Much has been written about the so-called “Google Manifesto,” penned by a self-proclaimed liberal by the name of James Damore. In the manifesto, if you will excuse the continued use of histrionics, Damore makes a simple point – that the work of a computer and/or software engineer is neither a popular job among women (back up statistically), nor is it particularly well suited for women based on the different ways in which a woman’s brain functions when compared to a man’s (backed up scientifically). Because Mr. Damore refused to post up the Party support sign in his storefront window, he was summarily fired from Google on the claim of being against diversity.
I do not seek to offer more than a few comments in passing on the specific example of Damore and Google. Rather, it is my intent to focus on the perversion of language, the recovery of meaning, and the value thereof.
The study of philology is an overlooked area of study today, which is a shame, because it is in the understanding of languages that we can fully understand ideas and the motivations behind them. One fun example is the word “Bully.” Originating from the 15th century Dutch word boel, the word bully originally meant some quite the opposite of its present use. Boel, you see, is a mixture of the Middle Dutch word broeder, which means “brother.” How the meaning of bully deteriorated so is unclear, but knowing now the origin and foundation of the word, we may all consider more deeply the matter of bully-ing.
Let us now consider the word “diversity.” Diversity is a curious word, because it is both simple and complex in meaning. One may go round and round reasoning out its use and meaning. First consider the etymology. Diversity on the surface is uninteresting – “the quality of being diverse” – but since a word cannot define itself, one must dig further into what it means to be diverse. Diverse is composes of the prefix “di” which means “aside”, and the root vertere, which means to turn. Thus, diverse means literally to turn aside.
Diversity clearly comes from diverse, and their meanings are philosophically quite similar. Diversity comes from the Latin diversitas or diversitatem, which, interestingly, is defined as, “contrariety, contradiction, or disagreement.”
Thus, when one issues the call for “diversity,” in this organization or on that university campus (diversity and university being related by the Latin root vertere) what one is calling for, one believes, is a plurality of opinion, even to the point of open contradiction and disagreement. One might expect in our decreasingly civil times that such an idea as diversity would not be at all desired, but rather suppressed. It certainly seems to be that way when, again, one looks at the case of James Darmore and Google. He was fired by his employer for being “against” diversity when in reality he was acting in perfect accordance with the spirit of the word. Mr. Darmore was fired for offering an opinion contrary to that which appears to be overwhelmingly prevalent at Google.
In Google’s rush to crucify a man on the cross of diversity, what they actually accomplished was to provide an immediate real world example of exactly the sort of echo chamber, anti-diversity policing that has come to typify the modern Left.
Consider now the word university. As mentioned above, university and diversity are related, being separated only by the meaning found in their respective prefixes. One immediately recognizes the two parts that make up university: uni (“one) + vertere (“turn”). Thus the meaning of the word university, if words are to be taken at their meaning, is “one turn” or “to turn into one.” It is easy to recognize other closely related words – universe and universal, for instance. Students of the Spanish language will also recognize the similarity between uni- and uno, which means “one.”
Yet, this seems to be much more representative of those who place the word “diversity” at the vanguard of every slogan. Diversity is, after all, one of the signs to be hung in the window of our time, lest we incur the wrath of the people. As we have however demonstrated, diversity means precisely the opposite of the actions most commonly associated today with diversity. One may be accused of being anti-diversity for not adopting full tilt the prevailing opinion of the given institution. In the name of diversity is diversity slowly and agonizingly clubbed to death. This is university, a turning of all ideas, opinions, and beliefs, into one single, faceless, meaningless, amorphous blob bereft of philosophical mooring.
Were diversity to be the virtue that it should be, men like Mr. Damore would be able to freely offer their contrariety, contradiction, and disagreement without it costing them their livelihood, for that is diversity, to turn aside from the flow, offer a second opinion, or to question the common mind. These are precisely the values claimed to be desired, and yet they are the quickest way to the unemployment line.
What can be done about this? Sadly, very little. Words, like so much else in our time, have been robbed of their meaning and have come to represent whatever the speaker wishes them to. In at least this example, words have become so perverted that they end up meaning their explicit opposite. Perhaps one day down will be up. Who’s to say?
However, knowing this enables anyone with eyes to see to see how unpredictably bent our time has become. When words lose their meaning, then the nihilist creed gains a terrible victory: nothing means anything. One may point out the diverse observation given above, but what good are facts anymore? Languages change, and all that nonsense. If languages do in fact change, then how might anyone hold a reasonable expectation for rational communication?