Open Source Cultural Pluralism

Cultural Pluralism is a philosophy that addresses diversity, tolerance and individual freedom [1]. In a pluralist society individuals are allowed to freely associate and self-identify based on things like religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and ideology. In order to avoid intergroup conflict and marginalized individuals from being excluded in ways that lower their quality of life, it may be necessary for Pluralistic societies to adopt some of the following conventions:

  1. Government incentives and assistance for creating integrated alternatives to exclusive associations.
  2. Open plans and designs that are freely available to individuals inside or outside an association.
  3. Requirement for associations to release designs and plans that are created using government assistance under an open license — making it easier for others to create alternatives.
  4. Setting a cultural norm that encourages all associations, even those that do discriminate, to release designs and plans under open licenses to indicate that they are being non-antagonistic and that they believe that contributing to the common good is worth while.
  5. A public registry where associations can make an official statement about why they choose to exclude (e.g. “This association is organized exclusively for the benefit of young, Hispanic mothers.”)
  6. A fully integrated Public Sphere and reasonable limits on the Private Sphere (e.g. The Civil Rights Act).
  7. Legal proceedings that challenge a private association that discriminates based on status in a protected class if it becomes substantially influential in the Public Sphere (e.g Harvard University)

These conventions enable communities to learn from one another in mutually beneficial ways and allow for the freedom to create alternatives (i.e. ”The Freedom To Fork” [2]). Government incentives could take the form of both generic alternatives to existing accommodations, and special funding for whatever projects distinct groups may determine there is a need for - e.g. museums, cultural centers, art & cultural events, general economic development, or educational resources. Perhaps an open proposal process, with funds drawn from a general “Pluralistic Cultural Fund”, could enable this to function without the need for predefined groups that the government officially recognizes and requires citizens to be members of.

In communities where Pluralism is treated as an expression of individual rights, groups are a secondary phenomena that are a product of individuals making voluntary choices about who to include, and how to direct their time, energy and resources [3]. Pluralist associations would not be granted special privileges to use their collective influence, or resources, in ways that violate even a single individual’s rights.

To be clear, The Public Sphere has a special obligation to care for the needs of all citizens and to treat them as equals under the law. Therefore, even in a pluralistic society, the Public Sphere must be thoroughly integrated and universally accessible. In the Private Sphere some integration can be enforced (e.g. The Civil Rights Act 1964, Fair Housing Act, etc.) while still allowing for distinct communities to form in physical and virtual space.

By providing open plans and designs for things like buildings, cultural events, industrial objects, clothing and performances — distinct communities could form in ways that are less antagonistic to those outside those communities. Voluntarily releasing plans and designs should be encouraged and, perhaps, all groups that receive government funding could be required to release plans and designs for how those funds are used [4]. Hopefully, these conventions will lead to a cultural dialog — involving creating, sharing, merging, and responding to a plurality of approaches — that leads to extreme novelty, beauty, and universal improvements in quality of life.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_pluralism
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fork_(software_development)
[3] http://capitalismmagazine.com/2013/09/touchy-topics-freedom-association-discrimination/
[4] http://creativecommons.org/about