Acting Out Culture Essays Examples

It's a cliché, but when it comes to ethical culture, tone from the top – or how the most senior people in your organisation act – really does count.

Leaders set the example. They determine direction, goals and priorities. They make important decisions and choose who and what to reward. And when things go wrong, they determine the consequences. Getting the role models and authority figures in your company to walk the talk may be the single most important thing you can do to build your culture of integrity.

How not to lead

Figures show there’s work to do to get corporate leaders to live by the high ethical standards expected of them. As people rise up the hierarchy the stakes get bigger, and so do the pressures and temptations. Yet if the very people who are meant to act as role models behave badly, this is bound to trickle down to employees, too.

OECD analysis of foreign bribery enforcement actions reveals that most international bribes are paid by large companies, with senior management knowledge. This pattern is repeated in the US, where ERC’s National Business Ethics Survey 2013 found that over half of misconduct incidents involved supervisory to top management (see Figure 2). Senior managers were responsible for a quarter of observed misdeeds and were more likely than lower-level managers to flout rules.

FIGURE 2. Most misconduct committed by managers

Source: Ethics Resource Center, 2014. National Business Ethics Survey of the US Workforce (NBES 2013), Arlington: ERC.

Actions say it all

Integrity is a fundamental leadership attribute and it’s essential for a strong, ethical culture that good conduct starts at the top. ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ cannot be the basis for a culture of integrity. Ethical leadership includes the following traits:

  • Aligning thoughts, words and deeds.

  • Modelling the behaviour we ask of others.

  • Learning as well as teaching.

  • Considering stakeholder needs, including global society and the planet.

Leaders who demonstrate 24/7 integrity and establish ethical conduct as a priority by putting in place high standards, setting a good example and communicating openly will exert the positive influence on employees that is the oxygen of strong ethical culture. Follow-through is vital. A good example, according to Ethisphere’s Timothy Erblich, is GE. ‘When someone raises their hand they’ll get a call from GE President and CEO Jeff Immelt or someone to say ‘‘Good job, we’re glad you did that!’”

The role of the CEO

As the head of the company, the CEO has an oversize role in shaping the ethical culture: they set the example. The way they act, the messages they send and the objectives they choose are key determinants of company culture. Scania’s Andreas Follér agrees. ‘The CEO is the company embodied’, he stresses, ‘I can’t overemphasise how crucial it is that the CEO is active. That’s more or less their top task – to safeguard and remind the organisation of its culture.’

The boss is a powerful influence when it comes to ethical culture change. Their role includes:

  • Framing the big picture around ethics and leading the senior management team in determining the organisation’s values.

  • Articulating clear demands and expectations for ‘how’ as well as ‘what’ business objectives must be achieved in line with those values.

  • Keeping an open door for dialogue and continually reinforcing ethical culture by being a ‘storyteller’.

  • Creating a positive legacy by empowering others to make right choices for the long term.

It takes around five years to push ethical culture change down through middle management. With the average tenure of a listed company chief executive just five years, their focus should be on leaving a positive legacy by embedding values for the long term and empowering others to carry on the baton.

The role of the board

The board’s primary function in creating and maintaining a culture of integrity is to oversee the long-term interests of the company and its stakeholders and see that value is generated in an ethical way. Its responsibilities include helping to steer corporate values and ensuring that the executive team adequately balances corporate objectives with risk management and values-led behaviour so that long-term value generation is safeguarded for all stakeholders.

A well-functioning board holds the CEO and senior leadership to account by asking the right questions, verifying that adequate checks and balances are in place to manage risk, supporting tough calls and – if necessary – changing the team if they fail to deliver against company values and stakeholder expectations. Betsy Rafael, a director at Autodesk and GoDaddy, calls this a ‘noses in but hands off’ tactic. The board needs to stay alert to red flags like inconsistencies, decisions that clash with values, and make sure that particularly high-stakes situations where values may be compromised ‘pass the sniff test’.

By working closely with the relevant steering group, internal audit, ethics and HR functions, the board can monitor the ethical climate of the organisation and health of the E&C programme. A good way to take the ethical pulse is to invite open-ended discussion about problems and use visits to unofficially ‘kick the tyres’ and ‘get under the hood’ of the E&C programme.

The role of the manager

It’s when values are lived consistently by every person in the company that a culture of integrity is created. Managers are responsible for embedding values through the ranks. Says RBS’s Laing: ‘Tone from the top is very important but not helpful if that just turns into a diktat about how you must behave. People also have to think for themselves.’

Managers are key to ensuring this happens. They serve as an essential conduit to deliver and reinforce the message in a multitude of ways to frontline employees, and have the best view and insight into real-life operational challenges that people face on the job.

“Tone from the top is fine, but what about the ‘‘muddle in the middle?’’ 30,000 of our 42,000 people are either blue collar or frontline. If you don’t embed the culture in these people you’ve failed. They won’t breach the bribery act in a material way, the Serious Fraud Office won’t be knocking on your door, but if you don’t deal with the culture here, the culture won’t be right in the organisation, and things will become problematic.” Sam Al Jayousi, Group Compliance Manager, Carillion 

As well as being a role model, their first job is to engage their team or unit in defining how the values contained in the CoC translate and apply in daily work. This means using their unique understanding of each role – and the challenges and risks that go with it – to develop clear guidelines. These will differ according to function: sales, for example, face very different sets of issues to R&D and this should be factored into guidelines.

Their second task is to set balanced key performance indicators (KPIs) that reward behaviour consistent with the company’s values and don’t put staff under unfair pressure to cut corners. Giving immediate feedback – both good and bad – is essential, along with making sure promotions reflect good performance on values and ethics metrics as well as bottom line results.

Finally, the manager needs to foster a ‘speak-up’ culture by making it clear that their door is always open for discussion, that reports will be acted on, and that no sanctions will be taken against whistleblowers. Providing regular feedback on investigations helps build this trust.

Ultimately, values are everybody’s business. The integrity of an organisation boils down to the sum of individual choices and actions of every employee. Along with modelling ‘right’ behaviours, senior leaders need to ensure that effective education and incentives are there to empower each individual to do things right.

Leadership tips

  • Make high personal integrity, good character and strong alignment with your company’s values key criteria for promotion to all leadership roles.

  • Bake the requirement to consistently walk the talk into management job descriptions and monitor whether their stated business objectives actively support ethical conduct throughout the organisation.

Tips for the CEO

  • Keep ethics high on your CEO’s radar with excellent regular briefings, strong messaging and great stories to tell that... p48 box

This is an edited extract from the book 'Creating a Culture of Integrity', part of the DōShorts Sustainable Business Collection


OECD  culture  cr culture  Good culture  Leadership  Responsible leaders 

Essay #3 Options with 3 Sources Due 10/30

One. Refute, support, or complicate Asma’s assertion that green guilt is not only a relative to religious guilt but speaks to our drive to sacrifice self-indulgence for the drive of altruistic self-preservation and social reciprocity.

Two. Develop a thesis that supports, refutes, or complicates the assertion Debra J. Dickerson, who wrote the “The Great White Way,” would find Michael Eric Dyson's essay "Understanding Black Patriotism" a complement to Dickerson's ideas about race, power, and hierarchy.

Three. Support, refute or complicate Debra J. Dickerson's argument that race in America is more of a social fantasy than a reflection of objective reality. Three best books I've read and/or taught on the subject of race, which I recommend: Autobiography of Malcolm X, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

Four. Show how the Jordan Peele movie Get Out builds on Debra J. Dickerson's argument that race in America is a cruel invention designed to create a hierarchy of power, one that can be seen in all its horror in post-Obama America. For sources, see NYT review, The Guardian review, The Independent, and the Variety review. 

Five. Develop a thesis that analyzes the human inclination for staying within the tribe of sameness as explained in David Brooks’ “People Like Us” (very popular with students). 

Six. Support, refute or complicate Nicholas Kristof’s assertion that slashing food stamps is morally indefensible.

