I recently heard a man on a podcast describe a perfect planet as a place where differences in gender, race, class, sexual preference, and physical abilities are no longer cause for prejudices, “a hyper-accepting place without genocide, an all accepting world.” If he visited Los Angeles for a night, our shared affinity for diversity and difference might lead us to visit the oddball collection at the Museum of Jurassic Technology, to dine at an underground restaurant where recent immigrants serve unfamiliar cuisine, and to patronize transgressive art that tests the limits of our comfort.
Now think of a person who would hate that evening. Their nature or nurture inclines them to prefer the familiar, to prize sameness, and to feel most comfortable when diversity in people, beliefs, and behavior are minimized or suppressed. If I sit at the near end of a spectrum that ranges from finding diversity appealing to finding it uncomfortable or scary, these folks reside at the opposite end.
Despite having family members and friends with diverse ideological views, I know few people at that far end of the spectrum. It may be where my bubble is thickest. I’ve been thinking about their moral psychology since delving into the scholarship of Karen Stenner, who persuasively shows that people with a strong preference for sameness exists across eras, societies, and cultures, and that their perhaps immutable discomfort with difference can cause them, in certain circumstances, to push for social arrangements that she describes as “authoritarian.”