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Part 2: Standardization

30 Jan

Conflict is the inevitable result of diverse social environments. Diversity in a society is characterized by differences in ideologies; factors such as race, culture, or socioeconomic rank only affect diversity insofar as they have influences on the formation of ideologies. When members of a society have different views about the same sorts of things, the result is conflict. This conflict can be of any degree, from simple disagreement to outright hostility.

The eventual goal of all societies is to minimize conflict among its members. Societies do this by forming standardized belief systems (i.e. social paradigms) to identify and root out any individuals who might prove a source of conflict against the beliefs of the society. This process has an important side-effect: the elimination of diversity.

There are two main reasons why no society should go down this road to an extreme degree. The first is a practical issue: clamping down on belief is not something that  people like. If a person’s way of life is oppressed enough, the eventual result is rebellion. We see this in countries where religious tensions are high and sectarian violence is widespread. The extremists fighting against the government are provoked to do so by the potential stifling of their culture under the rule of an opposing sect. We even see evidence of this sort of resistance at the interpersonal level. Take for example the parent-child relationship: when parents try to clamp down too hard on their children, sometimes the children rebel and become worse than before. An iron fist can sometimes be the end of a society.

The second reason deals with the nature of human progress. Diversity is the key element to maintaining a creative population. Progress in a society finds its fuel in the creativity of its people, in the ability of its people to create and imagine new things. We can’t go about doing this is if all of our beliefs are homogeneous: we’re not going to get anywhere by thinking the same way about the same things. If we are somehow able to clamp down on all belief while successfully maintaining a docile population, we will have taken the element of free thought away; creativity will have been reigned in. When an iron fist isn’t the end, the eventual result isn’t any more appealing.

There are real life examples of this occurring now in places like China, where the media is heavily regulated and much of life is extremely objectified towards the goals of the nation. Even in the United States, the standardized education system is a powerful tool that regulates both the sorts of things children think about as well as how they should think about them. While this sort of standardization is good for the productivity of a nation, the eventual result will be the slow deadening of creativity on a widespread scale.

In other, smaller societies, we see the negative effects of the domination over belief in more subtle ways. For example, suppose a child doesn’t become rebellious and instead submits to the whims of its parents. Its ability to think freely, to choose  and speak openly become impaired. There are many socially inept children who are unable to properly form relationships with potential peers or even understand something as simple as a joke because of the iron-fisted rules imposed over their lives. Their creativity becomes myopic, focusing only on achieving single goals in nuanced ways. While this type of person might be able to do a specific job well and efficiently, the person will have an impaired ability to think “outside of  the box” and invent better solutions to problems and tasks. The stifling of belief impairs the ability of those afflicted to create and imagine beyond what they have been raised to belief: a child raised in a violent home creates violence, a child raised in a Catholic home believes in God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost, but has trouble understanding someone’s belief in Allah or Buddha.

Despite these consequences, standardization is an important tool for maintaining order and optimizing productivity: there are certainly bad ways of thinking and living that must be identified and rooted out, as well as many aspects of society that simply function better when they are standardized. Crime embodies the bulk of these bad sorts of diversity, but other important examples of behaviors that must be eliminated from society include laziness, greed, indifference, etc.. My question is this: can we reformulate the standardization process so that our paradigms work only to exclude those forms of diversity which are inherently bad while simultaneously maximizing societal productivity? An important question to ask along the way is the question of how we might go about  identifying which sorts of diversity are inherently bad and which aspects of society are better when standardized.

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