Seven. Addressing at least one essay we've covered in class (“The Wages of Sin” and “Eat Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem), support, refute or complicate the argument that overeating, anorexia, and other eating disorders are not the result of a disease but are habits of individual circumstance and economics.

Eight. Support, refute or complicate the argument that feminist-political explanations for anorexia, as evident in Caroline Knapp's essay, are a ruse that hide the disease's real causes. 

Nine. In the context of “Our Baby, Her Womb,” support, defend, or complicate the argument that surrogate motherhood is a moral abomination.

 

Inherited Opinions About Race 

Race as a Chimera 

If ideas about race are not based on informed opinions but inherited opinions based on myth, fiction, and fantasy, it's helpful to contrast the fantasy of race, based on inherited opinions, with its reality, based on informed opinions.  

Inherited opinions are not the result of critical thinking. They are the result of mindless absorption of ideas. 

This is where Debra J. Dickerson is helpful. She begins her essay with two fascinating paragraphs. 

She writes:

When space aliens arrive to colonize us, race, along with the Atkins diet and Paris Hilton, will be among the things they’ll think we’re kidding about. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the president tries to explain to creatures with eight legs what blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics are. Race is America’s central drama, but just try to define it in 25 words or less. Usually, race is skin color, but our visitors will likely want to know what a “black” person from Darfur and one from Detroit have in common beyond melanin. Sometimes race is language. Sometimes it’s religion. Until recently, race was culture and law: Whites in the front, blacks in the back, Asians and Hispanics on the fringes. Race governed who could vote, who could murder or marry whom, what kind of work one could do and how much it could pay. The only thing we know for sure is that race is not biology: Decoding the human genome tells us there is more difference within races than between them.

Hopefully, with time, more Americans will come to accept that race is an arbitrary system for establishing hierarchy and privilege, good for little more than doling out the world’s loot and deciding who gets to kick whose butt and then write epic verse about it. A belief in the immutable nature of race is the only way one can still believe that socioeconomic outcomes in America are either fair or entirely determined by individual effort. These two books should put to rest any such claims.

***

Race Is a Chimera

Dickerson's opening paragraphs make it clear that race is not an objective reality but a chimera, something so beyond real and so beyond description that the United States President could not explain the concept of race to space aliens.

Chimera Defined

A chimera is a mirage or a fantasy that gets embedded in our heads and becomes our "highest reality" and obsession.

Chimera's Distinguishing Characteristics

Even though the chimera is not real, it eventually takes over and becomes the apotheosis--the highest point--of our existence.

A chimera is constantly changing shape, color, and texture so that just when we think we have grasped it and possessed it as our own, it changes its characteristics and becomes something completely different. We find ourselves no longer obsessed with the "old" chimera, but want the "new" one. However, we fail to see that it's the same chimera, just in a different shape. 

A chimera speaks to our capricious, fleeting desires. It speaks to our condition of not knowing what we really want even though we compulsively have convinced ourselves that we do. 

The chimera is the mother of compulsion, desire, and disillusion. 

The chimera begins by intoxicating our emotions and propelling us into the angelic realm followed by a crash into the demonic underworld. 

A chimera begins as an idle thought, a fantasy, a myth, a rumor, a piece of gossip, and it grows inside the imagination until it develops a life of its own. Often, the truth cannot stop a chimera. It lives on in spite of evidence that shows the chimera to be a mirage. 

The chimera is about the psychological condition known as impoverishment through substitution. Lacking authentic connection, love, belonging and meaning--the basic human needs--we seek inferior substitutes. The more we fill these basic needs with substitutes the more impoverished we become. A Lexus, a Rolex, a desirable house in a high-status zip code, a prestigious university degree, a trophy spouse all become a substitute for the spiritual vacuum. 

The chimera can be a myth that explains our identity and our sense of entitlement in the world. Often, a cultural identity will be rooted in the myth of exceptionalism: our "people" come from superior stock and are entitled to lord over the others, and it is imperative that our "good stock remains pure" so we must keep out the others. Elaborate mythologies--chimeras--are constructed to give license to this type of narcissistic thinking. 

Disneyland is a chimera about American innocence. This saccharine amusement park takes us to a land where we can be kids again. It's a sentimental worldview that celebrates the idolatry of America's sense of false innocence.  

All successful brand marketing is based on a chimera. 

Costco represents exclusive membership to a club that offers unlimited abundance at prices so cheap "you can't afford NOT to buy that barrel of green olives and designer blue jeans."

Mercedes represents the apotheosis--the highest point--of success. 

Apple computer represents the hipster intellectual who disdains the country bumpkin languishing over his PC.

The past and the future are common chimeras. A lot of middle-aged people can't live in the present because they're fixated on their "past glory years" when they had found "lightning in a bottle." They may go see the Rolling Stones, a group of 80-year-old men wearing Depends and strumming guitars, to relive their glory years.

In fact, these old audience members didn't even have glory years. Their memory of the past is grossly inaccurate and it contributes to their chimera. 

It is possible to be crippled by a layers upon layers of chimeras.  

Racial identity can be a chimera of self-idolatry and privilege or it can be a chimera of stigmatization and subservience. 

The Confederate flag is a chimera of "history," "family honor," and "the glories of the past." Take away the veil, though, and we see that the Confederacy is a moral abomination that embraces the sociopathy of slavery. 

Often, people carry chimeras inside them and take these chimeras to the grave. They would rather live with the drama of a self-destructive chimera than face the emptiness of a life without illusions, a life that has to start from ground zero. 

A chimera is a social construction that gets passed down from one generation to another. Even though based on a lie, this chimera becomes its own reality and becomes more powerful than the truth. As we will see, race is one of those chimeras. 

Chimera Example #1: The Chanel No.5 Moment

I used to know a well-dressed couple in the early 1990s who would go to the same nightclub every weekend. They wore new outfits every weekend because they never wanted people to see them wearing the same clothes. They drove a Lexus, and they were good at having Chanel No.5 Moments together.

The man would whisper into his girlfriend's ear at the bar, and she'd laugh in this superior way. They were convinced they were the greatest thing at the club and that all eyes were on them. 

But two things you need to know about them. They were in debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and they hated each other. Behind closed doors, they argued and fought viciously. But they were good at having Chanel No.5 Moments together. For them, life was enduring the intervals between one Chanel No.5 Moment and the next. 

Fast forward to today. The man died from kidney failure. All his money spent on clothes and car payments didn't allow him to have health insurance.

His girlfriend is now homeless. She wears one of her outfits from the 90s, but now it's tattered, full of holes, and looks like a collection of stapled rags. Decades of smoking have rendered her skin is green, scaly, and reptilian. Her eyes are black skeletal sockets, and her face has no flesh on it. Her hair, once lustrous and shiny, is now so dry and straw-like that if someone lights a match too close to her she will light up in flames. 

You might see her in Culver City buying frozen yogurt with dirty coins she scrounged from the bottom of a dumpster. 

One could argue she and her boyfriend were destroyed by their chimera, which for them was the Chanel No.5 Moment. Such a moment doesn't exist. As one detective says to his detective friend in HBO's The Wire: "Life is the **** you go through every day while waiting for grand moments that never come."

Chimera Example #2

In the summer of 1969, while riding my bike with my friends, I thought I saw Christmas lights. This became an obsession that tormented my father. He had to bring me to the truth that there were no Christmas lights.

The Destructive Chimera of Race

Just as my father had to teach me the truth that my "Christmas lights" were a chimera, Debra Dickerson and Jordan Peele do the same about race. Race is a chimera, a delusion, a mirage.  

Race as a Chimera in Debra Dickerson's "The Great White Way":

When space aliens arrive to colonize us, race, along with the Atkins diet and Paris Hilton, will be among the things they’ll think we’re kidding about. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the president tries to explain to creatures with eight legs what blacks, whites, Asians, and Hispanics are. Race is America’s central drama, but just try to define it in 25 words or less. Usually, race is skin color, but our visitors will likely want to know what a “black” person from Darfur and one from Detroit have in common beyond melanin. Sometimes race is language. Sometimes it’s religion. Until recently, race was culture and law: Whites in the front, blacks in the back, Asians and Hispanics on the fringes. Race governed who could vote, who could murder or marry whom, what kind of work one could do and how much it could pay. The only thing we know for sure is that race is not biology: Decoding the human genome tells us there is more difference within races than between them.

