Image: Scotty Hendricks (2018)
The word diversity is frequently used today, particularly by those who regard it as a value and like to signal their politico-moral correctness even if that means denigrating or disprivileging their own people, culture and history.
In order to illustrate this latter point, one might refer to the recent case of students at the University of Manchester who painted over a mural of a poem by Rudyard Kipling and replaced it with a verse by the African-American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou.
This was done in the name of anti-racism - for Kipling, a well-known British imperialist, was said to dehumanise people of colour - and in order to celebrate the diversity of a student body looking to reclaim history by - quite literally - whitewashing it.
I don't here wish to discuss the merits (or otherwise) of either Kipling's or Maya Angelou's work; nor do I want to express my concerns about historical revisionism and literary censorship. But I would like to say something further about diversity and the idea of multiculturalism, from a post-Nietzschean perspective ...
If confronted with a world in which everyone was retreating to their own safe space from which to assert an identity (on the basis, for example, of sex, gender, race or religion) whilst, at the same time, speaking about the benefits of ever-greater diversity within society and culture, I suspect that Nietzsche would feel himself compelled as a philosopher to argue that greatness belongs only to the individual or the people who find a way to stylise chaos and give birth to a dancing star - the latter being a sign of unity within diversity.
Nietzsche loves words like difference, plurality and multiplicity; he thinks of the will to power as composed of a large number of competing forces, flows, and desires. But - and this is important to understand - he doesn't affirm diversity as a good in itself nor as a goal to be aimed at.
On the contrary, Nietzsche insists that culture, for example, has to be unified; that the only alternative to such is a civilization based upon a barbarism of styles and tastes and incapable of ever producing art or sovereign individuals. Nietzsche opposes the systematic anarchy, the aggressive philistinism, and the Volkerchaos that characterise European modernity and are the symptoms of culture's extermination.
Thus, whilst he may have announced the death of God and thereby decentered and demoralised the world, he still believes in shared ethical bonds between people. His nihilism is not the same as the nihilism of those who devote themselves to free markets and money-making, or to the neo-Platonic fantasies of science and technology; those who lack the ability to act under the constraint of a single taste or - as Heidegger would say - to dwell poetically upon the earth.
Deleuze is right to say that, for Nietzsche, history can be read as the process by which "reactive forces take possession of culture or divert its course in their favour". That the will to diversity can therefore be understood as part of an ongoing slave revolt in morals and the overcoding of active forces by the modern State - that coldest of all cold monsters that thrives at the expense of culture and sucks the life out of people in the name of human rights and globalism.
Nietzsche is aggressively opposed to all this and when faced with the ways in which societies become decodified and unregulated, makes no attempt at recodification. But, again, we must be careful here. For whilst Nietzsche makes no attempt to recodify along old lines or patch the holes ripped in the great social umbrella, he very much wants to bring together newly liberated forces onto what Deleuze terms a plane of consistency and regain mastery over the chaos that has been released.
Why? Because for Nietzsche culture is above all unity of style in all the expressions of a people and this requires harmonious manifoldness - not fake diversity built upon idiotic identity politics and an ugly jumble of all styles and peoples. Multiculturalism is not just a failed experiment, it's an absurd fallacy.
Of course Nietzsche's thinking has anti-democratic and illiberal implications - and he wasn't shy about saying so. But I would suggest we need to urgently think about these questions and not simply attempt to close down conversation by calling anyone who does so a fascist or a supporter of the alt-right.
Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, trans. Hugh Tomlinson, (The Athlone Press, 1992), p. 139.