BY EFFIE DEANS
One of the main reasons that I oppose left-wing thinking is that I want people to be treated as individuals rather than as members of a group. I have the same duty to treat everyone I come across morally no matter what they look like, where they are from or how they choose to live their lives. There isn’t a special quality that attaches to people who are white, born in Scotland or who want to sleep with one person of the opposite sex, but for the same reason there isn’t a special moral quality that attaches to anyone else. We are all just individuals, who most frequently form family groups with those we love. Everyone wants both the best for themselves and their own family, but ought to treat other individuals and families in such a way that they too have a chance to attain their desires. I can do very little to influence even the behaviour of people in the town where I live, let alone the country, but I can make a difference to how I interact with people I meet at work or in the street. If I come across someone needing a bit of help, I should try to give it. It doesn’t matter at all what they look like, what they believe or how they speak. If we all individually were more honest, open and kind in our daily lives this would transform society far more than anything politicians do.
As my focus is on the individual, I am completely uninterested in social class. This is what Labour gets wrong. The terms used to describe class have anyway become meaningless. Lots of people who might describe themselves as working class are really small businessmen. Often when successful they earn more than those who might describe themselves as middle class. We are anyway not constrained in the way that we once were. Someone from any background can become a doctor, a lawyer or pretty much anything else. People have different abilities and some work harder than others. It is this that determines their success, not class.
So long as each individual has the chance to become what they want because of their ability and their hard work, we should be content. The problem is that the Left is not satisfied with this. It demands that there should be equality of outcome across each social group. It is this above all that is leading us into absurdity.
Because approximately half the population are men and half are women the Left complains when these proportions are not exactly matched in any particular situation. Most unfortunately some Conservatives have begun to think that this is a problem too. There would indeed be a problem if it could be shown that prejudice or a systematic lack of opportunity was the cause. But we have had laws about equality of opportunity for decades. The reality is that men and women individually make different choices and these choices in part reflect the fact that men and women are in fact different.
The whole trouble with demanding equality of outcome is that it both ignores individual difference and forbids us noticing group differences. Many women choose in their twenties to focus on having children and raising a family. It is this that best explains the difference in outcome between men and women. It’s not that women are less talented. It’s easy to find examples of women who have reached the top, but unfortunately it just isn’t possible to do two things at once. When men have children they don’t usually have to take much time off work and they don’t generally have to devote themselves one hundred percent to child rearing. It is simply unreasonable to expect the same outcome when women, in order to have two or three children, must devote years to actually having the children and then to looking after them. Women who don’t marry or who choose not to have children are just as likely to be successful as men, but if we all chose to go down that route, there wouldn’t be a next generation.
The Left’s continual demand for diversity is itself sexist and racist. If women or ethnic minorities do not exactly make up their percentage proportions in society in any given sphere of life, demands are made that something must be done. Quotas must be introduced. Women only short-lists must be used to help women become elected as MPs. If there are not enough students at university from a particular background it must be made easier for them to enter. People must be picked for television programmes not because they are talented, but because they are Muslim, black, disabled or gay.
On popular television programmes it is easy to see the cogs turning in the BBC minds. “We need someone in a wheel chair.” “I know there weren’t many black people in eighteenth century Britain, but let’s have one anyway.” “This drama has far too many able bodied straight white men”, we’re not fulfilling our diversity quota.”
It is racist or sexist or some other “ist” when people are chosen not because they are talented, not because of the individuals that they are, but rather because of the group that they supposedly are a part of. Positive discrimination is just as racist as negative discrimination. All discrimination is a form of prejudice. An individual misses out on a university place or a role on television or a job because he is the wrong sex, the wrong race or he doesn’t tick this particular diversity box or that one. This individual is denied success not because of his lack of talent, but rather because of something he was born with. This is discrimination and it is quite wrong.
It is perfectly sensible that films and television programmes should reflect the societies they come from. A film set in contemporary London ought to have people from all sorts of backgrounds. But if we are to make a film about life in Britain in the eighteenth century then it ought to reflect how life was then. There should be no need for tokenism’s attempt to rectify the historical reality. The BBC cogs should stop turning. Until very recently indeed Britain was not very diverse. The overwhelming majority of the population looked more or less the same. You either reflect that reality or you distort it.
People from all backgrounds in Britain today have been able to achieve success. The idea that they need quotas to become successful is to suppose that they are not actually talented enough to be successful on their own. But this is prejudice. So long as we focus on removing the artificial barriers that each individual might face in becoming successful, so long as we remove all prejudice and discrimination then talent will rise to the top of its own accord.
Each of us is a first and foremost an individual. The only groups that matter are the family and the sovereign nation state. It should not matter at all what class someone comes from, nor should we focus on sex or race. People are different. We each have different backgrounds, different hopes and desires. It doesn’t matter at all that there are few Asian footballers or that women don’t tend to want to work as computer programmers. So long as neither faces discrimination there is no need whatsoever to see this as a problem that needs solving. It is only the collectivist mentality that demands that each group must be equally represented in everything. This is the problem, because equality of outcome across social groups can only occur by force and by means of discrimination.
Better by far to recognise that we are all different and that each of is an individual whose individuality means that we have different talents and the freedom to make different choices. We should have the same chances as everyone else, but to demand equality of outcome because of sex, race or any other characteristic is to demand that we live in a sexist and racist society whose guiding principle is prejudice.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.