Why can't the Earthling President define race to the space creatures?

Because its definition always changes in accordance with self-interest and the dictates of power. Since power is the central drama of existence and race is used as a pawn in the service of power, race is "America's central drama."

But race is not a fixed or objective entity. Race can be associated with melanin, language, religion, culture, law, lifestyle, art. Race is arbitrarily assigned to makes laws about voting, marriage, privilege, and employment. 

Race is not rooted in biology or science. Its rooted in the power players who use race to reinforce their power at the expense of everyone else. 

Dickerson continues:

Hopefully, with time, more Americans will come to accept that race is an arbitrary system for establishing hierarchy and privilege, good for little more than doling out the world’s loot and deciding who gets to kick whose butt and then write epic verse about it. A belief in the immutable nature of race is the only way one can still believe that socioeconomic outcomes in America are either fair or entirely determined by individual effort. 

Dickerson continues to show that not only "blackness," but "whiteness," is a chimera:

If race is real and not just a method for the haves to decide who will be have-nots, then all European immigrants, from Ireland to Greece, would have been “white” the moment they arrived here. Instead, as documented in David Roediger’s excellent Working Toward Whiteness, they were long considered inferior, nearly subhuman, and certainly not white.

***

We learn from Dickerson's essay that the Irish, Hungarians, Italians, and Slavs were at one time not considered white until the white Anglos in power needed their votes and they granted them the status of "whiteness." 

In Louisiana, before Italians were considered white, Italians were lynched. 

How could Italians, Irish, and Southern Europeans not be white one moment and then white the next? Because race doesn't exist. Race is a canard, a social invention created in the service of power. 

Race as a Chimera Invented in the Service of Power in Jordan Peele's Get Out

One of the greatest movies made in the last 10 years is Jordan Peele's Get Out, which shows how powerful this chimera is. The movie shows how white people have a fantasy notion of the black race, and this fantasy notion makes the white act in ways that are so egregious that Peele had to make a horror film.  

Lexicon for Understanding Themes in Get Out

Point 1: Appropriation: White people stealing from black culture: language, music, dance, style, art, etc. 

Point 2: Fetishize or fetishization: White people wishfully thinking that black people are a super physical race in order that white people can justify their exploitation of black people evidenced by slavery, Jim Crow, and what Michelle Alexander and others call the "New Jim Crow."  Of course, this fetishization of black people is part of the white person's chimera about the black race. 

Point 3: Condescension or patronization: White liberals who think they are "enlightened" when in fact they treat black people the way a smug adult addresses a child. 

Point 4: Whiteness as a mythical religion or the apotheosis (highest point of development) of self and American white people's religion of entitlement. In this regard, "whiteness" is a form of idolatry and narcissism. Just as blackness is a chimera, so is whiteness. 

Point 5: Whiteness Love Affair with American Origin Myth of Innocence: The idea that whiteness, as a state of being offering Disneyland-like innocence, purity, and entitlement, created the greatest country on Earth based on honor and virtue as a smokescreen from the evil, greed, and avarice that created slavery, racism, and Jim Crow. This myth is connected to American Exceptionalism, which we will cover later. 

Point 6: The romanticization of whiteness and the Confederacy: This can be seen in the 5 remaining states (as of writing) that still wave the Confederate Flag over government buildings, erect statues of racist Confederate generals, name streets after racist Confederate generals, and conduct Confederate Army re-enactments in which people dress up in Confederate uniforms and re-live the days when Whiteness as Religion ruled the country without being contested by effete academic intellectuals and other unpatriotic Americans. 

Point 7: Fake News and the movie Get Out.  

Chris, the black protagonist, attends a white family's party and he is subject to a hailstorm of fake news about his identity, origins, and purpose. In other words, the white people in the film have what amounts to a fake grasp of black people, and this fake grasp, based on their self-serving mythology about race, is a large part of their racism. 

Point 8: Kleptocracy: a system of stealing from the people. In the context of slavery and Jim Crow, America's system of stealing from the pocketbooks and bodies of black people evidenced today in structural inequality. Today, whites have 700% more real wealth than African-Americans. The film's climactic ending points to the ultimate kleptocracy.  

Sample Thesis and Outline Comparing "The Great White Way" to the Jordan Peele movie Get Out

Jordan Peele's movie Get Out cogently helps us understand Debra J. Dickerson's connection in "The Great White Way" between race as a fantasy and white privilege as a kleptocracy. Through the lens of Peele's film, this connection is evidenced in four major ways including __________________, _________________, ________________, and _____________________. 

Paragraphs 1 and 2: Using an introductory technique from today's lesson, explain the connection between race as a fantasy and how this racial fantasy fuels white privilege and its aim to conduct a kleptocracy in which black Americans are its victims. Or define the term kleptocracy, discussed at length in Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay, "The Case for Reparations," which can be used as a source for Works Cited. (Two 150-word paragraphs for 300 words) 

Paragraph 3: Argue that Get Out builds on Debra Dickerson's idea as it pertains to the racist fantasy of the black male, in which the black male is perceived as "superior physical specimen" on one hand and servile dolt on the other, the subtle racist jabs or condescending microaggressions that reinforce this racist notion of the black male, the self-destruction that afflicts blacks who try to assimilate in white society, even liberal white society, the denial of racism that whites enjoy boasting about in a post-Obama America, and how white America's racist ideas lay the groundwork for justifying the kleptocracy of black America: the systematic state-sponsored stealing of every ounce of body, mind, and soul from black culture. (150 words for 450 subtotal)

Paragraphs 4-8 (five paragraphs at 150 words each would give us 750 words for a subtotal of 1,200 words)

Conclusion: Show the broader ramifications for a movie about the kleptocracy and its relevance in a post-Obama America (200-word paragraph for 1,400 total). 

You can consult the following movie reviews for your Works Cited:

NYT review , The Guardian review, and the Variety review. For an even more in-depth essay about the kleptocracy against black America, you might consult Ta-Nehisi Coates' essay "The Case for Reparations." 

Lexicon for Understanding "The Great White Way" and "Understanding Black Patriotism"

My sources for the following lexicon:

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The New Jim Crow by Michel Alexander

We Were Eight Years in Power and Between the World and Me, both by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The satirical novel Black No More by George S. Schuyler

The satirical novel The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty

PBS 6-Part Documentary by Henry Louis Gates: The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross

One. American exceptionalism: America is the greatest country on Earth. America's moral superiority gives America the moral obligation to shine its light throughout the planet, to bear its influence everywhere, and to spread its superior democracy with pride and determination. Dickerson's analysis of American kleptocracy contradicts the myth--or chimera--of American exceptionalism.

Two. American kleptocracy: Through a system of race privilege, America stole its wealth on the backs of people of color and due to systemic racism, this kleptocracy, evident in America's history of slavery and Jim Crow, continues in more insidious ways: structural inequality in housing, healthcare, and education, The New Jim Crow in the form of mass incarceration, and racist, opportunistic politicians who rise to power using dog whistles, codes that stir racist anxieties in white people. 

Three. Hiccup Narrative of American History: Yes, America committed the sin of slavery, these historians contend, but slavery was merely a case of the hiccups in a long, rich, glorious history of American exceptionalism in which unpleasant blemishes like slavery will soon  be washed away (if they haven't been washed away already) as America shines like an innocent lamb. 

Some contend that the Hiccup Narrative is legit and evidences the need for us to shut up about race. "Water under the bridge, dude. Stop inflaming your grievances and playing the victim. Whining about the sins of the past will get you nowhere."

Others contend that the Hiccup Narrative is a canard: a plastic, superficial Disneyland-like narrative in which many white people remain in love with their sense of mythical innocence while stealing from black people in the way of structural inequality (housing, education, healthcare). 

Four. Systemic Racism Narrative of American History: Slavery was not just a side show of the great American narrative. Rather, slavery was the foundation of America's wealth and fast rise as a superpower.

