Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Usefulness of Discrimination Part 1

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has a couple different definitions for the term discrimination. Lets look at a couple of them:
  1. The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people
  2. The ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not
  3. The ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing
Looking at the first definition, unfair treatment of different groups of people, I see a bit of common sense. Isn't it rational and safest to distinguish between gang members and peaceful civilians? Those suffering of illness from the healthy? Even when dealing with people discrimination is simply the distinguishing between individuals with different characteristics and then responding to them differently. 

Discrimination is a necessary and essential function of social interaction. The sad reality of the world is that you can't trust everyone, and not everyone has the same needs. To respond differently to different groups of people is only natural and right. In fact in many cases it is safest, and even most fair.

If you're walking down the street in an unfamiliar neighborhood, its getting dark out, and you see a group of three or more people walking your direction. Isn't it safest to discriminate against them and at least cross the street? 

And isn't it most fair to treat people differently when providing any form of medical care? A person suffering of the flu, and a person suffering from broken bones need to be discriminated against, or neither of them will end up with the appropriate treatment. A neurologist should discriminate against treating heart disease shouldn't he?  If his specialty is the brain, isn't it safest and most fair to have somebody else work on the heart?

That's not to say that certain characteristics should be discriminated against without reason. The classic example, racial discrimination has no logical basis. Color of skin holds no inherit tendency of danger, disrespect, or anything else negative that should be treated differently.

Youth are more capable of learning new skills than their seniors, and those somewhat older are more proficient at completing regular tasks, there are benefits to both, and generally don't need to be discriminated against.

Men and women are distinctly different creatures, with a remarkably similar set of capabilities. There are a few situations where physical limitations of one gender would make certain activities impossible or unwise, despite the ability of the other gender to safely complete the task. But by and large, men and women are equally capable, both are capable of most anything they choose to master.

Discrimination is very simple. It is the distinguishing between different types of people, and responding to them as is appropriate. Discrimination can be abused, but increasingly society embraces the treatment of everyone in exactly the same manner.

In fact I find the lack of individuality and deprecation of culture caused by a lack of discrimination slightly disgusting. There is no longer any way to appreciate that people might be different than you are without breaking some sort of social code. Its sad and terrible.

So discrimination is simple, at least until you bring morality into it. After that its a whole 'nother ballgame.

Take Phil Vischer for instance; co-creator of VeggieTales, a children's TV series which teaches biblical principles. He was a visionary who started his own business, and was so successful that VeggieTales was briefly the #2 animated children's series in the world. That's right. The world.

What was a problem he faced in growing his business? Maintaining his mission to glorify and honor God. Religious discrimination when hiring employees is a big no-no. Its illegal in all but a very few non-profit circumstances. When hiring animators and other staff, the law prevented Vischer from ensuring that his business remained true to his goal of building a business true to Biblical principles. (for more on Phil Vischer, read his excellent book Me, Myself, and Bob)

The legal war against discrimination has erased the ability for businesses and individuals to maintain a unique moral identity. When did it become the government's job to micromanage basic social interaction? Preventing acts of violence, theft, or property damage due to prejudice is one thing, but determining the basis on which a business can hire? And who a business has to do work for? Think about it, that's actually quite outrageous.

On a moral level, the government may as well be forcing these businesses to commit theft. For an individual or business who's leadership holds strong religious ties, working for and profiting from individuals who identify as LGBT is immoral, and a violation of personal integrity.

This has become an increasingly big deal lately, as businesses have been punished by the law for refusing service to members of the LGBT community. The laws against discrimination have reached the point where consumers can force businesses to work for them. The law can now mandate businesses to do work for individuals who openly violate the moral code held by the business.

Now I'm no expert, but that seems pretty backwards to me. The law being able to force people to perform services against their will. Arizona legislation has passed a highly controversial bill that would take steps to alleviate this problem for its businesses. If signed by the governor, businesses in Arizona may once again have the right to refuse service because of moral implications.

I'll follow up more on the bill soon in a successive article. But please realize, that by making discrimination so illegal, your right to individual identity and to hold a moral standard has been compromised. 

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