FSFE in Outreachy?

Mat Witts mat at yuj.it
Tue Sep 5 14:44:05 UTC 2017

I agree with Carmen that extended conversations on such complex topics
as discrimination is rarely constructive.

However, I would like to point out a few gaps in the thread that may be
of interest.

Firstly, it is I think important to maintain a distinction between the
broad, cognitive aspect of discrimination, which is ethically neutral
(for example our ability to discriminate between a range of stimuli such
as colours, smells and sounds) through to our ability to discriminate on
moral grounds, such as whether an individual may be responsible for
anti-social behavior on grounds of intention or by accident.

We make many such discriminating judgments everyday, including making a
distinction between groups of people, for example if they represent a
threat or a friendship group.

So, it seems naive to suggest that all discrimination is reprehensible
or sub-optimal in these conditions.

Identifying disadvantage I believe is something that is also critical to
feeling empathy, since we would be unable to respond to a wounded animal
for example if we were not able to tell the difference between an
injured creature and a creature that just happens to have motility
functions we do not have, such as a fish that uses a tail to propel
itself efficiently through water.

Treating animals and people differently then seems to be an indicator of
high level sentient functioning, since it prefigures nurturing,
appropriate threat responses, efficient networking and much else besides
I would imagine.

Now that is out of the way we can turn our attention to the pejorative
sense of the word discrimination, which is almost always synonymous with
violence, disparity and harms of one sort or another that can be avoided
if (as Carmen says) they could be avoided in some way.

The suggestion that the broad, general meaning of discrimination as
cognitive predisposition is as 'wrong' as the narrow meaning of harming
another creature or human being based on self-centered prejudice masks
the two different meanings and so the phrase 'Two wrongs don't make a
right' isn't a helpful metaphor here.

To use Orwell again: '/discrimination means that we ignore the fact that
we live in a world //where not all people have the same opportunities
and that people of //certain gender or color are privileged' /is not
meant to define discrimination only in gender or racial terms.

Orwell here is providing two exemplary cases, race and gender as being
among the most ubiquitous traits where people are making distinctions
that don't relate to the issue at hand (eg. a persons ability to write
quality software) which we know depends on other things such as using a
good quality copyleft license ;-))/

/Also, finding exceptions to the general rule that white, male interests
are generally over represented in all the most influential and powerful
places around the world does not destroy Orwell's point which is
pointing out that these named power asymmetries are so common,
collectivist discrimination would seem to deliver an outcome where more
disadvantaged people (howsoever this is assessed) would undeniably solve
the problem of lack of representation of disadvantage people so again,
this is not at all contradictory but a direct intervention to solve an
identified problem of lack of representation in whatever group or
organization we are assessing.

Finally, we come to what i think is the main problem, which is how do we
identify the (so called) 'disadvantaged' or 'minority' interests?

This is where Carmen's view is important, because to suggest a person of
colour or a woman is disadvantaged to an extent that they ought to be
given special privileges over white men in every job interview is not
where we want to be.

I agree also that the concept of equality is just as much a means as it
is an end, so how we get to a state of equality has to be equal also if
only to avoid the critical self-defeat as Carmen is keen to point out.

Where people tend to disagree is largely contingent on many factors
which means it's rarely possible to be 'wholly against this type of
discrimination' without taking into account the circumstances in each
case, for example what the aims or goals of a particular policy are
trying to achieve.

I would take issue with the view that the LGBT community approached
their struggle for equality with judicious deployment of
characters/people in popular media. I think a lot of LGBT rights
activists would argue that their cause has been hard won, with many set
backs and not least with unrecognized work from lawyers, business
people, educators and professionals doing what they can to make the
lives of LGBT folk better.

All of this of course necessitated active discrimination since
playwrights, TV producers, directors, financers, lawyers and many others
would have deliberately written such characters into their movies,
advertisements and so forth to give the LGBT community a voice where
there was previously only bigotry and ignorance.

I would also take issue that low privilege is inherent to low income.
Means testing for income doesn't for example highlight the cases where
people have very little income but have vast personal assets that are
simply accruing capital, such as in offshore centres, in some property
portfolios and in startups to name only a few.

In terms of the idea that the redistribution of wealth is the best way
to approach equality doesn't deal with the socially situated problems of
institutional corruption in government, politics and business;
logistical problems (problems with access to technology, employment,
goods etc.) wherever national infrastructure relies on provisioning by
profit-seeking, exploitative corporations; and uneven levels of numeracy
and literacy both geographically and socio-economically - all of these
are of course would still be prevalent in a so-called, 'progressive',
egalitarian society based on a fairer redistribution of wealth, since
our capacity for wasting public money is of course legendary.

It would be especially problematic to accept uncritically the idea that
positive discrimination somehow engenders low expectations. This
narrative is especially worrying since it tends to demonize
beneficiaries of such schemes as somehow being unworthy of benefits,
which I eschew on the grounds that such a view is divisive,
controversial and tends to privilege the already privileged, by which I
mean those that do not feel they need any support from such
institutional incentives for whatever reason.

/ mat

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.fsfe.org/pipermail/discussion/attachments/20170905/5373a173/attachment.html>

More information about the Discussion mailing list