The foundations of America's kleptocracy, born from times of slavery, continue to flourish in explicit and implicit ways as too many American whites continue to commit the sin of "whiteness idolatry," worshiping their race while stigmatizing others and maintaining systemic racist institutions to keep this idolatry alive. This narrative is most powerfully rendered in the works of Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

Five. Racist sociopath: A businessman and a conman who has no emotional investment in race and is smart enough to know that race doesn't exist except as an arbitrary social construct, yet he uses race--slavery, for example--to make money knowing full well that the evils of slavery, Jim Crow, and other types of racism will afflict millions with great pain. As a sociopath, this type of racist has no empathy and no concern for anyone but himself. As an opportunist, this sociopath sees that the invention of race and slavery can make him rich and powerful, and that's all that matters. As an aside, if there is an afterlife called Hell, the sociopath will descend into its hottest chamber.

Six. Racist psychopath: Much different than the racist sociopath, the racist psychopath, historically a poor white farmer or laborer, is a believer in his racial superiority and others' alleged inferiority. He may have received these racist beliefs from his parents, his grandparents, the local barber, books he read, movies he watched, friends he hangs out with, or all of the above.

Unlike the sociopath who knows that race is a delusion, the racist psychopath has consumed the racist Kool-Aid. He is emotionally invested in ideas of race. His identity, status, sense of family honor, sense of social class are all tied to his belief in his white supremacy. Most racists are psychopaths.

Ironically, the authors of racism, sociopaths who saw the riches that could be made from slavery, did not believe in race. The sociopaths fed the lies of white supremacy to the dupes. If there is a Hell, dupes or psychopathic racists may find themselves there, but not as deep a chamber reserved for the racist sociopaths.  

 

"People Like Us" by David Brooks

Maybe it's time to admit the obvious. We don't really care about diversity all that much in America, even though we talk about it a great deal. Maybe somewhere in this country there is a truly diverse neighborhood in which a black Pentecostal minister lives next to a white anti-globalization activist, who lives next to an Asian short-order cook, who lives next to a professional golfer, who lives next to a postmodern-literature professor and a cardiovascular surgeon. But I have never been to or heard of that neighborhood. Instead, what I have seen all around the country is people making strenuous efforts to group themselves with people who are basically like themselves.

Human beings are capable of drawing amazingly subtle social distinctions and then shaping their lives around them. In the Washington, D.C., area Democratic lawyers tend to live in suburban Maryland, and Republican lawyers tend to live in suburban Virginia. If you asked a Democratic lawyer to move from her $750,000 house in Bethesda, Maryland, to a $750,000 house in Great Falls, Virginia, she'd look at you as if you had just asked her to buy a pickup truck with a gun rack and to shove chewing tobacco in her kid's mouth. In Manhattan the owner of a $3 million SoHo loft would feel out of place moving into a $3 million Fifth Avenue apartment. A West Hollywood interior decorator would feel dislocated if you asked him to move to Orange County. In Georgia a barista from Athens would probably not fit in serving coffee in Americus.

It is a common complaint that every place is starting to look the same. But in the information age, the late writer James Chapin once told me, every place becomes more like itself. People are less often tied down to factories and mills, and they can search for places to live on the basis of cultural affinity. Once they find a town in which people share their values, they flock there, and reinforce whatever was distinctive about the town in the first place. Once Boulder, Colorado, became known as congenial to politically progressive mountain bikers, half the politically progressive mountain bikers in the country (it seems) moved there; they made the place so culturally pure that it has become practically a parody of itself.

But people love it. Make no mistake—we are increasing our happiness by segmenting off so rigorously. We are finding places where we are comfortable and where we feel we can flourish. But the choices we make toward that end lead to the very opposite of diversity. The United States might be a diverse nation when considered as a whole, but block by block and institution by institution it is a relatively homogeneous nation.

When we use the word "diversity" today we usually mean racial integration. But even here our good intentions seem to have run into the brick wall of human nature. Over the past generation reformers have tried heroically, and in many cases successfully, to end housing discrimination. But recent patterns aren't encouraging: according to an analysis of the 2000 census data, the 1990s saw only a slight increase in the racial integration of neighborhoods in the United States. The number of middle-class and upper-middle-class African-American families is rising, but for whatever reasons—racism, psychological comfort—these families tend to congregate in predominantly black neighborhoods.

In fact, evidence suggests that some neighborhoods become more segregated over time. New suburbs in Arizona and Nevada, for example, start out reasonably well integrated. These neighborhoods don't yet have reputations, so people choose their houses for other, mostly economic reasons. But as neighborhoods age, they develop personalities (that's where the Asians live, and that's where the Hispanics live), and segmentation occurs. It could be that in a few years the new suburbs in the Southwest will be nearly as segregated as the established ones in the Northeast and the Midwest.

Even though race and ethnicity run deep in American society, we should in theory be able to find areas that are at least culturally diverse. But here, too, people show few signs of being truly interested in building diverse communities. If you run a retail company and you're thinking of opening new stores, you can choose among dozens of consulting firms that are quite effective at locating your potential customers. They can do this because people with similar tastes and preferences tend to congregate by ZIP code.

The most famous of these precision marketing firms is Claritas, which breaks down the U.S. population into sixty-two psycho-demographic clusters, based on such factors as how much money people make, what they like to read and watch, and what products they have bought in the past. For example, the "suburban sprawl" cluster is composed of young families making about $41,000 a year and living in fast-growing places such as Burnsville, Minnesota, and Bensalem, Pennsylvania. These people are almost twice as likely as other Americans to have three-way calling. They are two and a half times as likely to buy Light n' Lively Kid Yogurt. Members of the "towns & gowns" cluster are recent college graduates in places such as Berkeley, California, and Gainesville, Florida. They are big consumers of DoveBars and Saturday Night Live. They tend to drive small foreign cars and to read Rolling Stone and Scientific American.

Looking through the market research, one can sometimes be amazed by how efficiently people cluster—and by how predictable we all are. If you wanted to sell imported wine, obviously you would have to find places where rich people live. But did you know that the sixteen counties with the greatest proportion of imported-wine drinkers are all in the same three metropolitan areas (New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.)? If you tried to open a motor-home dealership in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, you'd probably go broke, because people in this ring of the Philadelphia suburbs think RVs are kind of uncool. But if you traveled just a short way north, to Monroe County, Pennsylvania, you would find yourself in the fifth motor-home-friendliest county in America.

Geography is not the only way we find ourselves divided from people unlike us. Some of us watch Fox News, while others listen to NPR. Some like David Letterman, and others—typically in less urban neighborhoods—like Jay Leno. Some go to charismatic churches; some go to mainstream churches. Americans tend more and more often to marry people with education levels similar to their own, and to befriend people with backgrounds similar to their own.

My favorite illustration of this latter pattern comes from the first, noncontroversial chapter of The Bell Curve. Think of your twelve closest friends, Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray write. If you had chosen them randomly from the American population, the odds that half of your twelve closest friends would be college graduates would be six in a thousand. The odds that half of the twelve would have advanced degrees would be less than one in a million. Have any of your twelve closest friends graduated from Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Caltech, MIT, Duke, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, Chicago, or Brown? If you chose your friends randomly from the American population, the odds against your having 

Many of us live in absurdly unlikely groupings, because we have organized our lives that way.

It's striking that the institutions that talk the most about diversity often practice it the least. For example, no group of people sings the diversity anthem more frequently and fervently than administrators at just such elite universities. But elite universities are amazingly undiverse in their values, politics, and mores. Professors in particular are drawn from a rather narrow segment of the population. If faculties reflected the general population, 32 percent of professors would be registered Democrats and 31 percent would be registered Republicans. Forty percent would be evangelical Christians. But a recent study of several universities by the conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the American Enterprise Institute found that roughly 90 percent of those professors in the arts and sciences who had registered with a political party had registered Democratic. Fifty-seven professors at Brown were found on the voter-registration rolls. Of those, fifty-four were Democrats. Of the forty-two professors in the English, history, sociology, and political-science departments, all were Democrats. The results at Harvard, Penn State, Maryland, and the University of California at Santa Barbara were similar to the results at Brown.

