High diversity (yes!) in a soon to be sustainable society (working!). . .
The future was once a promise but is now a threat. We have lost faith in our ability to manage ourselves in any way but by threats and greed. The process of technology driven change has taken away so many of our traditional points of reference that people have given in to fear as the only thing that they can understand. As we have come to see with the failure of the US 2016 election and the rise of neo-fascist regimes in the US and Europe, we risk destruction at the hands of authoritarians promising an impossible return to the past.
The fear of loss demands an object to blame. If we no longer have jobs and security then the others must have taken them. If we no longer understand how things that were always simply ‘the way they were’ have become something different we have to ask ourselves very difficult questions. The discomfort of dealing with that kind of change makes for anger directed at whomever is now included. Most people have little experience in dealing with that kind of change and people from rural and cultural homogeneous areas have the least experience of all. The problem is only a little about the changes and a lot about the inexperience of dealing with diversity. It is obvious that the reaction against change makes little sense and generates a lot of emotion. The tragedy is when people caught up in rejection of change, particularly unavoidable change, are able to force restrictive laws on societies struggling to adjust. These efforts are illogical, polarizing, and damaging. And change happens anyway.
Much of the anger and fear is about the future. What will our society look like if we allow all of these changes? What will happen to our children? Much of the problem in the US is based on a long history of racism and decades of economic decline for the majority of the population. The great efforts at civil rights reform of the sixties triggered the rejection that lead to decades of reversal of the democratic socialist traditions of the 1940s and ’50s that created the US middle class. It has taken the last fifty years to destroy the tremendous success that had actually made America great. That is history and history is not reversible.
The result is some of the largest disparities in wealth in US history and a totally unsupportable economic system that has been spread around the planet. In the US the transition to an incipient, planetary economy with open trade accelerated the move of older industries to developing economies and the growth of service and intellectual based economies in the new urban regions. The long history of racism quickly re-segregated cities continuing to push the middle class out into extended suburbs. The loss of manufacturing jobs left the less educated workers with only service jobs in suburban malls and a steadily declining income. The unfortunate move to hyper capitalism by both political parties built decades of unfulfilled promises while only the financial managers made fortunes. Lack of adequate regulation led to the 2008 crash that was only cushioned for the same financial managers and the tiny, richest minority. The continued evolution of the post industrial economy revealed the growing weakness of hypercapitalism that is inherently unstable and totally dependent on limitless growth to survive.
The boomer generation that grew up in the fifties and sixties with the promise of more and better homes and richer life styles than their parents were true believers. They are now dying in bitterness and anger and ritual demands for the things they were promised. And they deny that their parents wealth was from a balanced democratic socialist economy that created one of the greatest increases in wealth across the population of any country in history. They believed the lie that was told to them to allow the very rich to steal their future and the future of their children. That is a brutal realization. That is also history and can’t be changed.
We know all this, excluding the deniers who are holding on to the lies, so how do we find the future? Is their a model that can help us understand how all the rights and diversity will work? Yes, there is. Look at any of the metropolitan cities of the early 21st century and you will see vibrancy and intellectual wealth as the basis of growing economies. But through the eyes of the folks in flyover country these are almost completely alien and, they have been told, unknowable.
Hawai’i as a model
Many people vacation in Hawai’i from around the world and come to love the land of aloha. At least until their rental car gets broken into or they get caught in a pau hana traffic jam. But even then there are millions who have felt surprisingly at home in a place that was surprisingly different in many ways. While most of the pleasure comes from one of the planet’s most beautiful topical island chains, under the veneer of a world class tourist center, is a surprisingly well integrated society with no majority population.
With a population of just over 1 million people of which 90% are on the island of Oahu. Hawa’i is small and dependent on tourism as the primary industry although government services are the largest business. These include both state services and very large Department of Defense component with approximately 100,000 workers and dependents in the state. Approximately 40,000 military workers are on Oahu. This component is about 8% of the population.
There is no majority and the third largest percentage, 23.6%, are multi-ethnic from two or more ethnic groups.
But what does this mean for Hawai’i as a model of the new diverse, urban metropolitan area? ethnically 39% of Hawaii’s population is Asian, 25% is White, 10% is Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders, almost the same amount or 9% is Hispanic, 1.6% is Black or African American, 0.3% is American Indian and Alaska Native. There is no majority and the third largest percentage, 23.6%, are multi-ethnic from two or more ethnic groups. And being from three ethnic groups is increasingly common. This is the emerging human model for the Pacific half of the planet. Does everyone get along? No. Are their problems with poverty and alienation? Yes. But to be a real part of these communities, and that doesn’t happen quickly or easily, you learn to live and appreciate the cultures around you and to laugh at the stereotypical attitudes of each ethnic group. Chinese are cheap, Japanese are snooty, Haoles (Whites) think they know it all and don’t share, etc. etc.
The key to this diversity and social integration? Notice that the White population is number two in size. Plus there is the natural tendency for ethnic dominance in parts of the society as families have defined their niches. Asians, led by Japanese, seem most common in government and education although just as well represented in all other walks of life and Chinese in business. Everyone is involved in tourism with Hawaiians strong in entertainment. This means, as an example, that you need to work with all groups at different times of the day and in different professional settings. And at some time in the day, whatever you are, you will be a real minority. But you probably won’t notice. That is working diversity.
It is also strange to watch the growing American racism and white supremacy that is so alien to our society.
If you are part of this society your spouse and children are tied to communities and schools that include all. As we say, ‘all kine kids come over to play’ and we are all aunties and uncles or grandma and grandpa (since I’ve graduated to the senior category) to all of them. That is a responsibility that we all share and that, plus the love of the land and aloha, is a product of the Hawaiian culture that we have all inherited. And, yes, there are real issues with being part of the population that came after the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893 by forced abdication of Queen Liliuokalani with the assistance of US troops. In that Kingdom all residents were Hawaiian. After that only ethnic Hawaiians can use that title. That is also part of the heritage, the bad as well as the good, but it is not something you always remember.
There is racism in Hawai’i but it is as often against Whites as anyone else. But it is very hard to push these things where everyone is so involved and so conscious of our diverse society. It is also strange to watch the growing American racism and white supremacy that is so alien to our society. And, frankly, I and many others are very happy we are as far away as we are. But we mostly keep quiet because, well, that is part of diversity also.
So this is what the diversity of the modern metropole can be like. Lots of people find it very nice, at least to visit. And we are happy when they come but also happy when they go home. But there really is no place for racism here or anywhere. We really want to help people learn that wherever they are.