On John Stuart Mill and

On John Stuart Mill and Eccentrics, Women, Minorities, and the Concept of ‘Othering’

There is an increasing backlash against the movement to diversify American society. Some people feel that to keep us all in our own separate spaces is perfectly acceptable; as it was, it shall be. There is no need to modify a system that works for the majority, because, after all, that is the notion on which our bountiful nation was founded. There is no need for us to look outside ourselves and gain perspective from the experiences and opinions of persons different from us. “Mankind speedily become unable to conceive diversity, when they have been for some time unaccustomed to see it.” (13) If the majority (or, whoever is perceived as the majority) has already placed itself in its comfortable, conformist, white suburban environment, and it has every intention of remaining there, then what is the use of learning about conditions elsewhere? When that majority speaks, we are obligated to listen. However, the majority does not always know what is right. A majority of Americans wanted to maintain slavery, deny women the right to vote, and, yes, dismiss the charges against President Clinton, all because they did not want to face the difficult questions these issues would force them to acknowledge. We are resistant to change because we fear it. If women and minorities were to be on equal footing with white men, that would force us to realign our priorities, power structures, and value systems. We would have to completely change the way we educate and socialize our children. In order to embrace eccentricity, we would also have to accept that there is no correct definition of what “normal” is.

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