What we are looking at here is human nature. People want to be around others who are roughly like themselves. That's called community. It probably would be psychologically difficult for most Brown professors to share an office with someone who was pro-life, a member of the National Rifle Association, or an evangelical Christian. It's likely that hiring committees would subtly—even unconsciously—screen out any such people they encountered. Republicans and evangelical Christians have sensed that they are not welcome at places like Brown, so they don't even consider working there. In fact, any registered Republican who contemplates a career in academia these days is both a hero and a fool. So, in a semi-self-selective pattern, brainy people with generally liberal social mores flow to academia, and brainy people with generally conservative mores flow elsewhere.

The dream of diversity is like the dream of equality. Both are based on ideals we celebrate even as we undermine them daily. (How many times have you seen someone renounce a high-paying job or pull his child from an elite college on the grounds that these things are bad for equality?) On the one hand, the situation is appalling. It is appalling that Americans know so little about one another. It is appalling that many of us are so narrow-minded that we can't tolerate a few people with ideas significantly different from our own. It's appalling that evangelical Christians are practically absent from entire professions, such as academia, the media, and filmmaking. It's appalling that people should be content to cut themselves off from everyone unlike themselves.

The segmentation of society means that often we don't even have arguments across the political divide. Within their little validating communities, liberals and conservatives circulate half-truths about the supposed awfulness of the other side. These distortions are believed because it feels good to believe them.

On the other hand, there are limits to how diverse any community can or should be. I've come to think that it is not useful to try to hammer diversity into every neighborhood and institution in the United States. Sure, Augusta National should probably admit women, and university sociology departments should probably hire a conservative or two. It would be nice if all neighborhoods had a good mixture of ethnicities. But human nature being what it is, most places and institutions are going to remain culturally homogeneous.

It's probably better to think about diverse lives, not diverse institutions. Human beings, if they are to live well, will have to move through a series of institutions and environments, which may be individually homogeneous but, taken together, will offer diverse experiences. It might also be a good idea to make national service a rite of passage for young people in this country: it would take them out of their narrow neighborhood segment and thrust them in with people unlike themselves. Finally, it's probably important for adults to get out of their own familiar circles. If you live in a coastal, socially liberal neighborhood, maybe you should take out a subscription to The Door, the evangelical humor magazine; or maybe you should visit Branson, Missouri. Maybe you should stop in at a megachurch. Sure, it would be superficial familiarity, but it beats the iron curtains that now separate the nation's various cultural zones.

Look around at your daily life. Are you really in touch with the broad diversity of American life? Do you care?

Essay Option #Five.

Develop a thesis that analyzes the human inclination for staying within the tribe of sameness as explained in David Brooks’ “People Like Us” (very popular with students). 

What do we mean by the "tribe of sameness"? 

We're talking about people who share our values in regards to many things:

Politics

Childrearing

The kinds of foods we prepare and how we prepare them

Fashion and art

The way we consume popular culture in the realm of social media, television, movies, etc. 

The way we use language in our speaking and writing

The value we place on education

The value we place on having a sense of irony 

Brooks claims that Americans move to neighborhoods where they create enclaves of their own tribe based on the above. 

America is divided by cultural wars.

The Left sees the Right as white racists, homophobic, privileged, fanatical people who are devoted to helping the 1%. 

The Right sees the Left as politically correct secular, anti-religious snowflakes looking for safe spaces, pushing mixed gender bathrooms on public schools, and being weak on terrorism, border protection, and national security. 

In addition to giant political divisions, there are more granular divisions so that Americans find enclaves where people are their mirror reflection in terms of values. 

Important Terms from Brooks' Essay

One. Characteristics of Tribalism:

Tribalism is the instinctive tendency to create tribes or cliques based on common values and beliefs of the tribe. 

Tribalism contains implicit and explicit beliefs about the tribe's superiority to other tribes. Therefore, tribalism creates The Other and in doing so it creates a binary view of the universe: Us Vs. Them. 

Tribalism sets apart its own group by denigrating other groups. This denigration is a method for making the tribe feel superior and entitled. 

Tribalism sets itself apart from other tribes in the belief that it is preserving its purity and the integrity of its moral core. To allow "others" in is to make the tribe vulnerable to compromised or changed values. Therefore, tribalism tends to be exclusive. 

Tribalism in its extreme form breeds excessive pride to the point of being narcissistic; the tribe believes the world revolves around the tribe's needs. 

Tribalism relies on traditions, and over time these traditions gain a power. Questioning these traditions casts doubt on the loyalty of the person making the inquiries. 

Tribalism values loyalty and conformity over critical thinking. 

Tribalism is therefore breeding ground for Groupthink, which occurs when the desire to preserve harmony and coherence in a group is more important than critical evaluation. 

Tribalism is resistant to change, either internally or externally. "Reformations" are often violent. 

Tribalism encourages love matches to occur within the tribe. To date or marry outside the tribe is considered a betrayal. 

Tribalism may teach fairness and equality, but see other tribes as either disdaining these values or teaching them inadequately, so that the tribe that deems itself morally superior does not grant fairness, necessarily, to other tribes. 

Tribalism is understandable in the realm of intelligence. If your tribe reads real news and another tribe reads fake news, that's a non-starter. 

Tribalism is healthy. We feel a greater sense of belonging and safety when we live among those who share our values. 

Tribalism reduces stress. We are less anxious when we live among those who share our values. 

Tribalism generates cooperation and reciprocity. We share and cooperate more when we live among those who share our own values. 

Tribalism in its extreme form reinforces cognitive bias, the act of only taking in information that affirms our preconceived views. Facebook is an excellent example of tribalism creating cognitive bias. 

Tribalism in its extreme fosters narcissism, the sense that you belong to the "special anointed" tribe and the other tribes are inferior. 

Two. Types of Tribalism

Education Level

Zip Code

Sartorial (fashion)

Hipster

Racial Identity

Politics

Age or generation

Hobbits (comfort seekers who live in ignorance)

Hooligans (purveyors of fake news and fascist politics)

Vulcans (educated, rational thinkers)

Middle-Class Aesthetics and Values (neighborhood rules and regulations about house, lawn, decorations, etc)

Three. Cognitive Bias

People sacrifice their critical thinking skills and create a subjective social reality by filtering information based on pre-conceived biases. 

Their biases compel them to seek evidence and reasoning that confirm and reinforce their biases while they avoid evidence that challenges and contradicts their biases. Over time, their subjective social reality crystalizes until it becomes almost impervious to any kind of challenges from the outside. They in effect live in an indestructible bubble. 

Naturally, cognitive bias compels people to seek others who are like-minded. As a result, societies exist as tribalistic clusters instead of diverse groups.  

One. What explains our hunger for sameness in terms of the people we surround ourselves with?

Anxiety and Disconnection Vs. Belonging

We’re anxious and alienated from “people who aren’t like us.” We’d rather feel connection and comfort from being with “members of our tribe,” be it in education, politics, class aspirations, etc. We want to be around people who share our values and our way of seeing the world.

Such tribalism is both comforting and effective in making us happy.  

We're Attached to Our Cognitive Biases

Here’s the killer fact we don’t want to confront: We’re happier by remaining in our tribe. We don’t want to be around people who don’t share our values. 

Why?

Because we are hard-wired to be self-segregating based on interests and values. 

If we’re hipsters, we want to live in a community of hipsters. 

If we’re suburban consumers, we want to be around suburban consumers. 

If we’re creative, we want to be around a community of artists. 

People who shop at Trader Joe’s are of a certain educated and political ilk. 

People who shop at Whole Foods are of a certain educated and political ilk. 

People who don’t vaccinate their children hang out with other likeminded parents. 

People who watch Fox News hang out with Fox News viewers. 

People who watch MSNBC hang with MSNBC viewers. 

People who like luxury watches create online watch communities. 

