On Monday the 10th October 2016, De Balie and the Academy of Ideas hosted a Battle of Ideas debate which looked to investigate the relationship between minority rights of representation, diversity and a sense of victimhood.
More and more often, members of minority groups insist on greater representation in the media, politics and the corporate boardroom. This rising self-confidence is something to celebrate, yet might the call for diversity leave us more divided in the end?
The advocates of diversity challenge the privileges of white, middle-class men, giving a voice to groups that have long been silenced. Unwittingly, this has turned public debate into a minefield. When speaking about sensitive topics, an insult may be more quickly felt than actually meant.
This, in turn, has led to a backlash, with some behaving in a deliberately politically incorrect way and inflaming tensions. These critics are annoyed by what they believe to be an unfounded claim of victimhood. They do not see the demand for respect as a way to empower oppressed groups but as a plea to feel pity and a way to silence others. Are they right? Is there really a victim culture?
Once, the disadvantaged argued that whether you were gay, a woman or black should not be a barrier when it comes to participating in society and politics. Today, it is argued that precisely because of these differences, people should be able to participate. Are these people claiming an equal say or a special status? Do we run the risk of setting up dividing lines and making it harder for us to transcend our differences? And, what does all this mean for the way we think about politics and citizenship?
Maarten Boudry – Postdoctoral Fellow (Ghent University) & Author (Illusions for the Advanced. Why Truth is Always Better)
Martijn Dekker – Political Anthropologist, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam
Claire Fox – Director (Institute of Ideas), Panellist (BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze) & Author (I Find That Offensive)
Baukje Prins – Professor of Citizenship and Diversity, The Hague University of Applied Sciences
Andrea Speijer-Beek – Essayist, Philosopher & Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Dutch libertarian website, Vrijheid Zonder Maar
Rob Lyons – Science and Technology Director, Institute of Ideas & Convenor, IoI Economy Forum
Battle of Ideas
This debate formed part of this year’s Battle of Ideas festival of debates. The Battle of Ideas 2016 features some 400 speakers and takes place from the 22nd-23rd October in London’s Barbican. The festival also features a number of satellite events taking place throughout September, October and November in other European and UK locations.