Rethinking POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION

An earlier blog took a different approach to racial prejudice in the context of Affirmative Action legislation. Here is the balancing, opposite and equally positive approach to discrimination.

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19. DISCRIMINATION

“Relying more on the social scientists than on legal precedents . . the Court insisted on equality of the mind and heart rather than on equal school facilities. . . . Brown symbolizes the Good America, rather than the country that slaughtered Native Americans, subordinated women, and enslaved blacks.” — Jack M. Balkin, What “Brown v. Board of Education” Should Have Said

“Dealing exclusively on a rational level with an issue like discrimination which is deeply emotion-laden (sub-rational) on the one hand, and highly value-laden (super-rational) on the other, fails to acknowledge and draw on the levels where problems begin and where solutions can be found.” — Patricia West, Positive Action: The Next Generation

“Seeing and hearing are like food and drink; you need them every day, but you also need to digest and eliminate them every day. If they are not digested and eliminated thoroughly, they remain in the gut, eventually producing illness.” — Taoist Meditation, trans. Thomas Cleary.

THE FRONT

Three levels of definition attribute opposite, contradictory meanings to the single word discrimination. In the last century, failure to recognize and sort out this confusion resulted in muddled perceptions of purpose, inconsistent implementation and half-hearted compliance with Affirmative Action legislation.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s rational definition of discrimination posits a neutral function of mind. To discriminate is to distinguish with the mind or intellect; to perceive, observe, or note the difference in or between. As an analytical tool, discrimination is the neutral function of mind used to dissect a situation’s parts and deduce cause/effect relationships amongst them. As a tool, effects of its use, whether creative or destructive, depend on the motives and competence of the user.

The last given definition adds a preposition: against. To discriminate against is to make an adverse distinction in regard to, to distinguish unfavorably from others. This negative definition is the sub-rational use. It describes abuse of the critical faculty of mind to separate, distance and subordinate others, and to rationalize exploitation. Discrimination as a function of biased, negative emotions such as fear, hate, envy, arrogance or greed is the polar opposite of objective analysis.

Still further from the rational meaning of discrimination is its super-rational definition. It is not included in The Oxford English Dictionary. However, in Eastern scriptures, the highest function of mind is called buddhi (hence the name Buddha), translated into English as “the power of discrimination.”

This usage alludes to the ability to see through deceptive illusions, to recognize the eternal in the midst of change, to be aware of all-pervading spirit operating within gross material forms. While rational discrimination is neutral and sub-rational discrimination has separatist results, the super-rational function of discrimination is unifying in effect.

Depending on the user’s mind-set, the I Ching can be used to serve rational, sub- or super-rational motives. Ideally, it’s used to facilitate the process of mental metabolism. When the senses are overloaded with impressions, the Book of Change can be approached as a discipline for settling down and organizing one’s thoughts sufficiently to define the immediate situation and ask questions about it.

As negative emotions surface, they’re named and released, not unlike the process of separating toxins from useful nutrients, eliminating them as waste. Rational thoughts are then simplified, prioritizing essentials and aligning them to basic purpose. Then, when emotions and rational mind are harmonized and stilled, the higher mind is invoked.

It is in this state of tranquil revere that one pierces the veil of ordinary thought, allowing the transcendent awareness attributed to genius to come forward. Einstein, for example, acknowledged that his famous e = mc2 formula came in a flash of inspired contemplation. He faulted his peers for what he called the “fateful fear of metaphysics,” a pernicious prejudice that’s easily as dangerous as racism or sexism.

THE BACK

Mercy and compassion ameliorate the effects of negative discrimination. Introspective activities like self-analysis and use of the I Ching promote the positive capacity to discriminate, make correct decisions, and act wisely. In human law, the opposite of discrimination is justice and equity. In an equitable society, wisdom is promoted as the foundation of harmony and order.

The discipline of positive discrimination is neglected in an unjust world. Ruthless extortionists in positions of political power will kill to prevent discriminating thinkers from recognizing and opposing their abuses. Tyrants promote negative discrimination. They exploit hatred, weakening the people by turning them against each other, conquering by dividing them.

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What “Brown v. Board of Education” Should Have Said. Ed. Jack M. Balkin. (New York University Press: New York, 2001.) pp. 4, 5.

Patricia West, Positive Action: The Next Generation of Affirmative Action. Unpublished paper. (Madison, 1976).

Taoist Meditation: Methods for Cultivating a Healthy Mind and Body, trans. Thomas Cleary. (Shambhala: Boston, MA, 2000.) P. 57.

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See the UPSG for a description of the structure-within-structure format of the Essays, an overview of CONSCIENCE: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide, and an alphabetical list of the Essays.

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