The Internet with its millions of blogs is all about consolidating people of common interests. The same can be said with YouTube and its over 500 million channels. 

If you’re a college graduate the chances are your friends will be college graduates. 

If you’re not college educated, the chances are your friends won’t be either. 

If you’re fat, your friends probably are also. 

If you’re skinny, your friends probably are also.

If you're beautiful, your friends probably also enjoy a fair amount of pulchritude. 

If you’re an MMA fighter or enthusiast, your friends probably are also. 

If you’re a vegan, so are your friends. 

If you’re sympathetic to civil rights and equal justice, you probably don’t have friends who harbor racist views. 

If you’re against guns, you probably don’t hang out with outspoken members of the NRA. 

If you’re an atheist, especially an outspoken one, you probably don’t have a lot of Christian friends. 

If you think skinny jeans on men look stupid, you probably don’t have a lot of male friends who wear skinny jeans. 

Foodies hang out with foodies.

Coffee connoisseurs hang out with coffee connoisseurs. 

Gamers hang out with gamers. 

Sommeliers hang out with sommeliers. 

If you're a gourmand who gorges on camembert, you probably hang out with other gourmands who wallow in camembert. 

If you're a member of the cognoscenti, you probably hang out exclusively with other members of the cognoscenti. 

If you're a Morrissey freak, you probably hang out with other Morrissey freaks. 

We want to live in a bubble with people just like us. We feel comfortable being insulated from the “outside world.” 

So let’s get real: There is no diversity. There’s only sameness. 

Writing Option

Develop a thesis that analyzes the human inclination for staying within the tribe of sameness as explained in David Brooks’ “People Like Us.”

Sample Outline 

Paragraphs 1 and 2, your introduction: For your introduction, get your reader's attention by contrasting your tribe with a tribe you would never belong to. You should be very specific and use humor to get reader's attention. You might write about hipsters, jaded millennials, yoga fanatics, foodies, survivors of some dysfunctional unit or other. You can come up with the term of the tribes involved.

You might even address our society's separation by looking at hooligans, hobbits, and Vulcans.

Or you might carve out a new tribe: Ashamed Rich Kids who wear hobo dreads and, avoiding bathing, pretend they're homeless even though you recently saw them driving a Mercedes to their palatial estate. 

(200 words per paragraph for 400 words)

Paragraph 3, your thesis:  Write a cause and effect thesis explaining why even well-intentioned, open-minded people tend to stick to their tribe. Come up with 5 causes. (150 words) 

Paragraphs 4-8 would be your supporting paragraphs. Since this is a cause and effect essay, you won't have a counterargument section. 

(5 paragraphs at 150 words each is 750 for a subtotal of 1,300 words)

Paragraph 9 is your conclusion. (100-200 words for 1,400-1,500 total)

Student Refutation of Tribalism as Evidenced in David Brooks' "People Like Us"

A student's best friend is not from her "tribe." Her friend is from a completely different tribe, and this makes the student reject the implication from Brooks' essay that we must "stick to our tribe" to maximize our sense of security, belonging, and happiness.

Argument

Tribalism, the instinct to "stick to one's kind," is a disease of the toothy, pinch-faced peasant doomed to a life of hyper-conformity, claustrophobic, oppressive traditions, close-mindedness, and blindness to the tribe's prejudices and other defects. 

In contrast, a cosmopolitan, a student of the world, sees that integrity, values, and respect are not owned by one's tribe, but the individual. Therefore, we should value the individual, not the tribe. 

Sample Outline for Refutation of Tribalism

Paragraph 1: Outline David Brooks' essay and explain the appeal of tribalism, that is to say living in communities of "people just like us." 250 words. 

Paragraph 2: Write about a close friend you have who is outside your tribe and explain the reasons for your closeness. 250 words. 

Paragraph 3, your thesis: Argue that while tribalism offers comfort and belonging, one must face that tribalism is larded with liabilities that compel us to reject tribalism in favor of cosmopolitanism, the belief that we are members of the world, not a closed tribe. 150 words, 650 subtotal. 

The liabilities of tribalism you might cover in your thesis' mapping components:

One. blind conformity

Two. complacency 

Three. blindness to the tribe's flaws

Four. narcissism

Five. close-mindedness

Six. closed-off effect to rest of the world

Seven. diminished value of the individual in favor of the tribe

Eight. Traditional fallacy: valuing tradition for tradition's sake but no real justification

Counterarguments: Legit Reasons for Staying Within the Tribe 

One. Being with people who share our values is our natural default setting.

Two. Being with people who share our values gives us a sense of belonging and greater happiness.

Three. Being with people who share our values gives us more communal trust and less stress. 

Four. It's futile to exist with people who are our antithesis. For example, if you're an intellectual, do you want to associate with anti-intellectuals? If your a feminist, do you want to break bread with misogynists? If your passionately anti-racist, do you want to hang out with racists? 

Fiction that refutes tribalism: H.G. Well's "The Country of the Blind"

Movie that refutes tribalism: The 1998 film Pleasantville.

Body Paragraphs 4-7: 150 each for 600 and 1,250 subtotal. 

Counterargument-Rebuttal: 150 words 1,400

Conclusion: 100 words: 1,500 total

In the Reader Comments section of The Atlantic where Brooks' essay was originally published, a reader, Natalie, writes the following:

He begins this essay with an admission of “the obvious,” Americans “don’t really care about diversity all that much... even though we talk about it a great deal” (331). Brooks asserts, “the United States might be a diverse nation when considered as a whole, but block by block and institution by institution it is a relatively homogenous nation” (332). Brooks’ opening statement takes us aback. Most readers will not expect such an immediate, candid judgment in the first sentence of an Atlantic.
Indeed most of us do not appreciate being identified as ‘careless.’ But Brooks,
an experienced writer, is probably not directly insulting or type-casting his
readers so much as he is priming us, initially shocking us in order to teach us
something by the end. His opening sentences make us eager to read on and see if
he really can prove our apathy. And if he is right that we do not care, we expect he will tell us why we should.

Brooks tell us that our communities lack diversity. He loads his short essay with
anecdotes, fresh analogies, statistics and other research data, to support his
claim that “people [make] strenuous effort to group themselves with people who
are basically like themselves” (331). Yet, Brooks does not seem sure whether he
believes that the lack of diversity within our lives is a result of “strenuous effort”
involving “rigorously segmenting” ourselves off from difference or “human
nature,” our natural tendency to “flow” towards others like ourselves because,
“people want to be with others who are roughly like themselves” (332, 5). Initially,
Brooks supports both interpretations, but as his essay progresses he
increasingly cites human nature as the source of our corruption. Yet, citing
“human nature” as the reason for everything from the failure to eradicate
housing discrimination to the lack of political diversity among university professors
is a somewhat dismissive oversimplification of one of the greatest issues of
our time. Brooks’ essay, which at times reads more like a research summary than
an essay, fails to persuade us that there is anything really wrong with
surrounding ourselves with “people like us” or that diversity is something we
should care about. In fact, Brooks doesn’t return to the theme of ‘caring’
until his final sentences in which he addresses his readers directly, asking,
“Are you really in touch with the broad diversity of American life? Do you
care” (336)? Despite these initial and final invitations for self-reflection,
he doesn’t make us care. Ultimately, Brooks’ essay acknowledges and illustrates
our country’s shocking lack of diversity within its communities, but by
ascribing this to “human nature” Brooks takes on a passive, almost defeatist
tone. Furthermore, his essay lacks positive examples of the value of diversity
and therefore fails to encourage his readers to action or even to prompt them
to meaningful reflection. It is only at the close of his essay, in his final
few sentences that he invites his readers to confront diversity. But he
devalues his own advice, saying, that even if we make small steps outside of
our own communities into other, different communities, the knowledge of
diversity that we gain will only be a “superficial familiarity” (336).

