BASICS, Surely? Re: Non-discrimination in contracts
Fri, 1 Aug 1997 22:01:36 -0700 (PDT)

On Thu, 31 Jul 1997, Damien Broderick wrote:

> At 10:57 PM 7/30/97 -0700, Dale wrote:
> > employer of trying to
> >have his cake and eat it too (say, wanting to profit from the existence of
> >a particular sociocultural regime of civility while selectively refusing
> >some of its central stipulations).
> The crux, cleanly expressed.
> But then how may/must this be instantiated? I have a particular distaste
> for patchouli oil... [the rest is snipped]

This looks like a job for Miss Manners! Judith Martin (a/k/a said Most
Mannerly One) has written a number of books the theme of all of which has
been that the deterioration of generally intelligible codes of civility
has fueled the disastrous rise of litigiousness in this society (a rise
documented by the likes of Richard Epstein as well). Where manners fail
we turn it seems to an ever more bloated State apparatus to settle
disputes that concern not the initiation of coercion but outrages of
dignity, petty humiliations and the like. Look: People are different from
one another. Let's call that -- along with Eve Sedgwick -- "Axiom 1."
Whenever different people fumble into one another there are inevitably
moments of discomfort and dispute. Very much for the most part, the
examples of "diversity in the workplace" you mentioned -- e.g., workers
who abhor washing, etc. -- are policed into acceptable behavior by cool
glances among co-workers, refusals of lunch invitations, or, as a last
resort, strong words from the supervisor. Homophobic behavior is likewise
usually mostly unmannerly and ideally would be policed by the same means.
My hunch is that general guidelines concerning the irrelevence of
non-job-related features of an employee's life have so insinuated
themselves into the fabric of the regime of civility which renders
contractual agreements intelligible *as such* that to flaunt them is to
flirt with breach of contract. (This is a judgment call on my part, a
suggestion for a strategic intervention on behalf of unpopular minorities
that might avoid some of the pitfalls of other more legislative forms of
activist ambitiousness.) This does not mean that I think it is a good
idea for lesbian and gay activism to make recourse too often to the State
in its quest for civil equality. Far from it. As I said, I have heard
that there is a great deal of solid economic research on record that has
supported the contention that a degree of racist, sexist, and heterosexist
behavior intolerable to those who suffer it is nevertheless compatible
with a sufficient rate of profit that few incentives appear to exist apart
from those imposed by the State to ameliorate this behavior. Part of what
I was thinking is that by forcing those who truly insist on persisting in
irrational behaviors to do so *conspicuously* (i.e., to *specify* the
centrality of homophoia or racism to their general vision), perhaps the
market might actually provide a sufficient regulatory nudge that --
doubtless supplemented by a healy dose of civil disobediance here and
there -- the ideal of *civic* equality might be realized without
supporting the further expansion of the state (and compatible as well with
efforts to hasten the state's diminishment). Of course, all this is
neither here nor there. So long as the state provides support for all
unpopular minorities except lesbians and gays, then that exception itelf
symptomizes a danger that needs to be addressed by activism, whatever we
think about the state as an institution. The negotiation of the competing
ends of transforming the state (smashing it, as it were) on the one hand,
and working toward civic equality in the world as it is (where an
unsmashed state looms everywhere, as it were), is, to say the least, a
tricky thing... Heavens, I tagged this BASICS, but it became complicated
quick. Best, Dale

Dale Carrico |
University of California at Berkeley, Department of Rhetoric

It is impossible to make significant change by force.
The only way to make significant change is
to make the thing you want to change obsolete. -- R. Buckminster Fuller
"Death, where is thy sting-a-ling?" -- Noel Coward