, the male is ordinarily a brute, but he will behave like a gentleman in combat.

Before passing on to other aspects of the anti-discrimination phenomenon, it will suffice to reflect on the prospects for national survival if the combat exclusion rule is overturned. Like many other unfavorable social trends, women in combat is an example of the principle of catastrophic gradualism: perhaps the U.S. military can again prevail over a weak opponent like Panama with its combat units composed of ten percent women. It may even prevail under the same circumstances with twenty percent women in the front lines. But should we ever have a fully "integrated" U.S military composed of 50 percent women facing a first class opponent, the United States will suffer a shattering defeat.

The Erosion of Traditional Values

We have already seen how the anti-discrimination movement has begun to erode the traditional hierarchy of religious and moral values common to virtually all cultures, such as protection of women from combat and the public health taboo against homosexual behavior. The antidiscrimination movement, which is at bottom an exercise in moral relativism and epistemological refusal to differentiate among the phenomena of the physical world, is taking aim at other traditional values as well. One might say that the history of Twentieth Century criminology is the story of an effort to make the criminal and the victim change places on the moral ladder. But while this movement was in the past confined to a relatively small number of psychologists and prison-system bureaucrats, since the racial riots of the 1960s the effort to blur the distinction between the criminal and the victim has become a core belief of the antidiscrimination ideology.

The antidiscriminators were faced with the need to rationalize the inconvenient fact that violent crimes were committed in lopsided disproportion by members of certain of the ethnic minorities. Rather than accept the hypothesis that increased apprehension and swift punishment would act as such a deterrent as to bring the proportion of future ethnic offenders down, the antidiscrimination movement theorized that (a) the criminals were not responsible for their acts, and (b) the dominant white culture bore the blame.

Since proponents of the antidiscrimination movement are widely represented among judges, lawyers, and parole board members, it now requires the most extraordinary expenditures of time, taxpayer money, and effort to convict a violent criminal and keep him incarcerated. Judicial standards have been revised to the point where the trial is no longer a proceeding to determine guilt or innocence, but rather an exhaustingly long, complicated, and expensive ritual wherein a mountain of evidence may not suffice to convict a criminal, but a scintilla of wrong procedure will serve to set the most violent felon free. Given the almost unbelievable Constitutional protections enjoyed by criminal suspects, the ability of judges to effectively abrogate the decision of the jury by narrow instructions or setting aside jury verdicts, plea bargaining, endless appeals, furloughs from prison, work-release programs, parole, and even arbitrary court-ordered release of inmates because of alleged prison "overcrowding", it is obvious that the ancient and universally held principle that crime entails retribution has been eroded to the point of extinction.

At the same time, progressive political opinion has deemed it necessary to weaken the traditional Anglo-Saxon legal right of self-defense enjoyed by the law-abiding citizenry. The Trojan horse employed for this effort has been the propaganda campaign against private gun ownership, which has taken on curious overtones of animism ("Police Officer Slain by Assault Weapon" is a typical headline). While this partially successful campaign to restrict gun ownership has had no effect on career criminals - indeed, the highest violent crime rates are in jurisdictions with the most stringent gun laws, such as Washington, D.C. - it has made many citizens uneasy about their ability to defend their homes and families.

The prospect of a disarmed public, insufficiently protected by a mentally and physically weakened police force (itself further shackled by the courts and quasi-private antidiscrimination "activists") is bound to embolden professional criminals.

Where this will lead should be evident to every sentient headline reader. One of the greatest criminal cause célèbre of recent times was the incident involving Bernard Goetz. The facts of the case are universally known. What is significant, however, are the extraordinary lengths to which the New York police went to apprehend Goetz, while one suspects the case would have been handled routinely had he not turned the tables on his would-be assailants. Also revealing was the extreme vindictiveness against Goetz expressed by the Mayor, the District Attorney, official organs such as the New York Times, and other "community leaders." Goetz was white, his assailants were black, and so the matter was settled in the minds of those who represented the progressive face of antidiscrimination. The little man had to be made an example, for if the citizens at large were to follow his lead, the whole modern edifice of the criminal justice system - its featherbedding police unions, corrupt judges, criminal psychologists, social workers, halfway house administrators, parole officers, the entire panoply of bureaucrats who draw material sustenance from the perpetuation of criminality - would come crashing to the ground. In order for the gears of modern egalitarian states to mesh smoothly, the victim must trade places with his tormentors.

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