Brooks argues that homogenous communities are a poor reflection of a country that
actually is a “diverse nation when considered as a whole” (332). Brooks invites us to consider our own lives. First, he asks us to consider our group of close friends. He points out that “people with similar tastes and preferences tend to congregate by ZIP code” (332). He guess that if we looked around at our own friends we likely wouldn’t see the diversity of the American population reflected in our friend groups. But he doesn’t propose that there is anything wrong with that. On the contrary,
Brooks seems fascinated by the statistics offered by the marketing firm,
Claritas, which enables retailers to target their customers by breaking the
U.S. into “sixty-two psycho-demographic clusters” (332). For an essay whose first sentences boldly proclaim our country’s lack of diversity, Brooks spends paragraphs painting a reinforcing picture of America’s cult of sameness. He cites multiple examples of the abilities of a firm such as Claritas. For example, Claritas’ ‘suburban sprawl’ cluster comprises young families making about $41,000 a year, living in fast-growing places such as Burnsville, Minnesota” (333). There are “‘town and gowns’” clusters as well -- towns such as Berkley, California and Gainesville, Florida, where “big consumers of DoveBars and Saturday Night Live” reside (333). Brooks doesn’t stop there. He rattles off the names of cities with the largest numbers of imported wine drinkers and tells us where a motor-home dealership is most likely to thrive. He spends more illustrating the sickening sameness that can be found within many of America’s neighborhoods than he does giving examples of places where diversity does exist or even making suggestions for how it could exist. Moreover, he cites reputable statistics, but he fails to draw meaningful conclusions from it. Should we be concerned that a marketing firm can map out our lives? Might the small-families of Burnsville, Minnesota benefit if some of the recent college graduates from Gainesville, Florida moved to Burnsville, Minnesota? They might at least be thankful for an influx of potential babysitters. Indeed Brooks lays out research, but he doesn’t engage us with it.

Instead of holding individuals, communities, or institutions accountable for hindering
the spread of diversity, Brooks makes all the homogeneity easier to swallow. Brooks
may begin his essay by confronting us with own hypocrisy -- the way we
constantly talk about and praise diversity but practice it so little in our own
lives – but instead of revisiting this point or offering us a way out of this
hypocritical situation, he paints a picture of the lives we all know too well.
And shouldn’t we be shocked that such a diverse country comprises so many homogenous communities? “People love it” Brooks says (332). “We are increasing our happiness” by grouping ourselves with “people like us” (332). But is it so
simple? Is there nothing sinister about this tendency? Brooks tells us we all
have a tendency to segment ourselves and even says we do it because we profit
from it. And after all, if achieving diversity is so obviously difficult, why
wouldn’t we just keep things the way they are?

Brooks claims that he has never “been to or heard of” a “truly diverse neighborhood” (331). In his opinion, a “truly diverse” neighborhood would include people of different racial, ethnic, socio-economic, religious and cultural backgrounds. He attributes the
absence of such neighborhoods to “people making strenuous efforts to group
themselves with people who are basically like themselves” (331). Yet, despite
the lack of evidence Brooks provides, it would be ridiculous for any reader to conclude that diverse communities do not exist (331). Perhaps Brooks has never heard of such a neighborhood because his imagined, “truly diverse” neighborhood comprises a “black Pentecostal minister,” a “white anti-globalization activist,” an “Asian short-order cook,” a “professional golfer,” a “post-modern literature
professor,” and a “cardiovascular surgeon” (331). Indeed such a neighborhood
probably doesn’t exist. Brooks’ example is improbable for many reasons. For
example, a professional golfer likely makes millions of dollars a year whereas
a “short-order cook” or even a “post-modern literature professor” likely
doesn’t make more than $50,000 a year. These people don’t necessarily live in
different neighborhoods because they don’t care for diversity; they live in
different neighborhoods because their economic situations are dramatically
different.

One reason Brooks’ essay may fail to persuade us of the value of living a life
informed and influenced by a variety of perspectives is because he does not
address a diverse audience. He assumes a narrow audience and his arguments are often one-sided. As his title, “People Like Us” suggests, Brooks assumes he is
writing for an audience of white, upper class Americans like himself. In one
thought experiment, Brooks invites us to confront the rigidity of our own
communities and asks us to consider how a family in a $750,000 home in
Bethesda, Maryland would react to moving to a home of the same price in Great
Falls, Virginia. Or how the owner of a $3 million dollar soHo loft would feel about
being asked to move to a $3 million fifth avenue apartment. Most Americans do
not live in $750,000 dollar houses. An even smaller segment of the population
can afford $3 million dollar lofts. In another example, Brooks tries to reveal
to us the homogeneity of our friend groups. He invites us to, “think of your
twelve closest friends,” and he assumes the group we picture will be comprised
of graduates from the most elite colleges (“Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton”
(334)…etc). In the last paragraph of his essay Brooks suggests several ways to
improve the diversity in our lives, suggesting, “take out a subscription to The Door, the evangelical humor
magazine” or “visit Branson, Missouri” and “stop in at a megachurch” (336). Brooks
doesn’t just make assumptions about his audience’s social class; he also, in
his discussion of the lack of politically conservative university professors, assumes
we’re all Democrats. By choosing to address a highly educated, elite, white,
liberal audience Brooks fails to implicate the general population in his
argument. The article did, after all, first appear in the Atlantic, a magazine with an elite literary reputation whose founders
included great thinks such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Oliver Wendell Holmes.

Brooks calls today’s society “segmented” and points out that we “often don’t even have arguments across the political divide;” he identifies the lack of politically
conservative professors at elite universities as one source of this intolerance
(335). He attributes this deficiency to the hiring committees that “screen out”
people different from them such as “pro-life” individuals and “evangelical
Christians” (335). Yet placing all the blame on the institutions themselves ignores
the fact that evangelical Christians might be absent from the faculty of
schools such as Harvard and Brown for a number of reasons; for example, evangelicalChristians may not be applying for jobs at Ivy League schools because they have their own evangelical universities. The absence of evangelical Christians in
academia does not shed light on workplace discrimination. Instead, it
highlights a very specific sect of society that likely avoids certain
professions and institutions for religious reasons. For example, evangelical
Christians are strong proponents of the traditional definition of marriage and
many choose not to be involved in organizations or institutions that support
gay marriage. Moreover, Brooks concludes his discussion of academia’s
“appalling” lack of diversity with a large generalization: “brainy people with
generally liberal social mores flow to academia, and brainy people with
generally conservative mores flow elsewhere” (335). Not only does this kind of
generalization detract from his argument because it is an obvious over
simplification, this also smacks of pure opinion. Moreover, Brooks’ use of the
passive verb “flow” absolves people of responsibility for their decisions. Furthermore, his suggestion that liberals are the ones responsible for reaching across the aisle ignores the responsibility of conservatives to do the same within the
organizations they dominate.

Brooks’ essay would be more persuasive if he took a firmer stance on the diversity
issue. For example, he could actually discuss the ugly reality of housing and
workplace discrimination. He only briefly acknowledges the existence of housing
discrimination and the value of this acknowledgment is undermined by Brooks’
hypothesis that efforts to eradicate housing discrimination have failed because
“our good intentions seem to have run into the brick wall of human nature”
(332). Such a statement makes it seem as if residential segregation is a result
of personal, even unconscious preferences, rather than external, actively
discriminatory laws and practices. Indeed many African-Americans would probably
like to live in more integrated communities or in wealthier zip codes, but they
are prevented from moving out of largely black, often poor neighborhoods
because they are actively discriminated against through practices such as
redlining. Furthermore, Brooks’ use of the verb “congregate” to describe how
many middle-class African-Americans come to live within communities of other middle-class African-Americans makes it seem as if this phenomena is a product purely of their volition and natural desires.

Like the American public Brooks describes, his essay is segmented. Although he makes a variety of observations and cites multiple studies and scholars, he doesn’t
draw connections between his pieces of evidence. He might have reflected upon
how workplace discrimination perpetuates economic inequality, which helps
neighborhoods remain homogenous, with dominant groups residing in the
wealthiest zip codes. This would have enabled him to discuss how cultivating
communities of “people like us” is not merely an innocuous act of “human nature”
and can actually be labeled an act of discrimination. And this doesn’t just
affect minorities; these actions harm the dominant group as well. Cultural
diversity and diversity of thought enriches our interactions with one another
and can enable each one of us to envision possibilities and solutions we
couldn’t previously have even imagined. Furthermore, if Brooks had provided
just one example of the benefits of diversity –- how one company diversified
their staff and was able to come up with more innovative, profitable ideas or how
a bilingual education can help young children develop superior communication
and problem solving skills –-he might have inspired his readers to seek more
diversity in their lives. Had he done this, his readers would be able to answer
his final question,” do you care?,” in the affirmative.

You Need 3 Sources

One. David Brooks' essay

Two. "Is Tribalism the Worst Idea in History?"

Three. "You're More Biased Than You Think--Even When You Know You're Biased"

Four. "The Country of the Blind"

Five. Pleasantville

Six. "We're Not in a Civil War, But We Are Drifting Toward Divorce"

Tribalism Is Shrinking in Favor of Casual Nihilism

In 1999, the movie The Matrix prophesied that the entire world would succumb to The Blue Pill, a form of brainless intoxication in which people disappeared into a cocoon of blissful ignorance.

2011 a Turning Point in History as Tribalism Shrinks in the Face of Casual Nihilism

The prophecy became evident in 2011 when the smartphone, an opium drip machine hooked to the brain 24/7, started to build critical mass.

Now people are losing their tribal roots in favor of Casual Nihilism, the narcissistic exercise of curating fraudulent facsimiles of one’s existence, of fragmenting one’s brain, and of being ignorant of the insidious despair that ensues.

Casual Nihilism is poison for the human individual to blossom and find the real bliss: focusing for long periods of time and working hard on one’s craft.

That Casual Nihilism has replaced Meaningful Work as the paradigm of modern life is a tragedy that will ensue unspeakable disasters, including the failure to detect fake news, the failure to know how to repel marketing and government manipulation, and the general failure to grow up and be a fully realized human being.

The Assignment:

The assignments gives you a lot of flexibility for your thesis. You're being asked to analyze the human inclination for staying within the tribe of sameness as explained in David Brooks’ “People Like Us.”

Your analysis can be expressed through five categories. 

Thesis statements or claims go under five different categories: 

One. Claims about solutions or policies: The claim argues for a certain solution or policy change: 

America's War on Drugs should be abolished and replaced with drug rehab. 

A critical thinking professor seen gorging shamelessly at one of those notorious all-you-can-eat buffets should be stripped of his accreditation and license to teach since such a display of gluttony evidences someone whose lifestyle contradicts the very critical thinking skills he is supposed to embody, such hypocrisy has no place in higher education, and educators in such high-profile positions must be sterling role models for their students and the public at large. 

Two. Claims that critique the success, failure, or mixed results of a thing that is in the marketplace of art, ideas, and politics: a policy, dietary program, book, movie, work of art, philosophy, to name several.

In her book iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood--and What That Means for the Rest of Us, author Jean Twenge attempts to analyze the causes of a dysfunctional generation, but her analysis lacks rigorous support, is larded with over simplifications, and ignores economic factors that are afflicting our youngest generation.  

Three. Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that a person, thing, policy or event caused another event or thing to occur. 

Social media has propelled the spread of fake news so that Americans not only disagree on political points; they disagree on the core reality from which these disagreements stem.

Passive use of social media, not engaged use, has turned our generation into a bunch of depressed zombies with limited attention spans, an inflated sense of self-importance, and a shrinking degree of empathy.

We have come to believe, erroneously, that our smartphone addiction is normal because everyone is zombied-out on their smartphones, our smartphones give us a delusion of social esteem, and our skills for living off the smartphone grid have atrophied, resulting in our sense of helplessness and interminable addiction. 

In spite of being proven grossly ineffective and even harmful to education, standardized testing remains the darling of administrators and politicians because it makes billions of dollars for the test makers, it provides a false bandage hiding deeper, systemic problems of structural inequality in education, and it makes know-nothing administrators and politicians feel like they doing something valuable when in fact the contrary is true.  

Four. Claims of value: These claims argue how important something is on the Importance Scale and determine its proportion to other things. 

Global warming poses a far greater threat to our safety than does terrorism.

Passive use of social media is having a more self-destructive effect on teenagers than alcohol and drugs.  

Five. Claims of definition. These claims argue that we must re-define a common and inaccurate assumption. 

In America the notion of "self-esteem," so commonly taught in schools, is, in reality, a cult of narcissism. While real self-esteem teaches self-confidence, discipline, and accountability, the fake American brand of self-esteem is about celebrating the low expectations of mediocrity, and this results in narcissism, vanity, and immaturity.

"Connecting" and "sharing" on social media does not create meaningful relationships because "connecting" and "sharing" are not the accurate words to describe what's going on. What is really happening is that people are curating and editing a false image while suffering greater and greater disconnection. 

Narrowing Your Thesis 

We need to write an analytical thesis with specific language, not broad. 

General Thesis

Giving first graders homework is bad.

Specific Thesis

Giving first graders homework violates the spirit of education when the homework is simply busy work designed to make the teacher and parents feel less guilty, when the homework has no logical connection to what the children are learning in school, and when the amount of homework given puts undue pressure on overworked parents and sleep-deprived children. 

General Thesis

Standardized testing is horrible. 

Specific Thesis

Standardized testing must be abolished because it does not give an accurate measure of student learning outcomes, the tests are biased based on race and class, and because the profit motive continues to be more important than high standards and accountability. 

Apply the Thesis Principles to David Brooks Essay Option

Essay Option #Five. Develop a thesis that analyzes the human inclination for staying within the tribe of sameness as explained in David Brooks’ “People Like Us” (very popular with students). 

One. Claims about solutions or policies: The claim argues for a certain solution or policy change:  

While we are more comfortable mingling with people who are in our own tribe based on shared values, we must force ourselves from time to time to engage with those who have contrary views in order that we don't get lost in our bubble, that we don't fall prey to complacency, and that we can better test our opinions. 

Two. Claims that critique something in the marketplace of ideas, politics, and art. 

While David Brooks' analysis of the psychological factors that incline us to gather into like-minded enclaves is somewhat convincing, his overall thesis collapses under the weight of his over generalizations, his failure to clarify if our tribalistic impulses are good or bad or both, and his failure to incorporate the role of structural inequality in the self-segregation that occurs in America. 

Three. Claims of cause and effect: These claims argue that a person, thing, policy or event caused another event or thing to occur. 

We stick to our tribe of people who share our values because shared values promote communal cooperation, trust, belonging, and increased overall happiness. 

While David Brooks is correct in making the claim that a lot of Americans self-segregate based on shared values, his thesis is inaccurate and misleading when see that the real causes for segregation in America are not so much a personal choice but the result of structural inequalities that deny most Americans the option to choose where they live. It is structural inequalities, more than the desire to live with like-minded people, that determine where a person lives. 

Four. Claims of value: These claims argue how important something is on the Importance Scale and determine its proportion to other things. 

Richard Florida, author of The New Urban Crisis, makes a convincing claim that the kind of self-segregation that David Brooks is addressing is a growing existential threat to America as this segregation points to civil unrest, growing disparities of wealth, and a failed democracy. 

Five. Claims of definition. These claims argue that we must re-define a common and inaccurate assumption. 

Brooks makes the claim that personal choice determines where people live, but more often than not where a person lives is determined by structural inequality, a condition defined by disproportionate resources for a small number of Americans in areas of housing, education, and healthcare that reinforce the disparities between the haves and the have-nots.  

 

   "People Like Us" by David Brooks

Related to David Brooks' essay is "We're Not in a Civil War, But We're Drifting Toward Divorce" by David French. 

 

Ways to Improve Your Critical Reading and Assess the Quality of Your Sources

  1. Do a background check of the author to see if he or she has a hidden agenda or any other kind of background information that speaks to the author’s credibility.
  2. Check the place of publication to see what kind of agenda, if any, the publishing house has. Know how esteemed the publishing house is among peers of the subject you’re reading about.
  3. Learn how to find the thesis. In other words, know what the author’s purpose, explicit or implicit, is.
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